First thing we do, is Kill all the Inventors

ERROR ALERT! I’ve corrected some errors below. They don’t change the sense of the post, I think. What do you think?

A solar housethe Dynamac luggable Mac, 1986-1992, RIP
Solar house patent, 1983 . . . . . . . Dynamac, 1986-92

My inventions

I’ve done a little inventing, so I’ve been listening to my friend Jim Moore, who has been yelling at the blogosphere that the so-called “Patent Reform” movement threatens the world as we know it. This patent stuff is complicated, so it would be easy to ignore Jim’s pleas, if he weren’t so smart, so experienced, so right and so rich. (I threw in that last trait to get your attention).

Corporations write all our laws these days, and the laws they write about patents are not what we would write. Here’s the general rule:

Any Law with “Reform” in its title is usually trouble.

What they’re reforming:

  • America is the only country with a “first to invent” vs. a “first to file” doctrine: you don’t need to file paperwork with our masters in Washington to prove you invented something.
  • “Prior Art” is enshrined in our patent laws: An undocumented invention that escapes from the inventor’s basement on a known date must be acknowledged in the awarding of a subsequent patent for the same invention.
  • Big companies do a lot more patent filing than inventing. It’s the part of inventing they’re best at.

But a few big tech companies are wetting themselves at the prospect of putting small inventors out of business, and they’re spending big bucks to push the “Patent Reform Act of 2007”. On Thursday, Stephen Wren wrote in the California Chronicle:

All this talk of a need for patent “deform” is but a red herring fabricated by a handful of large tech firms as a diversion away from the real issue…that they have no valid defense against charges they are using other parties’ technologies without permission.

Among other things, this reform would remove the act of inventing from the law about inventing. Here’s Jim Moore, embarrassed and saddened last May by patent theft by a CEO of a company he’s invested in:

As recently as two months ago a young entrepreneur took an invention to a company I am invested in, negotiated to sell or license the invention. After many meetings the CEO told this person that the company had decided it could just copy the invention. At the next meeting the CEO said that he had just discovered that his company had, unbeknownst to him, “been working on just the same invention for several months before” negotiations had begun with the young entrepreneur. This seemed rather incredible, but what was the young man to do?

What’s America’s secret sauce?

America was founded by technologists, inventing new ways of getting things done and with low regard for the lawyers and bureaucrats back in Britain. Impatient with paperwork, they enshrined the independent hands-on inventor above the writing about inventions. Now recognize these 2 striking facts:

  1. We have been the most innovative country on earth for 230 years.
  2. We are the only country with a first-to-invent vs. first-to-file.

Could that be just a coincidence? Is that American innovation’s secret sauce?

Only the American Congress would cave to High-tech lobbyists and conclude that we should imitate other countries’ patent laws.

Only the American Congress would cave to Banking lobbyists and propose an amendment to their Patent Reform Act prohibiting suits against banks that infringe against Claudio Ballard’s patent numbers 5910988 and 6032137. They cover the invention that banks use to transmit bank images under the so-called “Check 21 Act“. The back story:

  1. Banks save $7–> $2 to $3 when they avoid dealing with a paper check.
  2. Claudio’s license fee under the patents is 50¢–> 5¢ per digital check image.
  3. JPMorgan Chase spent 3 years (& $45,000,000) fighting Claudio’s patents.
  4. Claudio won the trial.–> After all that, Chase gave up and settled because they didn’t want some other harmful facts to become public
  5. Claudio won the appeal and Chase settled.–> The appeal was based on some, not all of the judge’s rulings. All were upheld on appeal.
  6. Claudio prevailed in a formal patent review of his patents. One patent has been upheld. The second is expected to be cleared “any day”.

I apologize for the factual errors. Now, how do those corrections alter our understanding of the core issues?

So how does that mean that the banking industry should now receive legislative relief when they infringe patents?

How many times have tests like 4, 5 & 6 ratified an inventor’s rights? Could there be something we don’t know here? Over at Wikipedia, it’s noted that Claudio’s company “has been characterized as a patent troll for this action.[2]. So maybe Claudio Ballard is a guy who doesn’t do serious inventing – just a paper pusher who can’t invent real stuff.

Except that he decided to reinvent the automobile with his license fees. One of the features he’s developed is VEEDIMS, the Virtual Electrical Electronic Device Interface Management System, a new approach to automotive wiring that eliminates the traditional concept of a harness. Here’s the clay mockup of Claudio Ballard’s dream car:

The man sounds more like Preston Tucker than a patent troll. Tucker was another American genius who had the nerve to out-innovate Big Business, and that sounds to me like the quintessential American act.

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