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Best Approach To Keeping a Virtual World Protocol Free to All? 163

Posted by timothy
from the generous-coders- dept.
arkowitz writes "I invented a protocol called CICP for interacting with virtual worlds, and filed a provisional patent application on it March 20 of last year. I have since declared the protocol open and public, and contributed an implementation of it to the Sun Wonderland project, which is GPL; and made public the LSL code and accompanying Java servlet for the Second Life implementation of the protocol. I've been collaborating with a fellow in Finland named Tommi S. E. Laukkanen on a new protocol called MXP: Metaverse Exchange Protocol (here's a full description at cybertechnews.com). MXP is and will always be public domain; we intend it to enable an open and ubiquitous metaverse. My question is this: is there any reason to complete the patent app for CICP, which could potentially cover MXP as well, and release it to the public domain? The full app is due by March 20 and the legal work would probably cost my company $10k. Would finishing the patent protect the open and public protocols from patent trolls, or would it be a waste of money? Also, what kind of document would I need to make official the public-domaining of the app?"
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Best Approach To Keeping a Virtual World Protocol Free to All?

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @04:32PM (#26729287) Journal

    Best Approach To Keeping a Virtual World Protocol Free to All?

    1. Document it well. Do you have a javadoc style reference for it? What about example or sample code showing how to use it?
    2. Promote it. Ninety percent of GPL code I use is recommended to me by coworkers & coleagues.
    3. Support it (if possible). Feature f is seriously not working for me, is anyone going to help?
    4. Let the community own it. Don't be afraid to let contributors add/request new directions.

    ... filed a provisional patent application on it March 20 of last year

    But I'm guessing you haven't been awarded the patent? I think you've done more than most people would have. If you're worried about someone suing you for using a protocol, why not just upload all the documentation for it to a SourceForge Project or make it available on your site and date it? I'm guessing it's a bit more tricky than software [gnu.org] as you need the required documentation to define a protocol but why shouldn't that be releasable under the GPL? If you really wanted to ask for help, you could seek help from the EFF [eff.org] in establishing prior art now.

    Also, what kind of document would I need to make official the public-domaining of the app?

    If you have the source code, just drop it on SourceForge or make it available for download on your site with a copy of the GPL as a license file [gnu.org]. Frankly, I'd be more concerned about it being adopted and supported widely rather than having it be a GPL protocol. I wish you the best of luck--I think something very neat could come of this!

    • Yeah I don't understand why you need to file for a patent at all. It's a protocol; once everyone agrees how they expect things to behave, what's there to buy or sell? Can protocols even be patented?.. Even if they can (and protecting a particular way for other peoples software to behave is ridiculous) then you don't need to worry about someone else patenting it as long as you've already written it up and dated it.
      • If your aim is to give it to the world, then do so, literally. The true value of software comes from the number of people using it; which means if you can design something useful and provide free high-quality tools implementing it that people can use and keep an active community behind the project so the project doesn't become obsolete then you will accomplish more than with money and a lawyer. Also I suggest a license that is as unencumbered and straight-forward as possible, such as MIT or BSD; as people w
      • If you don't want it to be patentable, then publish it promptly. Also, your protocol is covered by copyright. Go to copyright.gov and spend the $35 to register it. You can always whip out that copyright registration to support an argument that someone else wasn't the first inventor.

        As for defensive patents ... Patenting the protocol itself is pretty weak unless the specification clearly states what each message is supposed to do. In fact, it is the effects on the server farm and client machines tha
        • Move to Europe, where you cannot patent it, and copyright is automatic ..... ...the US IP system is broken and will stay so while large companies control it ...

      • by vrmlguy (120854)

        Yeah I don't understand why you need to file for a patent at all. [...] Can protocols even be patented?

        Microsoft says, "Yes!" http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc224428(PROT.10).aspx [microsoft.com]

      • Yeah I don't understand why you need to file for a patent at all. It's a protocol; once everyone agrees how they expect things to behave, what's there to buy or sell?

        Protocols and standards get patented all the time. Let's not forget the nightmare the LZW compression method (think GIF) patent caused. Unfortunately, certain large companies and patent troll firms have a long standing history of attempting to extort^H^H^H^H^H^H enforce such patents, regardless of their validity. It can wind up costing people a *lot* of money to defend themselves in court, and the suing party isn't responsible for paying the legal fees of the accused should the accuser lose in the long run

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @05:18PM (#26729785)

      Also, what kind of document would I need to make official the public-domaining of the app?

