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Your post is a very good starting point for discussion about patent reform, Thom.
One of my "pet peeves" is patents about "appearance".
For example, patents on "rounded corners" of a window on a screen, or rounded corners on a device. Patents for a particular "finish" on a product - even patents for *colours*!
I believe that all patents for "appearance" should be declared invalid, and that patents should only be granted for novel *functionality*. This move in itself would cut out a lot of patent-trolling. Edited 2012-07-05 23:25 UTC
"One of my "pet peeves" is patents about "appearance"."
You're right about this because because patents about appearance are redundant concepts. Trademark law more than adequately addresses this issue in a far more sane, understandable manner.
It's called Trade Dress.
Some products such as tablets are so minimal and basic that it's pretty hard to not look at least something like other tablets. To go as far as Apple wants to push the issue would actually cripple all competing products. That's not right. The Slate/Tablet form factor has been around for much longer than the iPad.
In such cases the packaging and logos are pretty much the only obvious differentiators.
Think about soda/soft drink cans/bottles. Many bottlers use the exact same containers from often times the same suppliers. The nature of this product dictates that the label is the only obvious differentiator.
Many years ago (and for a relatively short time) I was a Patent Examiner in Australia. From my recollection shapes WERE NOT patentable. Australia has/had a designs Office to register particular designs but even there I don't believe you could register an oblong, not even one with a concentric internal oblong - representing the shape of an iPhone/iPad/what ever else.
I think that government down-sizing in all/most jurisdictions has forced Patent Offices to reduce staff levels to the point where now they can no longer do a thorough examination so they grant a patent application and let holders of "prior art" (similar previously granted patents) sue the new patent holder. In my day this was to be avoided.
Basically the article here is very good but alas I feel without more pressure on governments nothing will happen. Legislators need to be squeezed where it hurts, then they will respond.
Seems like a simple solution would be to quickly reject the stuff that is obviously ridiculous. Mega corps ask for patents in droves; if it is something they really care about, couldn't they just resubmit?
EDIT: shamefully I know very little, but I assume there is a minimial price to ask for a patent. As long as this is in place and not prohibitive for the average joe, then this idea seems like it would be viable. The alternative would be a "patent submission tax" for companies over a certain size. However, if there's one thing that seems to be true in the US, it is that large corps seem to get more government benefits than small corps (and not just through loop holes - also through the result of lobbying). Edited 2012-07-06 10:24 UTC
Wasn't it in Australia that after a lax patent reform, somebody successfully patented the wheel? Edited 2012-07-06 11:11 UTC
I'm with you all the way on this. Just the other day I was helping a friend with his iPhone 3GS, and I set it down next to my phone (HTC Arrive). Twice I almost picked up the wrong phone when just glancing down; I had to actively look at them to tell the difference from three feet away. Thinking back to other touchscreen phones I've owned, I realized just how much they all look alike. After all, how many variations on the design can there really be?
Apple patenting the rectangular glass-and-metal touchscreen candybar phone form factor is just crazy. It was around before the iPhone (LG Prada comes to mind) and was an inevitable design choice given the direction all the manufacturers were headed.