Monday, February 28, 2011

Saving the Patent Office II

Well I guess Fox News read the New York Times article "U.S. Sets 21st-Century Goal: Building a Better Patent Office" and simply regurgitated it this evening. Bret Baier of "Special Report" unimaginatively reported that the USPTO could be "fixed" through the traditional implementation of streamlining, technological improvements, more staff, etc. Unexplored was the critical issue of patent quality.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Saving the Patent Office

The New York Times has once again published an intellectually challenged superficial story that fails to delve into what is wrong with the patent system. In "U.S. Sets 21st-Century Goal: Building a Better Patent Office" the Times seems to consider the problems with obtaining a patent to be essentially administrative in nature.  The Times writes: "The delays and inefficiencies are more than a nuisance for inventors. Patentable ideas are the basis for many start-up companies and small businesses. Venture capitalists often require start-ups to have a patent before offering financing. That means that patent delays cost jobs, slow the economy and threaten the ability of American companies to compete with foreign businesses. ... Much of the patent office’s decline has occurred in the last 13 years, as the Internet age created a surge in applications. In 1997, 2.25 patents were pending for every one issued. By 2008, that rate had nearly tripled, to 6.6 patents pending for every one issued. The figure fell below six last year."

While antiquated and inefficient administrative concerns may play a roll, the Times failed to dig deeper.  The Times notes that: "Much of the patent office’s decline has occurred in the last 13 years, as the Internet age created a surge in applications."(emphasis added).  It was not the internet that created the surge in applications, but a lousy court decision (State Street Bank v. Signature Financial Group, 1998) which opened the door for numerous patents on abstract concepts, specifically allowing patents of business methods. Since 1998 the scope of what people believe can be patented has continued to expand to the point that entire concepts have become patented. Patents are even being granted on natural products such as genes.  Consequently, the US Patent Office is being flooded with patent applications that would never have been granted prior to the State Street decision.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a webpage concerning "bad" patents, which makes for an excellent read.

Also, given the existing absurdity of patent law today, there is a growing body of research that demonstrates that patents actually retard progress rather than promote progress.  The reason is simple, by being able to patent concepts the patent holder asserts that any competition using a vaguely similar method constitutes an infringing activity and promptly sues the competitor.  So much for free-market principles.

Building a better patent office is not simply a case of modernizing the USPTO office or adding more staff as the Times would have us believe.  The patent system itself needs to be overhauled to eliminate the ability to patent business methods, abstract concepts, and natural products.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Obama's Supposed "Open" Govenment

Obama projects an image that his administration is "open" to the suggestions of anyone willing to contribute.  As an example of the process, TechDirt reported that: "The White House Wants Advice On What's Blocking American Innovation".  Back in February 2010, Obama appointed a Deficit Reduction Commission to assist him with making the "tough" financial decisions that a President would have to make.  

What leads to this post, is the TechDirt post: "Why Is President Obama Setting Up IP Enforcement Committees Rather Than IP Effectiveness Committees?" In that post, Mike Masnick writes: "Of course, if President Obama were serious about improving American innovation and creative output (and living up to the Constitution), he would have put together intellectual property effectiveness committees, rather than enforcement committees." (emphasis added).

Since Obama was elected there seems to be, at least for me, a growing disjunct between what Obama says and his actual actions.  Mike, for example noted, that instead of questioning the necessity of laws related to so-called "intellectual property" that Obama is moving directly towards enforcement.  This is an overt display that Obama is taking direct action to support favored special interests at the expense of the American people.

Even though Obama appointed a Deficit Reduction Commission, it seems that this was really hollow public relations theater to make it appear that his administration was listening to the American people.  In my post: "Obama - The State of the Union - Deficit Reduction Commission" I noted that Obama essentially dismissed the recommendations of the the Deficit Reduction Commission. Instead of making the tough decisions to balance the budget  as promised, Obama is pursuing so-called "investments" to camouflage from the public his continued direct overt action of continued deficit spending.

It would appear that Obama's assertion of an open government willing to listen and act on the recommendations of others is nothing more than "hot-air".

