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Tied into our current 3D printing boom is a second, equally interesting one: an explosion of accessible 3D scanners. As you may be able to guess from the name, 3D scanners can take physical objects and turn them into digital files. Once you have digitized an object you can modify it, share it over the internet, and/or print it out with a 3D printer.
Public Knowledge urges the Supreme Court to look beyond complicated patent language and invalidate patents on simple, abstract ideas.
Today, Public Knowledge filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to review an important case on software patents, WildTangent v. Ultramercial. The basic question in this case is whether a patent to a simple, abstract idea can be valid simply by tacking on enough legal and technical language to that idea, even if that extraneous language has no real meaning.
The patent in question is U.S. Patent No. 7,346,545. That patent basically describes a simple idea familiar to anyone who has watched videos on the Internet: the idea of taking a video available for purchase, and showing it for free in exchange for viewing an advertisement first.
If you’re thinking that this idea is too simple to be patented, you’re right. The specific legal concept, as the Supreme Court has said, is the “abstract idea,” which includes things like methods of financial hedging and algorithms for converting decimal to binary numbers. Abstract ideas, like laws of nature and physical phenomena, cannot be patented, because they are the “basic tools of scientific and technological work,” and “monopolization of those tools through the grant of a patent might tend to impede innovation more than it would tend to promote it”—so said our highest court last year, in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories.
The White House and Congress are trying to restrict use of public domain photos and videos.
As two of the three branches of the US government, Congress and the Administration have key roles in creating and enforcing our copyright law. So why are they trying to restrict what people do with public domain material?
Believe it or not, copyright law actually has a specific section addressing the Federal Government’s ability to get a copyright. The section is pretty straightforward: the Federal Government does not get copyright on the works that it produces. You don’t need to be a lawyer to understand the first part of 17 U.S.C. § 105:
Join us in Washington, DC, October 25-26 as we tell Congress to stop the NSA overreach!
STOP. WATCHING. US. That has been the message Public Knowledge and over 100 diverse groups from across the political spectrum have been telling the US government over the last couple months as part of the StopWatching.us coaltion. When the coalition started a few months ago, over 500,000 Americans joined us in asking Congress to find out exactly what is happening with the spying, stop it, and hold those responsible for pushing for such overreach accountable.
Breaking down the two completely opposing sides of Intellectual Ventures and showing once again that we need patent reform.
What is Intellectual Ventures? The stories have been so divergent that people might as well be talking about two different companies.
Intellectual Ventures describes themselves as an “invention capital company.” On their website they write, “Like a venture capitalist, part of our business is focused on funding the creation of new ideas.” Why? “We believe that ideas are valuable. We’re creating a market where patents have value.”
Journalists, the tech community, and stakeholders feel otherwise. As Mike Masnick said while summing up an article by Jeff Roberts from GigaOm, “Intellectual Ventures’ entire business is focused on screwing over innovators by charging them an often-substantial tax by bundling together tens of thousands of broad patents.”
So, how can we explain these two completely opposing views of one company? It really boils down to a major ideological difference in what patents mean to society.
Expanding on The Switch's 5 things that neither side of the broadband debate wants to admit.
Over at The Switch today, Timothy B. Lee offered his list of 5 things neither side of the broadband debate wants to admit. His list strikes me as mostly reasonable, although I think that you could find at least one side of the debate to endorse most of them. In any case, I wanted to take a moment to add a bit of color to the list, to try and give you a sense of how we think about some of these things. Here are Lee’s things, followed by a bit of commentary.
1. American wireless service is working pretty well.
Especially when compared to the wired broadband market, this statement is fairly accurate. We have four nationwide carriers and some decisions (like offering earlier upgrades) by one carrier clearly push the other carriers to match.
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