All Prior Art

Disclosed herein is a device for gauging medication dosage. The method may include displaying first, second and third navigation controls. A switch is connected in parallel to the relay contacts and is configured for providing a portion of the input power as supplemental load power to the output as a function of back EMF energy.

We’ve had patents on the mind lately, and have been reading a fair few of them. If you read patent language long enough, though, it all starts to turn into word-salad. But with his All Prior Art and All the Claims websites, [Alexander Reben] tosses this salad for real. He’s got computers parsing existing patents and randomly reassembling them.

Rather than hoping that his algorithm comes up with the next great idea, [Alexander] is hoping to nip the truly trivial ones in the bud. Because prior art — the sum of all pre-existing ideas — is enough to disqualify a patent, if an idea is so trivial that his algorithm could have come up with it, it’s sooner or later going to be off the table.

Most of the results are insane, of course. And it seems to be producing a patent at a rate of about one per 10-15 seconds, so we’re guessing that it’ll take quite a few years for these cyber-monkeys to come up with the works of Shakespeare. But with bogus and over-broad patents filtering through the system every day, it’s not implausible that some day it’ll prove useful.

[Via New Scientist, thanks Frank!]

31 thoughts on “All Prior Art

  1. Nice application of the Shakespeare Monkey theorem, but the utility is negligible since 99.9% of a patent examiner’s search consists of looking at patents and applications. No one will spend the thousands to file the claims generated and unless it’s been taught to write a disclosure that enables the claims so that someone in the field can recreate what is claimed, the application would be tossed out for lack of enablement (known as a 112 rejection).

    1. Sorry to nit pick a bit and in no way should this be construed as an insult or a cut down to your comment. But I must comment on some of your assertions. First, an examiner’s search does not mainly consist of patents and patent application publications, in fact doing such a limited search is frowned upon at USPTO. It may seem that way when looking at what is listed as prior art in granted patents, but a closer look at the examination history will show the lengths that an examiner must go to ensure a fair search was conducted. Furthermore, It does not take thousands of dollars to file an application, it is closer to $700-800. Finally, a lack of enablement 112 rejection is not as easy to make as one would think, and a set of claims in themselves can construe a specification.

      However on the subject of the original article, be it a set of claims or a mash up of different specification, it only takes suggestion of an idea for it to qualify as prior art. Since the output from these algorithms is accessible to the public they are fair game and can be relied upon as prior art for the purpose of rejecting an application’s claim.

      1. I know from my time there that theory and practice are separate things. General searches were always preached as recommended if not required, but I knew of many examiners looking for an extra count or two to fudge their search (they show a record of the search but did not examine the results). Plus using non-patent prior art is much more difficult for the examiner since they rarely contain enough description of methods to make a solid rejection (they are typically used as a secondary art in a 103 if they are used at all). So in reality the non-patent search is cursory with little weight given to the results.

        Filing Per Se is only ~$800 but that is just the entry point, most applications require one or more re-exams. And that assumes you know the system well enough to represent yourself, otherwise lawyers increase costs an order of magnitude.

        Claims do not construe a specification, otherwise it would be permissible to introduce new material into the application during the prosecution. I get what you are saying that given a set of claims you could construct a specification that enables them if you have enough skill in the art to do so, but you cannot achieve a usable specification by applying the same word salad technique used to generate the claims.

        Yes suggestion of art is all that’s technically required, however examiners almost always avoid art that is skeletal because they are much harder to support. While it has been essentially dead for over a hundred years, patent laws still state there must be a working prototype to support an application. While this hasn’t been a requirement in nearly all cases since the 1800’s it is still a requirement and has been trotted out from time to time when someone attempts to claim a perpetual motion device. An applicant which has one of these word salad prior arts thrown at them would very likely be able to easily defeat it in the appeal process.

      2. I’ve heard a story about a European patent examiner rejecting a patent (I think it was to lift a shipwreck by filling it with balloons) because the idea had been published before…. in a Donald Duck comic book.

        And this might potentially be used to invalidate a patent in court even if an examiner didn’t find it at the time. “Your honor, we move that this patent be thrown out because it was already published by a random nonsense text generator three years prior.”

  2. A method for using the various universal laws of physics and mathematics that no sane person could ever claim to own to make things work.

    Patented by ‘The Universe’

    expired ~13.82 Billion Years.

    Can we be done with all this patent nonsense now?

    1. Not exactly nonsense when you spend millions researching and developing a product to have it ripped off and sold for half. A patent is a contract: By telling the government how to do something novel you receive a monopoly for a limited period of time.

      Our economy would be drastically different without patents, for one the pharmaceutical industry would dry up overnight. Patents enable them to protect their successful drugs so they can explore hundreds of new compounds in hopes of generating one new drug to carry on the process.