      If you have the source code, just drop it on SourceForge or make it available for download on your site with a copy of the GPL as a license file [gnu.org].

      No, the GPL will not "make official the public-domaining of the app". The GPL is a copyright license that imposes all kinds of terms on those making derivative works, while something being in the public domain means there are no copyright-based restrictions on those making derivative works. A BSD-style license would be more like releasing it into the public domain, but still quite distinct.

      Strictly speaking, there is, AFAIK, no way in the US to release a copyrightable work to the public domain officially. When you say that a work that you control the copyright is in the public domain, you've mostly just issued a gratuitous public license for other people do with it what they want, that is as revocable as any other gratuitous license, but may be enforceable to the benefit of the licensee (e.g., anyone who acted under the purported release into the public domain) under the principle of promissory estoppel.

      Anyhow, asking Slashdot for this kind of business/legal advice is like asking a forum of MBAs or lawyers for programming advice.

      • by HiThere (15173)

        I feel that what he wants would be more nearly served by the BSD, LGPL, or MIT licenses.

        Public Domain isn't what anyone except an anonymous donor wants. If one is talking about an exchange protocol, that's one of the typical uses of the BSD license.

        P.S.: If you're at all serious, trademark the name. I know that you probably can't afford to mount the required defensive lawsuits, but it keeps someone else from trademarking it against you.

        N.B.: I Am Not A Lawyer. Slashdot is a good place to review your op

        • Public Domain isn't what anyone except an anonymous donor wants.

          As counterevidence, I present SQLite.

    • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @06:10PM (#26730367)

      Also, if you are comfortable with giving up your copyright, you could ask the FSF if they are interested in having code and patent donated.
      If you offer that and they accept,
      -you would be limited to GPL use of the project yourself
      -but the FSF would handle the legal stuff and bring lawsuits against GPL violators if necessary.

    • If you want your VR system to succeed, then just built it - a hundred other groups are doing the same. If you want it open, post the source and docs somewhere like Sourceforge. If you really want people to use it, post the code under BSD instead of GPL.

      Defensive patents are interesting, but the patent system is so broken that a better approach is a simple defensive publication of the architecture and protocols. Frankly, no matter how you built it, you're basically guaranteed to be infringing at least doz

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Insaniac99 (1440867)
      just to make a clarification: putting something under the GPL is not the same thing as releasing it as public domain. the GPL and other licenses like it (such as Creative Commons) still protect the works under copyright and allow the owner of the copyright to pursue people who violate the restrictions placed on the use of it. releasing something under the public domain relinquishes all control of the IP and lets people start selling, modifying, and doing whatever they want willy-nilly without any stipula
      • It would be silly to try to apply the GPL to a protocol anyhow; the GPL is for software, such as a particular implementation of a protocol. Copyright law doesn't cover protocols, while trademark law may.
  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @04:35PM (#26729325)
    You might have invented the protocol, but if the rights are assigned to someone else (an employer etc) then you have no rights over it.

    If you have kept the rights then you don't have to do anything special to keep it free for all. Just tell people that it is.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @04:49PM (#26729477)

      The rights are assigned to Green Phosphor LLC, the company I founded. I own 60% of the company. :)

      So when I say it's free, I guess it must be!

      • It won't stay free if your company goes bankrupt, as someone else may acquire its assets. Can you expect a worldwide community to believe that cannot happen?

    • You could well lapse the patent.

      Prior art = prior patent.

      • Even when there's prior art it doesn't mean somebody else can't patent it and try to sue you.

        You'll win ... but in the USA at least you'll ruin yourself in the process.

      • by rs79 (71822)

        Right. By filing the application you've established prior art.

        Are there any patents on this or near this previous to yours? Did activeworlds ever patent their stuff?

        (not a lawyer etc...)

  • by A nonymous Coward (7548) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @04:36PM (#26729341)

    Your company presumably has one. You know damned well it's a waste getting any legal advice from /. so why bother?

    TALK TO YOUR DAMNED PATENT LAWYER!

