Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Security fix headlines

Check out the difference in headlines for Mozilla fixing some security faults compared to a headline for Microsoft fixing security faults:

Headline interpretation: Firefox good, Windows bad.

Hmmm.. consistent reporting at work.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Software Patent Insanity

Clemens Vasters has a brilliant post on “Software Patent” Insanity. He suggests using a community collaboration model as a means of practically managing patent office overload when it comes to evaluating patent submissions. The intent is to use the network effects of systems like the Google page ranking, Amazon product/book reviews and the open source development model to advantage in patent review. The model proposed is based on anyone being able to file objections, but with accredited subject matter experts being given priority during the review process. Even unaccredited interested bystanders have a role to play as they can influence the patent office and accredited experts if they have a sufficiently valid argument.

It seems to me that it is the responsibility of the patent offices around the world in providing the infrastructure for such a community collaboration system that leverages network effects. If they don’t then they are really just wasting the money of the people who pay tax to run the patent offices. Such an infrastructure should:

  • Provide full information on all patents and patent submissions. This includes drawings and everything needed to properly understand and review a submission.
  • Strong search capabilities to help all interested parties to find the information that’s relevant to them.
  • Have a comment system, so that interested parties can log opinions such as being able to reference instances of prior art. Link this comment system to the “blogosphere” so that readers can ascertain a commenter’s reputation and biases based on their post history.
  • Commenters can be classed based on their accreditation and be voted on for relevance. This would allow comments to be filtered if comments on a particular submission go through the roof.
  • Have an RSS subscription system where interested parties can easily subscribe to all patent submission events that relate to their area of interest or expertise e.g. by keyword search.
  • Have a means where the history of Software (or whatever area of experise) can be built up in a community effort. Maybe leverage Wikipedia or something similar for this. This would support the ability to identify prior art as quickly as possible to reject spurious patent submissions. Such a history repository would bound to have disagreements about the historical details, but would provide a useful prior art resource regardless of the disagreements.
  • The patent office has an ongoing “marketing” campaign to make people aware of the community system availability. It’s in the interest of both the general public and the patent office to get people involved in the areas of expertise that they have an interest in. The more a patent office can present the patent data as a relevant information source for an area of expertise the more people will get involved. The patent office wins by leveraging the brain power and time of lots of interested parties. The interested parties win by accessing an information source in the area of expertise that is relevant to them.

It would be in my interest to subscribe to the patent RSS feeds in my area of expertise (software development) even if I’m not an accredited reviewer. It helps the community to weed out spurious patent claims early on in submission process. From a selfish perspective the patent RSS feeds would be a technology information source. Almost like subscribing to a technology magazine describing current technology thoughts. This is where the network effect comes in i.e. looking for a win win for all parties.