Re: [rp-ml] Z-corp, "open-sourcing" & "crowd-sourcing"

From: I.T. Daniher <>
Date: Thu Nov 24 2011 - 17:50:20 EET

As of the ratification of the America INVENTS act, prior art factors very
little into the granting of a patent. We in the US have moved from "first
to invent" to "first to file."

If BP finds something patentable in their newly collected ideas, and
submits an application before anyone else, they're legally entitled to the

On Thu, Nov 24, 2011 at 05:20, Jeremy Pullin <>wrote:

> I’m not as familiar with patent laws in the US as I am with those in the
> UK and Europe but the idea of but the theory of BP and others stockpiling
> crowd sourced ideas for their own evil ends sounds a little conspiracy
> theorist to me. The problem with attempting to farm IP in this way lies in
> ‘Prior art’. Prior art which also known as ‘state of the art’ or
> ‘background art’ refers to any information which has been made available
> to the public before a date that could be relevant to a patent's claims of
> originality. Basically, if an invention has been described in prior art, a
> patent on that invention is not valid. To establish the validity of a
> patent application, the patent offices explore the prior art that existed
> before the invention occurred (in the US) or before the application was
> filed (in the rest of the world). Obviously there is no way that BP could
> track down the hundreds of thousands of people that submitted ideas and
> sign them all up non disclosure agreements. If the ideas were submitted
> onto discussion forums and publicly accessible web portals at the time then
> that constitutes prior art and even if BP restricted access to them after
> the oil spill had been dealt with, there is still no way that any patents
> they attempted to file would be valid. If BP (or others) were to be awarded
> a patent due to no prior art showing up on the initial ‘Novelty search’ the
> awarded patent could still then be ruled invalid if prior art was found
> during a subsequent ‘validity search’.****
> For the reasons above the scenario described where open source and crowd
> sourced ’free offerings get co-oped by large commercial interests,
> which can then go on to acquire patents on things they didn't even invent
> and then completely control them’ cannot happen. Once something has gone
> ‘open source’ such as RepRap or Arduino it cannot be seized upon by anyone
> and retrospectively patented. Even if it is then the patent can be
> retrospectively ruled as being invalid. Not even Adrian Bowyer could get a
> valid patent on the RepRap now even though he is widely and rightly
> recognized as the father of the platform. I hope that puts your mind at
> rest a bit about open source.****
> Regards****
> Jeremy.****
> ** **
> ** **
> *From:* [] *On
> Behalf Of *G. Sachs
> *Sent:* 23 November 2011 18:36
> *To:*
> *Subject:* [rp-ml] Z-corp, "open-sourcing" & "crowd-sourcing"****
> ** **
> Some good points, Markus and Adrian (especially about some of the
> screwed-up things that go on in the U.S.!).
> While this is starting to get pretty far afield from the original, Z-corp,
> acquisition story, this discussion does bring up some other interesting
> questions about current economic trends and future employment possibilities
> and risks (with one of the less optimistic of those being that, most of us,
> may just end up working for little or nothing, in the future!). For example
> one of my biggest concerns with regards to both "open-sourcing" and its
> close cousin, "crowd-sourcing", is when these free offerings get co-oped
> by large commercial interests, which can then go on to acquire patents on
> things they didn't even invent and then completely control them. If and
> when this happens, it clearly defeats the purpose of the original,
> non-commercially, motivated work.
> For instance, during last year's Gulf oil disaster, there was a worldwide
> call for ideas to help stop the disaster and clean it up. Literally
> hundreds of thousands of ideas were generated and sent in to BP (at the
> request of the Obama administration). In the end, BP and the Obama
> administration claimed that not even a single useful, or practical, idea
> was generated from all this effort. In following up on this truly, record
> breaking, crowd-sourcing "experiment", I discovered that most of the
> participants never got any feedback from BP; no one in the government
> wanted to directly deal with any of the incoming ideas (that's why they
> were all referred to BP) which lead to and allowed BP to stockpile them
> into a huge *proprietary* database (repository) that only BP now has
> access to. This database has never been made public even though everything
> in it was contributed by the public and more troublesome, it is now not
> available to journalists and outside independent scientists to evaluate. To
> make matters worse, BP now has the right to patent anything derived from
> that database that the original proposers may not have thought to try and
> patent at the time of submission - i.e. those who so enthusiastically