    • by EpsCylonB (307640)

      seconded

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by eldavojohn (898314) *

      Your company presumably has one. You know damned well it's a waste getting any legal advice from /. so why bother?

      TALK TO YOUR DAMNED PATENT LAWYER!

      I quite frankly disagree.

      If this guy is legit and he owns the rights to this and his company is backing him, do it. People need to get it through their heads that you don't need an army of lawyers to donate to the community. That's an old dead Microsoft/SCO way of thinking. If you want to open source something that is originally yours, it does not--I REPEAT DOES NOT--cost you anything or require a law degree!

      I don't even think he needed to file for a patent unless he had the intention of selling

      • He's asking whether he should continue the patent process which costs $10K, and which potentially covers the new protocol. That involves the patent lawyer, and that is why he needs to continue talking to the patent lawyer instead of random /. strangers.

        • by Qzukk (229616) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @05:16PM (#26729759) Journal

          That involves the patent lawyer, and that is why he needs to continue talking to the patent lawyer instead of random /. strangers.

          Patent lawyer: "Why yes! Of course you should pay me $10,000! Otherwise the boogeyman will get you!"

          Sometimes a second opinion is a good idea. Whether slashdot gives a good second opinion is left as an exercise to the reader.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by DragonWriter (970822)

            Patent lawyer: "Why yes! Of course you should pay me $10,000! Otherwise the boogeyman will get you!"

            The $10,000 cost referred to is the cost of filing the final, non-provisional application, not the cost of legal fees. Since the cost is to the company, if the company has in-house counsel, talking to them should be far less expensive, and would be the kind of thing that would be pretty irresponsible not to do (and if special talent that is outside of the company is needed, that's something in-house counsel s

            • The patent could be useful to you and other users of the FOSS protocol/software as a defensive patent, i.e. you could use it to countersue anyone (e.g. a troll) going after you or any other user of the software. Whether it's worth $10k to your company for this extra protection for you and the community of users is something you should talk to a lawyer, and your company/community's business strategists, about.
            • by j0nb0y (107699)

              Most of the $10,000 is the cost of preparing the application. The actual filing fees are a small fraction of that. They might be even smaller in this case, as it sounds like the LLC qualifies for small entity status. Small entities qualify for reduced fees (50% off) for many things at the patent office.

              I am a Registered Patent Agent.

  • by goffster (1104287) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @04:38PM (#26729359)

    A patent merely helps you argue your case.
    It guarantees absolutely nothing.
    A patent troll may be able to outspend you in
    court.

    • I'm pretty sure that in a patent trial, a patent can be used as evidence of prior art.

      Of course, I can't say I'd be all that surprised if it didn't with the way the justice system works. What he's really asking (if I'm not mistaken) is how to ensure that nobody will be able to patent it out from under him. That requires establishing prior art. He's doing that with a patent right now, he's wondering if his second project not being patented should be patented to protect it. This is a legitimate question, a
  • by mapsjanhere (1130359) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @04:38PM (#26729363)
    The only reason to finish the patent process would be to establish your freedom to continue down that path without anyone else patenting your own technology, and then blocking your from using it.
    I don't know if an abandoned patent application is sufficient to give you that protection. Finishing it and then not keeping it up is definitely going to do it (usual IANAL disclaimer).
    • The only way he would not be free to practice it is if it has already been patented by someone else. If he has been practicing this (with dated documentation, such as a patent application), that's automatic prior art invalidation.

      Now, if a troll can forecast something you want to do in the future that you have not yet documented practice of, they can run ahead of you and patent that, but having a full patent is no more protection from that than dated, documented practice of the art.

    • Just publish it in a public space: blog, user group etc.
      • Maybe I wasn't clear enough here - when you file a patent, you're required to list relevant patents in the field. These will (hopefully, if the process works) prevent the troll from getting a patent on your stuff. Prior art based on previous publication might help you get the patent overturned, but it won't necessarily stop the troll from getting the patent in the first place, leading to all kinds of expenses (much more than the 10k to finish the patent process and than abolishing it) or hindrances in the
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by fair use (948368)
      A patent doesn't give you the right to do anything. A patent only gives you the right to prevent other people from doing something. So getting a patent on this won't prevent other people for suing you for patent infringement. The patent could be useful from a defensive perspective. If you get sued by a competitor for patent infringement, then you could potentially countersue for infringement of your own patent. If you are sued by a troll, however, that won't help because trolls don't do anything and th
    • by j0nb0y (107699)

      The only reason to finish the patent process would be to establish your freedom to continue down that path without anyone else patenting your own technology, and then blocking your from using it.

