Archive for the ‘Hacking’ Category

You Can’t Opt Out of the Patent System. That’s Why Patent Pandas Was Created!

Friday, November 30th, 2018

A prevailing notion among open source developers is that “patents are bad for open source”, which means they can be safely ignored by everyone without consequence. Unfortunately, there is no way to opt-out of patents. Even if an entire community has agreed to share ideas and not patent them, there is nothing in practice that stops a troll from outside the community cherry-picking ideas and attempting to patent them. It turns out that patent examiners spend about 12 hours on average to review a patent, which is only enough time to search the existing patent database for prior art. That’s right — they don’t check github, academic journals, or even do a simple Google search for key words.

Once a patent has been granted, even with extensive evidence of prior art, it is an expensive process to challenge it. The asymmetry of the cost to file a patent — around $300 — versus the cost to challenge an improperly granted patent — around $15,000-$20,000 — creates an opportunity for trolls to patent-spam innovative open source ideas, and even if only a fraction of the patent-spam is granted, it’s still profitable to shake down communities for multiple individual settlements that are each somewhat less than the cost to challenge the patent.

Even though in practice open source developers are “in the right” that the publication and sharing of ideas creates prior art, in practice the fact that the community routinely shuns patents means our increasingly valuable ideas are only becoming more vulnerable to trolling. Many efforts have been launched to create prior art archives, but unfortunately, examiners are not required to search them, so in practice these archives offer little to no protection against patent spamming.

The co-founder of Chibitronics, Jie Qi, was a victim of not one but two instances of patent-spam on her circuit sticker invention. In one case, a crowdfunding backer patented her idea, and in another, a large company (Google) attempted to patent her idea after encountering it in a job interview. In response to this, Jie spent a couple years studying patent law and working with law clinics to understand her rights. She’s started a website, Patent Pandas, to share her findings and create a resource for other small-time and open source innovators who are in similar dilemmas.

As Jie’s experience demonstrates, you can’t opt-out of patents. Simply being open is unfortunately not good enough to prevent trolls from patent-spamming your inventions, and copyright licenses like BSD are well, copyright licenses, so they aren’t much help when it comes to patents: copyrights protect the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. Only patents can protect functional concepts.

Learn more about patents, your rights, and what you can do about them in a friendly, approachable manner by visiting Patent Pandas!

Name that Ware November 2018

Friday, November 30th, 2018

The Ware for November 2018 is shown below.

Thanks to phantom deadline for sharing this ware! I enjoyed reading up about it.

Winner, Name that Ware October 2018

Friday, November 30th, 2018

The Ware for October 2018 is an RFID transponder; this particular model was originally used in the early 2000’s in Colorado. Congrats to Barry Callahan for guessing it, email me for your prize!

Name That Ware, October 2018

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

The Ware for October 2018 is shown below.

Thanks to Michael Dwyer for submitting this ware!

Winner, Name that Ware September 2018

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

The Ware for September 2018 is a 24GHz microwave radar module (CFK401A1T1R-V2). Congrats to phantom deadline for nailing it, email me for your prize! Snapped a photo of this one nestled inside of those road-side “Your Current Speed Is” signs, thought it was pretty cool looking. The high-performance RF PCB dielectrics always catch my eye with their ivory-white color.