> participated in this crowd-sourcing "exercise" ( homework), have now
> allowed for their commercially exploitation. Another example of this can be
> found in the protein folding websites and "games", that encourage people to
> help figure out how certain (very important) proteins are spatially
> configured. At first I thought this was a great idea and it sounded like
> both fun and "helpful to society", but then I realized that many of these
> solutions will go on to help large pharmaceutical companies developing new
> drugs (and make lots of money), without the "solvers" being compensated at
> all.
> There are also a few web sites devoted exclusively to providing clients
> with crowd-sourced solutions to very tough problems, in exchange for either
> just some "recognition", or in exchange for a, rather small, fixed-price
> reward - * provided they are successful in finding a solution*. Of
> coarse, if they are *not completely* successful (according to the paying
> client), then they get absolutely no compensation for their efforts. In
> addition to this, rather suspect, "reward model", the question of what
> happens to the *runner-up ideas* (which also may still be quite good) is
> never made clear - but I suspect the client gets to keep and use any of
> those as well, even though they have to pay nothing for those.
> When I questioned one of the founders of one of these crowd-sourcing sites
> about the equity of such business models, he told me that *the
> non-financial rewards* to the participants was*, perhaps,* just as
> valuable as the, *possible,* financial rewards (i.e. I guess the prestige
> of being named a "solver" might be worth just as much as any actual
> monetary compensation) - to which I responded that *"prestige" was all,
> well and good, but I'd, still, much prefer "the cash"*. I also made it
> clear that I didn't much care for their business model and indented to
> expose it for what it really was.*
> *G. Sachs****
> P.S. When it comes to the issue of IP rights, at least in the U.S., it all
> gets very complicated, very fast. There are no clear and simple answers as
> to what can and cannot happen and unfortunately there are considerations
> and "strategies" that go beyond just the law. When it comes right down to
> it, IP (in the U.S. at least) is really just a an example of game theory
> applied to the world of ideas.
> ****
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Markus Hitter <>
> *To:* Jeremy Pullin <>
> *Cc:* " list" <>
> *Sent:* Wed, November 23, 2011 8:34:57 AM
> *Subject:* Re: [rp-ml] Zcorp!?
> Am 22.11.2011 um 15:22 schrieb Jeremy Pullin:
> > Just think how much computer hardware and ancillaries have been sold to
> > linux users over the years. Giving things away free does not nor will it
> > ever remove or even reduce the necessity for money and financial
> > exchanges.
> This is true and there are a few additional points:
> - If you buy a consumer PC, you get a closed source operating system for
> free, preinstalled. Well, perhaps not for free, but you can't avoid it
> anyways. So, the cost of proprietary stuff in the PC world is very low and
> undoubtly a noticeable number of PC users use the preinstalled OS just out
> of laziness.
> - In the computer server market, where people take a lot more care what
> variant of software they're running, open source OSs are on par or even
> dominant over proprietary counterparts.
> - Sheer price. Windows server costs a 3 digit number, a Rapid Prototyping
> machine costs a 5 digit number. The more digits, the more people think.
> - An important difference between open source software and open source
> hardware: with hardware, you can make quite some money by just
> manufacturing copies. Material price for the plastics parts of a RepRap is
> about EUR 5.-, still the price of such printed sets currently settles
> somewhere at EUR 65.- to EUR 80.-. No such thing with software, nobody
> would pay you a single Euro for just downloading a Linux kernel or Ubuntu
> OS*.
> This later point leads to quite a number of people doing financially
> healthy business by just making copies - not just Adrian with his 5
> friends. It also leads to many people designing something new in the
> prospect of selling the result. It also leads to some RepRappers saying:
> developers do the work, copy shops collect the money.
> To keep the topic: open source hardware is very obviously a working
> innovation model, not just a freetime hobby for altruists. Think of your
> engineering textbooks being full of downloadble designs and you concentrate
> yourself on just the new part. That's close to what happens in the open
> source hardware community.
> Markus Hitter
> aka "Traumflug" on RepRap
> * When downloading legal music, you don't pay the download either, but a
> licence fee for "owning" the music.
> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
> Dipl. Ing. (FH) Markus Hitter
> ****
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Received on Thu Nov 24 17:43:45 2011

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