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl - Groupon - Crowd Sourcing

The Super Bowl, of all places, raised two issues related to trends trends in economics and corporate governance.  In the first instance, the New York Times raised the issue of: "Did Groupon Cross the Line in Super Bowl Ad Debut?" In that ad, Groupon blatantly uses the suffering of Tibetans as a commercial marketing gimmick.

8/30/2011 UPDATE:  I noticed that the video clip originally here has been made "private", whatever that means.  Attached is another link to the video: Goupon Superbowl Tibet Ad.

Like many I was shocked. When I read the New York Times' article, it reiterated my belief that the real shock was how morally corrupt our advertising is. All that Groupon did was take an advertising concept to an extreme logical conclusion.

There is an old joke where a guy asks a woman if she will sleep with him for $1 million dollars and she responds with an affectionate yes. He comes back with an offer of $1 and the woman is offended and with moral indignation: "NO! What kind of woman do you think I am." His response was the classic line of "We already established that, now we are just haggling price."

Peter Principle had a somewhat terse response: "The utter vacuity and moral nihilism of 21st century corporate capitalism on full public display."

The Dilbert Cartoon below also provides an pithy summation.

At lunch time, CNBC news also reviewed the Groupon ad. But they also raised another unexpected issue, that of user generated content (crowd sourcing).

David Faber asks Miles Nadal (of MDC Partners, the guest speaker) the question of what happens to professional advertisers if amateurs can produce ad content. Mr. Nadal skillfully parries the question.

Why is Mr. Faber's seemingly innocuous question important? In today's economic system, though we profess to follow free-market principles, those who are classified as professionals attempt to "lock-out" amateurs. Copyright law and patent law have morphed into mechanisms to protect business monopolies and discourage "amateurs" from generating new innovative content. Whether Mr. Faber was intending to go down that path with his question, I do not know. But the point is that the free-market should not protect a corporate income stream. If people seek to produce content for free, great.

12/27/2016 UPDATE: The CNBC video clip that I had here is no longer available.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thank-You JVC

Well, if a company comes through, you should publicly thank them.  It wasn't easy though.  We had to pursue a warranty return.  The JVC Support page seems to have an option for submitting a warranty repair request.  Alas, there is no option for actually submitting a warranty repair request.  To purchase a part; yes. Seems incredibly inefficient and outdated that a major company such as JVC wouldn't have a way to submit a warranty repair request.

There is an online form that you can submit, but JVC never responded.  I made several submissions of that form.  Eventually, I pressed on and called their Customer Care Center at 800-252-5722.  I was expecting the usual automated telephone menus that prevents you from talking to a real live person.  After a few fitful instances of number punching, I did reach a live person and that live person took the repair order. I just received my part.  Success. Amazing!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Republican Governor of Florida Comes Out In Support of Obama Care

Just a tease headline that points to one of those priceless Faux Paws where the speaker does not really comprehend what he or she is actually saying.  In this case, Fox and Friends had the Republican Governor of Florida speak on behalf of a judge's ruling overturning Obama Care. Naturally, as a Republican, Governor Rick Scott talked about the unconstitutionally of Obama Care and that it created an unfunded mandate by the Federal Government for the State of Florida to provide enhanced Medicaid.

At this point, Governor Scott dropped his little bomb shell.  He stated that the "correct" solution was for the Federal Government to provide the State of Florida with a "Block Grant". Translation, the Federal Government should give the State of Florida free money.

So here we have a Republican Governor who is ostensibly in favor of smaller government, fiscal responsibility, State's rights, freedom of choice, and no increased taxes demanding free money from the Federal Government.  Amazing, a Republican seeking perpetuation of the welfare state.

To be fair to Governor Scott, unfunded mandates are wrong. What Governor Scott, should have done, to follow the Republican mantra, was to explain how the State of Florida without Federal assistance would have internally met or modified the Medicaid challenge. 

Oh by the way, with our huge Federal deficit, where is this free "Block Grant" money going to come from? After all according to the Republicans we can't raise taxes, we must be fiscally responsible, and we must wean ourselves from dependence on the Federal Government.

Thank-you Governor Scott for publicly demonstrating that even though you claim that you are against "big" government that you don't mind insisting on getting your own free money earmark from "big" government.