      Not true. A patent does not give you the right to practice the invention. A patent only gives you the right to exclude others from the invention. If someone else has a prior patent, you might still be prevented from practicing your invention.

      IANAL.

  • by Compholio (770966) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @04:38PM (#26729365)
    You need a better name for a GPL project than that, I recommend "Black Sun" - and if you haven't read Snow Crash then shame on you.
  • by gujo-odori (473191) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @04:39PM (#26729377)

    You are, to some extent, talking about creating two different things: public domain Vs. GPLed.

    If you release something to the public domain, I (or anyone) is perfectly free to take it and make a proprietary version which may or may not be fully compatible with the PD version.

    If you release it under the GPL, it's very difficult for someone to do that without violating the license.

    That said, you need to talk to a good intellectual property lawyer, not Slashdot. You'll only get one shot at doing this so that it comes out the way you want, and a good lawyer's guidance through the process will make your success a lot more likely.

    • The GPL license includes some restrictions on use and redistribution (if don't want it to remain free to all, you could use the BSD license..(IANAL, all the rest, so this is only my personal understanding.)

      Being a usual /.er, I haven't read the article, but it sounds like you're talking about a protocol layout--a communication schema. In that case, talking to the IP lawyer would be a good way to go. However, in dealing with the lawyer, don't let them decide "the plan"--you should lay out your plan, and s

    • Version 3 was updated for this specific problem. Otherwise, how can the community have any assurance that your contribution will remain free from your own patents? Supposing your company and its patents were bought and the new owners decided against letting the community freely use those patents?

      The patents themselves may be a waste of time and money. They are for software, are they not? And it is not clear that software should be patentable. (I'm of the opinion it is clear that software should not b

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DragonWriter (970822)

      You are, to some extent, talking about creating two different things: public domain Vs. GPLed.

      OP seems pretty clear that they are looking to release the protocol to the public domain, while the software they have so far released that implements the protocol is released under the GPL. Those are, quite clearly, two different things, but they are not at all in conflict.

    • by powerlord (28156)

      Actually we need to remember that there are REALLY two different things here.

      There is the protocol specification, and there is the code (in essence a reference implementation).

      I'd suggest that you could take the documents outlining the protocol specification and release them under copyleft, or, alternatively, just host the information in a Source-Forge project and start building momentum (if you build it, they will come).

      Then release the sample binary under GPL (for the whole), with the actual "reference" l

  • Prior Art (Score:4, Informative)

    by Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @04:39PM (#26729383)

    Assuming your invention is not already covered by someone else's patent, then essentially, no. IANAL, naturally, but I think you basically would just want to get a good description of the patentable claims, probably with a reference implementation, out there.

    If I understand the legal situation correctly the formulation is something like your prior art has to be 'published'. My guess would be the more prominently, the stronger its claim is. In other words ideally in some "major" print publication dealing with the subject matter might be ideal.

    An RFC might not be a bad idea either. Or two as the case may be.

    Getting a patent issued in any case is not strictly required and as you observe, kind of expensive and time consuming as well. The only thing having a patent would likely do for you is allow you to refuse to license purely commercial implementations or collect royalties from them. Doesn't really sound like either of those things are on your agenda.

    • An RFC might not be a bad idea either. Or two as the case may be.

      If hes got the money he can always get an ISO

    • by mr_death (106532)

      I think it depends on arkowitz's goals. Nothing can stave off a lawsuit; the real goal is to skew the risk/reward and ROI toward you and away from your hypothetical foe.

      Reading between the lines, arkowitz is creating a very useful platform that could be used in the future. A legal stake in the ground may be the cheapest and most efficient way to set the prior art bar high. As others have noted, a drop to sourceforge or an RFC would unambiguously set a public date for your invention.

      US patent 5841980, assign

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @04:40PM (#26729389) Homepage

    My gut says that if you're expecting this one patent to protect you from anybody filing an opportunistic lawsuit against you then it's a waste of money.

