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Old 20th January 2011, 01:42 PM   #11
kevinkr is offline kevinkr  United States
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Patenting by the diyaudio.com?
If they are meritless or minor, who cares if they are patented?

Originally Posted by Dave Jones View Post
The people who get sued for infringement care. See above.
And that is also often unfortunately the reason behind such a patent or the reason for the acquisition of such a patent. Some things are just so obvious you wouldn't think they would be patented or patentable, so you do what seems an obvious evolution (not revolution) of prior art, find out that someone else thought of the same idea, patented it, and you get sued.

There are companies that exist for no other reason than to collect these sorts of patents on the cheap and then sue unsuspecting users of the technology often into bankruptcy. It's how they make their money without bringing any real value to the market. (These companies generally don't seem to be into licensing their patents either..)
"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead." - Thomas Paine

Last edited by kevinkr; 20th January 2011 at 01:48 PM.
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Old 20th January 2011, 04:38 PM   #12
DF96 is offline DF96  England
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I am always surprised by the trivial or blindingly obvious ideas which get patented, especially in the US. Then of course a patent is written to be as wide as possible, even if the width takes it outside the bounds of possibility.

I must confess to a slight bias. As a side-effect of my PhD research, I came up with an idea for modulating a high-efficiency RF PA together with a theoretical understanding of the limitations of the method. I then discovered that someone had patented essentially the same idea about 6 months earlier, but he seemed unaware of the limitations so his invention will not work quite as well as he hopes. I had the understanding; he had the patent. That experience puts me off patents!
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Old 20th January 2011, 05:40 PM   #13
leadbelly is offline leadbelly  Canada
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Patenting by the diyaudio.com?
Yes, it is ridiculous. There is a big move in my industry to just patent ideas which are 10-20 years away from being achieved. Just ridiculous.

On a side note what did you think of the movie "Flash of Genius"? Flash of Genius (2008) - IMDb

The movie is obviously biased in favour of Bob Kearns' position, but if you read some of the other printed material on the case, it's just laughable that he was allowed to win a patent on just applying an RC network to something specific as an "invention".
There are still unbridgeable divisions between cultures. How can two peoples ever come to understand each other when one of them is ignorant of Totò? Umberto Eco

Last edited by leadbelly; 20th January 2011 at 05:43 PM.
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Old 20th January 2011, 06:33 PM   #14
Johnny2Bad is offline Johnny2Bad  Canada
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The entire world of Patents ... from start to finish (and the "finish" may never actually finish) is a cesspool. My advice ... stay away; far, far away.

It starts with shyster legal firms who offer to "help" the inventor ... for five figures ... to a multi-year backlog at most Patent granting offices ... to poor examination when a patent is considered ... to lawsuits that can, and do, run into millions and are just as likely to resolve nothing as come to a reasonable and legal conclusion.

This is no place for anyone without a strong constitution and megabucks in their pocket. I don't think the site or anyone here qualifies.

My brother has many patents. Never made even dollar one off them, companies would consider his project and then declare them "too expensive" "nobody would buy it" etc. then wait for it to expire to introduce a market-ready product they had been working on during the protected period.

If he renewed (usually you can renew once), they would just introduce the product anyway, with the old "sue me" rejoinder. Of course, he can't afford to.

You can walk into any Home Depot or building hardware store right now and see products that infringe on his IP on the shelves.

If you can't afford a multi-million dollar war kitty, you haven't got a chance. Don't bother playing.

The only exception I can imagine is if you have a university that offers a program for inventors (eg Waterloo University, Canada) where the idea can be vetted, the filing issues can be overcome at a reasonable cost, a viable product may be developed and demonstrated, the product has a chance to get to market via industry partnerships, and there is at least a chance they can afford to enforce the patent against infringers. You may not own the whole patent in the end, but it's your only viable option.

There is another aspect of patents, industrial designs (which are far more likely to apply to an audio product than a patent in any case), and trademark law. Products manufactured offshore may be infringing, but with our modern era and the magic of internet sales and eBay, you may be buying those products and importing them to your country, where the IP is enforceable. In that case it's possible the item will be seized by Customs agents and destroyed. You get zero compensation ... it's gone and you are out your $.

Perhaps somewhat more on topic (in terms of us being DIY'ers and this being a DIY forum) there is no reason to even think of patents if this is a hobby for you.

Anyone can build any thing that is patented, for your own investigation and to develop further improvements or new art. You may use it as you see fit, forever, in a non-commercial setting. In fact this is entrenched in all Patent law everywhere, as it's fundamental to the idea of Patent IP in the first place.