      There are clear flaws with the patent system but chucking it out would worsen things immeasurably.

      1. Well, for one, we would have had 3D printers that did not cost $150,000 generally available as much as 20 years ago. The recent “explosion” in consumer 3D printing was only possible and / or catalyzed by the expiring of several major patents. It’s a double edged sword.

        1. But that just proves the point, had those companies held the technology as a business secret and we never would have seen the IP behind them released into the public and we never would see sub $1K 3D printers.

          That’s the whole point of a patent: Tell me how you are doing something and in exchange you will be the only one permitted to use it for a period of 17 years. But the upshot of this is after that period expires it becomes public property and the cheap system you cherish so much becomes a reality. Without the incentive of a limited monopoly we would never see generic drugs or 3D printers the average person could reasonably afford.

          1. We didn’t need or use any of their IP in order to create desktop 3D printers. They became possible as soon as powerful computers and stepper motor drivers became cheaply available, and the big companies simply locked it in. The 3D printer companies did not bother to make cheaper desktop printers until they had to compete with open-source printers that were developed after the patents expired.

            They could have held the technology secret and not filed a patent and the RepRap project would have existed many years earlier. The techology and software were developed from scratch by hobbyists without the “help” of any information disclosed in a patent. I hope this doesn’t take the shine out of your adoring eyes as you gaze up at these corporate giants waiting for them to dispense wisdom to the masses.

      2. I purposely made that comment one-sided in order to generate a conversation. I can see how some things MIGHT actually be too expensive to develop if you aren’t gauranteed a certain amount of monopoly time. Then again I also think that patent supporters grossly underestimate the motivation of competition. Even if your competitors are going to copy your great idea once you start selling it you still get first to market advantage by developing something new.

        Does that mean that I think we do need a patent system but not as strong of one as we have now? Maybe. I honestly don’t know and I don’t believe anybody knows. We have never seen post-industrial developed nations without patent laws. Maybe we did need patents to have the industrial revolution. I’ll leave that debate to the armchair historians. Now we all have the idea that by studying the laws of physics and mathematics we can come up with machines, chemicals, algorithms, etc… that make our lives better. Eliminating the patent system would not erase that knowledge from our minds.

        Also, enough with using the pharmaceutical industry as the shining example of why patents are good. That industry is so corrupt I wouldn’t hold it up as a positive example to make any point. The next time you are at your doctor’s office take a look around and see how many items have a pharmaceutical industry logo stamped on them. Or, if you are a doctor count the items in your own office. Now ask yourself what that means. Every healthcare worker cites the pharmaceutical industry as being something that could not survive without patents. But.. every healthcare worker’s entire education and all the material they use afterward to remain up to date are written by that same industry. Even Kim Jong-un could only dream of having such a strong propoganda tool and control of the information that is available to his public.

        You don’t know how effective drug-company research could be if drug companies actually had to compete with one another. You don’t know because we have never seen such a situation in a modern world. I suspect that the money I spend on medicine goes much farther in supporting grossly over-paid executives and drug reps than it ever will on r&d.

        1. While it’s fairly certain that pharmaceutical execs are very nearly over-paid, the actual money dropped into research is mind-boggling. My aunt worked at 3 (or was it 4?) different pharmaceuticals in life. She always had something like 50 or 100 immediate co-workers and not once in her 40 year career was she ever a part of a patented drug. If the average salary was on the low side at $50K, that works to at least $100 million with zero ROI, not including the opportunity cost. They’re playing with odds of winning similar to a lottery. If the payoff isn’t commensurate, there would be no point. It would be simpler to earn interest from the bank.

    1. They already do. It’s just their system is analogue and involves people writing over general patents for existing technology and then suing people for millions in the west Texas courts.

  3. As far as I know the US patent system switched from “first to invent” to “first inventor to file”! So prior art is not relevant for getting a patent granted any more:

    (1) Convert the U.S. patent system from a ‘‘first to invent’’ system to a ‘‘first inventor to file’’ system; (2) treat U.S. patents and U.S. patent application publications as prior art as of their earliest effective filing date, regardless of whether the earliest effective filing date is based upon an application filed in the United States or in another country; (3) eliminate the requirement that a prior public use or sale be ‘‘in this country’’ to be a prior art activity; and (4) treat commonly owned or joint research agreement patents and patent application publications as being by the same inventive entity for purposes of 35 U.S.C. 102, as well as 35 U.S.C. 103. These changes in section 3 of the AIA are effective on March 16, 2013, but apply only to certain applications filed on or after March 16, 2013.

