Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Mini-rant on Patents

Brief mini-rant before I get back to work. I want to install an electronic gyro in an aircraft cockpit panel. That panel is offset by some number of degrees from the vertical when the airplane is sitting on the ground. I want to make sure that the horizon line is level at 0 degrees pitch when the airplane is sitting on the ground. Obvious solultion is to take the negative of the pitch angle measured while sitting on the ground and use that to offset the pitch displayed in flight. Takes about 10 seconds to come up with this idea, which is really just one line of subtraction. But I can't do it because it's patented. Someone patented a line of subraction. Now I have to do some hokey manual workaround that makes the system more difficult to use so that I don't use the obvious method. Isn't it great that our IP system encourages such innovation and advancement?

11 Comments:

At 11:41 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

I am going to patent the method of complaining about patents where one simplifies everything down to some absolutly ridiculous thing such as "subtraction".

 
At 2:11 AM, Blogger Dan Craig said...

No really, it is just one line of subtraction. To implement this in code is to say "when sittin on the ground, pitch bias = - current pitch" and then, "actual pitch = measured pitch + pitch bias". That's it. Simple subtraction.

 
At 9:57 AM, Blogger Thomas said...

is that what the patent actually says?

 
At 10:48 AM, Blogger Dan Craig said...

I haven't actually read the patent, but that is a correct description of the technology. I know we are challenging the patent, but I haven't been briefed on any details.

 
At 12:30 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

i want more posts

 
At 11:49 AM, Blogger Aurora Mikayla said...

I don't mean to sound nosy or like a know it all or anything here, I just thought this was interesting and I hope you don't mind me responding.

I have taken patent law in the US, and I'm pretty sure you can't patent a line of subtraction. You can't patent an idea, which is what subtraction is. If a line of subtraction is involved in the use of a machine that it patented, the subtraction can be part of the patent of the machine, but not solely on its own. So if someone did patent just that line of subtraction, then I would assume your challenge is going to be allowed. however, if that substraction is actually part of the larger machine, then it might not work. It's a crock, it's true, but that's patent law for you.

That's it, sorry to be so nosy, you just always have interesting things to say.

 
At 12:01 PM, Blogger Dan Craig said...

I agree completely with you, and I hope that kind of rationale is what will allow us to get the patent thrown out. Patenting ideas just doesn't make any sense. But the question I have then is where is the line drawn between an "idea" and a "business practice"? For example, I read a few months ago about a restaurant that had a big ceral bar. The idea was that you mix up a bunch of the different types of cereal to create your own. Turns out someone patented that "business practice". Blows my mind.

 
At 10:40 PM, Blogger Aurora Mikayla said...

Are you serious?? That doesn't make any sense, unless it was some special machine they had set up that dispensed the cereals that they patented. Because that idea by itself cannot be patented. It can be trademarked, but not patented. That really doesn't make any sense. Where did you hear about it? Maybe I can find the patent and let you know.

 
At 11:19 PM, Blogger Dan Craig said...

Here's the patent application. I guess they haven't recieved the patent yet, thank God.

I think it's funny that they applied for a patent because the comapny Cereality has on the website a quote saying "the concept is so absurdly simple".

 
At 9:16 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

you are looking to patent cereal box displays?

 
At 1:28 PM, Blogger Aurora Mikayla said...

Okay, so I finally had a chance to read the patent application and my question was "huh"? Yes, I do realize how dumb that sounds, but honestly, that is one of the stupidest patent applications I"ve ever seen. If they actually get the patent, there is something seriously wrong with the patent office. It's a business practice, not something to be patented, especially when it's been done other places. I don't think they can even claim it's a new idea as other businesses have used something similar. But then again, I'm not a patent lawyer, or the patent office, so who knows what they might decide. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, it was rather interesting.

 

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