DIYers should be encouraged to search, browse, review and explore the patent documents available; everything there is yours to play with, and due to the rules of patent eligibility, it's often quite complete.

What you can't do is sell it or give it away; when you are done with it, you must remove patented configuration or render it non-functional.

As a DIY hobbyist, no patent can stop you from exploring the hobby. Relax and enjoy.
" ... Go back to the beginning of a technology before the priesthood was established; that was the time when people were communicating information, not proving why there needs to be Priests. This is why the old texts tend to be so good. ..."

Last edited by Johnny2Bad; 20th January 2011 at 07:00 PM.
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Old 20th January 2011, 07:02 PM   #15
madtecchy is offline madtecchy  England
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Originally Posted by gpapag View Post
Hi all

This site performs the function of a virtual room where people from all over the world meet, read and learn, write and receive response, exchange ideas, communicate their thoughts on some topic, agree-dissagree, argue about them.

Sometimes, through all this and due to all this, they are been led to form a concrete idea about a theoretical or a practical subject.

Other times, this same process leads collectively to the generation of a unique idea.

In the later case, there is a possibility that this idea has a merit for patenting.

Individuals-hobbyists find it prohibitive to apply for a patent.
Thinking over the possible cost and the difficult –lawyerish- procedures to follow, make this a repelling idea.

I write all this because I have thought of a chance that this site - functioning as an informal Open University - might provide a function similar to a formal University's Patent Department.

If an idea is collectively formulated and has a patendability quality, it might be forwarded by the site for patending, if the participant agree to this.

The rights of this patent would be granded to the forum together with the possible future financial incomes of it.

This would provide a financial income for supporting the operation of the site.
It would also raise the "image" of diyaudio.com

The forum might decide to reward participants contributing to a patendable idea .

This can act as a motivation for more productive thinking and more positive participation attitude for the members.

What do you think?

Hi George
DIY audio A fantastic hobby
Great idea lets all get together design a nice amplifier or any other piece of hifi gear put a patent on it . So we can all then pay more for it .
Only for it still to be copied and sold on ebay lol. I find jazz helps to clear the mind is your hifi not working ????
Regards Mad Mark
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Old 20th January 2011, 07:34 PM   #16
benb is offline benb  United States
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Dave, did the entity suing your company ever get a cent from you? Was their goal to get money or to put a competitor out of business, or do you even know?

I have to agree with the sentiment of the thread - the thousands it costs to get a patent, to have patent searches done for prior art, have a patent attorney look over and/or write the application, the filing fees, those are insignificant. The real costs are in enforcing or defending a patent.

Don Lancaster of "Active Filter Cookbook" fame has a website with a huge amount of his rantings, er, writings, including several articles on patents:
Don Lancaster's Guru's Lair
The gist of his argument is getting a patent is a bad idea unless it's worth at least (at the time he wrote the article) $12 million, as it can cost that much to defend and enforce it. This sounded like an absurd figure when I first read it many years ago, but the more I learned from other sources, the more accurate it sounds.

I have two patents to my name assigned to the large company I worked for at the time. In the process of getting it (and the parts that were patented had nothing to do with the things I and the other engineer on the project thought were patentable areas), I learned much interesting stuff about patents that doesn't appear to be written in the "Patent it yourself" type books. Large companies take out patents as "bingo cards" - sometimes a company may find itself infringing on another company's product (because the other company brought a lawsuit or some other notice of infringement), and it's quite embarrassing to have to pay patent royalties to a competitor. If the company has a large array of its own patents, it can look through them and find where the competitor is infringing against one of them, and then they sit down and sign a "cross-license" agreement saying that each one is allowed to use the other's patent so that no money has to change hands.

I attended a "patent seminar" at The Large Company which told of (among other things) an engineer at another division betting his manager that he could get a patent on the addition of a resistor to a circuit. The manager didn't believe him, but he did sign off on letting the engineer apply for it, and indeed the patent was issued, the engineer as the inventor and of course the Large Company as the assignee.

There's an interesting story chronicled in several online articles you can find by googling:
broccoli sprouts patent
It basically shows how easy it is to get a patent on something that others are already doing, and then how much it cost the others to defend against "infringement" of the patent and get it overturned.