    It's certainly not illegal to invent a new protocol/new software and give it away for free. If someone later patents the same thing and comes to get you, then what you did is prior art. The thing is, just saying it doesn't make you immune from lawsuits -- the point of the lawsuit is to prove that you don't owe anybody anything. Likewise, your one patent wouldn't stop anyone else from writing a slightly different patent and trying the same thing. In other words, so long as software is patentable, you'll never be safe from patent lawsuits.

    Maybe the thing to do is to file a copy of your specifications and your software code with the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright protection for software is automatic, just like it is for written works or anything else. Registering your copyright does confer certain advantages, however. In this case, the point would be to grant you a recognized legal document establishing that your work was completed before any future patents came into being. It would certainly be cheaper than $10,000.

    The real thing you have to worry about is the likelihood that there are already 200+ patents on the books covering the ideas that you have implemented. No patent registration will protect you against that.

  • One. More. Time. (Score:5, Informative)

    by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @04:42PM (#26729403) Homepage Journal

    Also, what kind of document would I need to make official the public-domaining of the app?"

    See. A. Lawyer.

    Nobody on Slashdot is a legal expert, except in their own minds. The exceptions are the few actual lawyers who hang out here, and they all know better than to offer legal advice based on the kind of vague information you're providing.

    This point gets made every time we have one of these give-me-legal-advice Ask Slashdots. It's vaguely possible that the submitter hasn't heard this before. But why do the editors refuse to hear it?

    • See. A. Lawyer.

      This point gets made every time we have one of these give-me-legal-advice Ask Slashdots. It's vaguely possible that the submitter hasn't heard this before. But why do the editors refuse to hear it?

      Well... does 'Ask Slashdot' really exist in order to benefit the person asking the question? Or is it to give all us Slashdot readers/posters an excuse to say 'IANAL, but...' and then pontificate on how we think the law works and how we think the law OUGHT to work?

      Which one is likely to make more m

      • by fm6 (162816)

        Yes, being stupid can be profitable. Doesn't make it intentional. Anyway, I very much doubt that anybody signs on to Slashdot specifically to complain about what's on Slashdot!

    • by Raenex (947668)

      This point gets made every time we have one of these give-me-legal-advice Ask Slashdots.

      Yes, it does. And the counter-point gets made every time too: There's a good chance somebody on Slashdot has faced the same technical + legal question you have, and already did the research or hired a lawyer. Not all the advice here is just armchair lawyers talking out their ass.

      • by fm6 (162816)

        And the counter-point gets made every time ...

        First time I've heard it. Nor does it make a lot of sense. When these kinds of legal questions get asked, I don't recall anybody saying "My lawyer told me" or "According to this Nolo book". If they did, they were drowned out by the noisy chorus of self-taught legal "experts".

        • by Raenex (947668)

          If they did, they were drowned out by the noisy chorus of self-taught legal "experts".

          Sometimes we only see what we expect.

  • IANAL, but patents are for protection from copying. For it to be public domain and practically unpatentable all you should have to do is publically disclose it as widely as possible in venues with a clear timestamp. It would also be wise for you to have a notebook with notarized dates, etc to demonstrate invention dates.

    That said, I hope all software and business patents are abolished as soon as possible.

    • IANAL, but patents are for protection from copying.

      No, copyrights are for protection from copying. Patents protect methods whether or not the the other person trying to use them is copying them or has indepedently developed them without any knowledge of your work.

  • Why are you bothering to patent it? Doesn't that kinda contravene the point of making it "open" and "free for all"?

    I mean, once you publish it and implementations using it, it becomes prior art and no one else can patent it, either.

    Besides my general distaste for process, software, and business-method patents, I have to ask:

    Is it really worthy of patent protection? Is it really that new and novel to deserve 20 years of government-mandated monopolistic protection? Do the development costs justify it?

    I've yet

    • Why are you bothering to patent it? Doesn't that kinda contravene the point of making it "open" and "free for all"?

      Not at all. Ogg is patented, yet open.

      I mean, once you publish it and implementations using it, it becomes prior art and no one else can patent it, either.

      In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

      Is it really worthy of patent protection? Is it really that new and novel to deserve 20 years of government-mandated monopolistic protection? Do the development costs justify it?

      Patenting it allows time for this standard to become adopted on a widespread basis before it can be hijacked.