    1. Incorrect reading, prior art is VERY relevant and in fact is now much easier to submit against an application (any member of the public can submit prior art). The “first to invent” / “first inventor to file” distinction applies to two or more parties attempting to file for the same invention. For example, by the previous system if you filed an application and then I waited a few months and filed mine, I would still get the patent if I could prove I invented it at an earlier date than you. However, this requires that we were both keeping our invention a secret. If one of us happened to publish the details of our invention, that would constitute prior art and possibly prevent the granting of the patent…even self-publications count as prior art (if you published your own idea more than one year before the filing date).

  4. I propose a simple system in which one receives a patent for free, but can only hold on to that patent while it is actively being used to produce a product. As long as the patent holder is actively making and selling a minimum number of devices/sales per year, the patent is held valid. If more than 2 years pass with no sales/production, then the patent passes into the public domain. Ideas themselves are no longer patent-able. Software should fall under copyright (hell, we even say you author software). By making it so that the patent holder actually has to do something with it, we eliminate patent trolls and patent holding companies that do nothing but stifle innovation. We also force the useful ideas out into the open and into marketable products.

    That was the original intention of patents anyhow…to foster innovation.

    1. Agreed.
      I thought of something similiar once, but required a maximum price relative to GDP. (to prevent them claiming its “”for sale”” when their mousetrap costs $500,000). Your minimum sales idea is easier/better though I think.

      1. Or simply start at zero, then scale as production scales. Produce 10 per year, pay x% of the sale cost of all 10. Pay per item protected that the patent protected.

        Don’t sell anything in 3 years, patent dissolved to public domain but not repatentable.

        NO patents are transferable. You can pay someone to dissolve their patent, but not transfer it.

        1. Transferring patents allows small inventors to sell their idea to a company with the skills to bring it to market. And as kickstarted teaches us, most people don’t have those skills.

    2. I hope you aren’t suggestion that patents do not ever expire so long as they are in production. I wonder for example when the last time was that 2 years went by that nobody sold a wheel.

      1. No, The original patent system called for a 25 year(I think) lifetime. I believe that would be a fair time for having a state sponsored monopoly. You are correct in pointing out that no patent should have an unlimited timespan.

    1. No, Apple have patents on bits of technology that can be used for Augmented Reality, not the concept of it. Patents are for a device or method to achieve something, and if a competitor can come up with a different way of achieving the same effect they are free and clear.

      1. Yes but there are so many little bits of things that are patented. It effectively means that if someone does come up with a new idea they are forced to sell it to a large corporation. It is not safe to invent something and then create a new business off of it yourself. A regular person could never afford to do all the research necessary to ensure that the idea truly is unique. Even if one did they would lose their shirts trying to fight all the lawsuits from patent trolls who sue anyway knowing they have invalid claims but can afford more and better lawyers.

        In other words… we have a corrupt system in which there is no such thing as free and clear.

  5. Described herein is a device, or plurality of devices, comprising of none, one, or a plurality of components wherein an input or plurality of inputs are combined with process or plurality of processes incorporating the input, the inter- and intra-modular configuration and the state of output or pleurality of output such that
    1. The device is able to achieve any result previously demonstrated herein, within prior art, or imagined or otherwise suggested, using a combination or pleurality of combinations of modules of design or designs previously described or suggested
    2. A device or pleurality of devices as 1. Where the result is not yet defined or definable only after the construction of the device
    3. A device as in 1. Or 2. Where the input or inputs include physical, metaphysical, theoretical, virtual, embedded,incorporated, imagined, electrical, electronic, informational, informative, processed, preprocessed, reprocessed or unprocessed goods, services, data or other tangible or intangible state or object
    4. A device as in 3. Where a singular or pleurality of states exist
    5. A device as in 3. And 4. Wherein there is a change, transition or transformation or status, maintenance or unchanged state within the device through the use of modules as described in 7.
    6. (Removed)
    7. A device as in 1. – 6. Where the output can be described in a singular or pleurality of the possible states or methods as described in 1.-6. As per the inputs or internal states as influenced or not by the individual modules as described herein
    8. A devices as in 1.-7. Where variations are made in a conceivable manner by the operator or interpreter or producer in response to input output desire or natural chance
    9. A device as in1.-8. Where the modules incorporate any such device or devices as required to influence the state of the input such that the desire aim or goal or otherwise of the device is met, unmet, measured, unmeasured or otherwis including all possible and impossible uses and states conceivable herein or upon extension of though observation or othe r derivation of a device or devices or processes described or describable
    10. Any other device or devices such that items 1-9. Are partially or wholly or completely met or unmet such that the patent would or would not otherwise be covered herein
    11. A device as in 10. In reality, fiction or otherwise
    12. On a computer, or pleurality of computers, or otherwise without a computer

  6. It’s all non-enabling prior art and therefore not actually prior art. Non patent prior art isn’t given a presumption of enablement and it’d be trivial to challenge the nonsense as not prior art as a result.

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