I've heard stories over the last 20 years how the US Patent System has been a mess, they don't have enough examiners and were a year or two behind on approving/denying patents, and it was easy (other than the time it took, and as long as the patent was well-written in the proper legalese) to get rather frivolous patents like the broccoli and resistor patents. I heard in the last 10 years this was going to be looked into and cleaned up, but I don't know what happened. Regardless, I don't see any change in the fact that patents are only profitable for large companies who can afford millions of dollars in legal fees.

Here's a 2007 patent that describes a musical keyboard I was thinking about doing as far back as 1983 (and assigned to a company that can obviously afford millions of dollars in attorney fees) - like most patent numbers, you can find one or more online copies with google:
Surprisingly, most of this patent is written in pretty much plain English, until you get to the "what is claimed" section at the end, with its cascade of claims that start with "The method of claim x wherein ..."
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Old 20th January 2011, 07:41 PM   #17
CopperTop is offline CopperTop  United Kingdom
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I used to work for a company that had pretensions of developing IP as a sideline, but it had a perverse effect on the way the company worked.

There was no one on the staff who really understood patents, but a procedure was put in place whereby anyone having an 'original' idea had to sift through existing patents to see if it was already covered, by way of preliminary screening. The result, of course was that any search brought up hundreds of possible patents that may, or may not be relevant.

It was depressing, because you might (as a hypothetical example) think up a brilliant way of extending the range of an infrared remote control, say, but there would already be a patent which says something like "Electronic circuit with user-operable buttons to control multimedia equipment remotely. May use one, or a combination, of optical or radio frequency electromagnetic signalling." The patent would then go on to describe an elementary implementation of the method with, effectively, a hole where the difficult bit went, and a generic description of what it might comprise.

Now, I would have no idea whether my new infrared diode topology was covered by that patent or not (at least in this application). At face value, it seemed to be, but the patent holder had dreamed his idea up in the bath, and done nothing difficult at all. Did all other manufacturers of remote controls really pay a licence fee to this patent holder? I didn't know. Did they pay royalties to the other 397 apparently-relevant-patent holders, too? Was it worth bringing in a patents expert? Well I didn't know, because my idea hadn't even got through our own preliminary screening stage!

The result was paralysis, and many of our original ideas were quietly dropped. The main message it left with me was that if a medium-sized company couldn't afford to develop original ideas, then how could an individual? It showed that *any* idea you might have in your day-to-day work as a self-employed engineer might be covered by an existing patent, and it would only be because you didn't check, that you could sleep at night.

I wouldn't be surprised if some of the ideas discussed in this forum are covered by patents, and I'm not entirely sure that you are even allowed to build something for yourself if it's patented. Certainly small enterprises that sell kits and PCBs may be infringing, but who can afford to check? Would it make the world a better place if nothing could be sold without a patents search?
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Old 20th January 2011, 08:06 PM   #18
SY is offline SY  United States
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Patenting by the diyaudio.com?
Originally Posted by benb View Post

Regardless, I don't see any change in the fact that patents are only profitable for large companies who can afford millions of dollars in legal fees.
I have to disagree with that. An absolutely ideal situation is for a little guy to get a patent, then have it infringed by a megacompany who makes billions from it. He'll have lawyers tripping over themselves to take that case on contingency.

I was involved as an expert witness in one case where a HUGE company (can't say who because of NDA, but I guarantee you use their products) was sued by an independent inventor who had put together a nuisance patent. The patent was clearly invalid, but after a year of discovery, depositions, expert witnesses, and a few tons of documents, the big company paid this guy $8 million to go away. He probably kept $4 million of it after contingency fees. I was told that he collected even more from Sony in a similar suit. Total bogus case, but very profitable.
"You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is."
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Old 20th January 2011, 08:07 PM   #19
SY is offline SY  United States
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Patenting by the diyaudio.com?
Originally Posted by CopperTop View Post

I wouldn't be surprised if some of the ideas discussed in this forum are covered by patents, and I'm not entirely sure that you are even allowed to build something for yourself if it's patented.
In general, you are, as long as it's for "experimental" purposes.
"You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is."
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Old 20th January 2011, 09:01 PM   #20
CopperTop is offline CopperTop  United Kingdom
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Originally Posted by SY View Post
In general, you are, as long as it's for "experimental" purposes.
If I look in a place like this - Patent Lawyers - Patent Attorneys - Patent Law Firms - it says:

"A patent is a set of the exclusive rights granted to an inventor that excludes others from making, using, selling, or distributing the patented invention or discovery."

It doesn't say anything about "except for experimental purposes". Is there a sub-clause that allows DIY-ers to build anything they want for their own use?
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