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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

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Copyfight, the Solo Years: April 2002-March 2004

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline


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July 6, 2012

Blogger Q&A

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

I've never done this before, but people ask me questions and it's rare that I answer them. I try to keep the blog about the news, not about me. Feel free to share your stories in the comments.

Q: How do you buy music?

A: I've refused to buy retail CDs since the Cartel went after Napster, long ago. I buy used CDs, sometimes. Often I buy new CDs from artists via their Web sites or at their shows. I buy through iTunes a fair bit, and rarely from other stores like Amazon or Beatport. Almost all the music I buy is stuff I found via some kind of free sample. I found Beats Antique because someone remixed them, which led me to finding a (probably illegal) video someone had posted on YouTube. That's two transgressions already, but the end result was that I went to their show and bought all the CDs they could sell me at the venue. This is how I thought it might work, which is why Emily White's story surprised me.

Q: Do you read a lot of IP books? Which do you recommend?

A: Sadly, no. I'm a terrible book reader these days. Decherney's publisher was kind enough to send me a review copy and that still took me a while to get through. I'm always willing to look at a book or a related product but I can't promise I'll blog about it. I don't hesitate to say something if I think what I've seen isn't that good but I try not to go out of my way to stomp on peoples' toes.

Q: Speaking of Legitmix, do you think they're going to fail?

A: Not exactly. I just don't expect them to be revolutionary. I expect that some people will use it, and lord knows most DJs and producers can use more income. If Legitmix makes them a few bucks then that's all to the good. I'm just doubtful that it's a scalable business model. Stuff will continue to be released as it is now, and also companies like Legitmix will have things to offer.

Q: What do you think should be done with the patent system/software patents?

A: The problem is crap patents. Attacking the problem once the patent has issued is always going to be a second-best solution. So let's focus on removing the crap first.

First and foremost, stop stealing their money. Congress uses PTO fees for all kinds of things that have nothing to do with patenting or the office.

Second, do things that will lead to reduced pendency but without directly rewarding examiners for doing more exams. People do what they're rewarded for - if you just incent examiners to clear the backlog then they'll do that and cut quality corners along the way. Instead, use that PTO money for more staff and training. Give examiners access to all the public searching tools ever: Medline, Science Citation Index, Physical Review Letters, and of course the major search engines. If those tools cost money, pay for them.

Third, allow examiners to make summary rejections and make it mandatory that any patent application which cites no non-patent prior art be rejected before any examination. There is nothing so new under the sun that it hasn't at least been hinted at in the literature somewhere. When I noted that some of the patents Apple was asserting were "strong" that was in part due to looking at how much of the published literature they covered. Nothing slows down patent review more than the applicant making the examiner do all the prior art searching. In my more bitter days I also want to see applicants who clog the system with junk applications subject to fees for filing frivolous patents the way people who abuse the court system can be fined for bringing frivolous lawsuits.

Fourth, do something to bring clarity to the law and cases around patentability. Maybe it requires appointing a special court - we have those for national security matters and for tax litigation, why not for patents? Or maybe a court is the wrong model and we'd do better with an independent board of arbitration. Whatever the system is, it would need to be as independent as possible from the PTO and from whatever political party is in power.

(So, there you are. I probably won't do this often, but the last month or so of stories has brought more questions than usual. Thank you.)

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