      • by sstamps (39313)

        Not at all. Ogg is patented, yet open.

        Ogg is NOT patented. Come on, dude. Don't post bullshit.

        In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

        Perhaps, but it isn't a justification for patenting something that you want to remain open.

        Patenting it allows time for this standard to become adopted on a widespread basis before it can be hijacked.

        Ummm.. could you explain how you "hijack" an OPEN standard. I am a little fuzzy on that one.

        • Not at all. Ogg is patented, yet open.

          Ogg is NOT patented. Come on, dude. Don't post bullshit.

          OK, I was mistaken. I thought Xiph.org held the patents to prevent abuse by patent trolls.

          Ummm.. could you explain how you "hijack" an OPEN standard. I am a little fuzzy on that one.

          Have the single largest user base and implement the standard poorly. Sure, the standard is still there, but the unmolested version isn't used because the most popular program doesn't use it. See: Internet Explorer.

    • by sstamps (39313)

      In fact, after reading the spec, I don't see anything patent-worthy about it at all.

      It's basically nothing more than an externally-driven meta-scenegraph, and a VERY generic one at that. One that would encompass a GREAT DEAL of content already in existence in virtual worlds, even in Second Life. It is WAY WAY WAY too broad.

      You do know that similar functionality is already in use in SL by a number of different projects, right? Object backup/copying solutions, web-driven interfaces, etc.

      I mean, this smacks so

  • by dencarl (138314) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @04:44PM (#26729431)

    From DefensivePublications.org [defensivep...ations.org] ...

    Defensive publications, which are endorsed by the USPTO as an IP rights management tool, are documents that provide descriptions and artwork of a product, device or method so that it enters the public domain and becomes prior art. This powerful preemptive disclosure prevents other parties from obtaining a patent on the product, device or method. It enables the original inventor to ensure that they have access to their invention by preventing others from later making patent claims on it. It also means that they do not have to shoulder the cost of patent applications.

    [emphasis mine]

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      Ahh, you beat me to it. Patents, in the corporate world, do *not* exist to protect the corporation from being sued if someone else patents the concept. Patents, in the corporate world, exist for one of two reasons: as a club to make money (ie, patent trolling), or as a defensive, MAD-style weapon against would-be patent trolls. If you just want to make sure someone *else* doesn't patent your idea, a defensive publication is all you need.

  • Honestly? The chances that anyone will ever be interested in even implementing your protocol, much less copying it in a way which your patent would protect, is close to zero.

    The only reason you have for patenting it is an over-inflated sense of its worth. So no, I wouldn't spend $10k on a patent.

  • SIX INCHES OF AIR.

    Seriously. Unplug it. Protocol free!
  • (I'm nothing close to a lawyer, as probably goes without saying here. An IP lawyer is necessary if the answer to this question has any significant value to your business.)

    As far as prior art goes, there may be a minor practical benefit to registration. Publishing your stuff publicly is enough to establish that your thing exists and is public domain, and will prevent someone else from legitimately patenting it. However, having an actual patent registered might make it more likely that a patent examiner would

    • An important caveat I forgot: If you do plan to use patents on open-source software defensively, it's fairly tricky to figure out the right way to do it. You cannot just give a blanket grant to anyone to use the patent for any purpose, since then it loses its defensive value: you have to be able to retain the right to threaten the extension-patenter with a patent-infringement suit. But at the same time you clearly don't want normal users to feel thus threatened.

      You instead need to take an approach that gran

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      An IP lawyer is necessary

      I'm not sure if there is such a thing. There are copyright lawyers and Patent lawyers and Trademark lawyers. All are considered "imaginary property" lawyers, but the laws differ in each instance. For instance, patents last twenty years, copyright lasts close to two hundred years, and trademarks never run out.

      If someone infringes your copyright you still hold copyright. If someone infringes your trademark you have to defend it.

      BTW, speaking of copyright lawyers, where's Ray Beckerman

      • by Corbets (169101)

        BTW, speaking of copyright lawyers, where's Ray Beckerman been lately? I'll be he could answer these questions better than about anybody else here.

        Which is probably why he doesn't; I imagine that, as a lawyer, he'd be sticking his neck out if he offered free legal advice without a whole bunch of caveats. :P

  • You put source code into a PDF file?

    Stop the patent filing process immediately.
    Stop the development process immediately.
    Stop working in any computer-related field immediately.

    And stay out of Second Life!

  • My grandfather was an inventor. He made several small items that he sold with varying success.
    He would take all his information, get it notarized put it in an envelope.Get two people ti sign and data across the flap, and then put that in another envelope he would mail to himself and not open.

    This gave him proof with a date on it. The few times protection came up, it was enough for the courts. Cost him very little money.

    Another thing you can do is just do the patent yourself and send it in. A few hundred buc

    • by Zerth (26112)

      The envelope trick doesn't work anymore.

      Anyone can steam the other flap open and reseal it.

  • Let me ask you this; are you willing (or able) to spend the money to defend your patent in court? A patent is only as good as the person's/company's willingness to defend it. Otherwise, don't bother wasting the money to patent it.
    • Please read the article. He does not want to defend his patent. He wants to establish prior art so that the invention goes into the public domain. Patenting it and then abandoning the patent does so, and it publishes the invention in the PTO's own database where examiners are less likely to overlook it.

  • Publish the description of the protocol, in detail, along with any extensions or modifications you've thought up. Don't just chuck it up on some random website; publish it somewhere which is likely to stick around and be publicly noticable. If you put it up on Sun's Project Wonderland website that might be sufficient. The provisional application will protect you (in theory) from trolls who might read it and patent it themselves, and a year from first publication nobody (including you) will be able to pat

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @06:03PM (#26730293)

    Don't get your free patent advice from Slashdot.

  • I get so bored and annoyed by some of the silly advice here, I dont pracice law, but hold a Doktor Recht. I do consult on IP issues.

    Both in the EU and USA patent requires originallity and is absolutely barred by prior art.

    That means all you need to do is establish prior art in a copy(left|right)ed document and publish it, by donating a copy to a copyright library eg Library of Congress, University of Cambridge, Universit&#195;&#164;t Basle for example.

    The date of publication, entry into the public c
    • > You do not need to patent, and if you do you (theoretically) publish the details of your
      > invention.

      The problem is that the patent examiners often overlook prior art (especially in software) and allow patents to issue anyway. Once a patent has issued it is presumed valid and an expensive lawsuit is required to overturn it. Patenting the invention (a US provisional patent costs only $100) both gets the invention published and puts it where the examiner is very unlikely to miss it, since the first t

  • I read the spec and looked at the web pages and, frankly, I don't understand what the point is. WHat's the problem this protocol solves. Why would you use it?

  • Well, you could just make it run on Plan9, that would accomplish your goal...sort of.

  • Note that you can file provisional patent applications on any improvements that you make to the original "invention". Do so, and attach full source code for the reference implementation as an "exhibit".

  • by Rhalin (791665)
    I seem to recall using MXP [zuggsoft.com] nearly a decade ago for my MMORPG's [wikipedia.org]...

    First google result "MXP Protocol" and wikipedia result!
  • by psxndc (105904) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @11:22PM (#26733137) Journal
    1) I AM a lawyer

    2) As proof, what I am about to tell you is not legal advice, nor is me telling you this creating an attorney/client relationship

    3) Hire an attorney.

    That all said, a patent is not a freedom to operate document. If you have a patent on ABCD, and someone has a patent they claim covers ABC, nothing stops them from coming after you. They may win, they may not, but your patent does not protect you. It only allows you to prevent others from doing ABCD (it is a 'negative right'). Secondly, if you do want to ensure no one can own it, publish it yesterday. The longer you delay, the worse off everyone is because publications are an absolute bar to someone else patenting your invention only a year or more after the publication. Each day you wait pushes that statutory bar another day. Now, without reading your links, your 'publication' here - or more specifically whenever you put those up - is sufficient. You do not need to make it a peer journal or anything like that. It just needs to be available to the public.

    Seriously, don't heed most of the advice here. It is just plain, outright wrong.

    Again, get a lawyer, talk to him or her, and I'll bet you they give you the same advice. Not that I'm giving you advice.

  • by hesaigo999ca (786966) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @09:39AM (#26736077) Homepage Journal

    Don't bother reading any further, I went ahead and filed for patent on this while he was waiting for his. In Canada, you don't wait for patents, you get them as you file for them.....ok, let me see now, where did i place my bank book.

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