Re: Fear of Life (was Microsoft, Automation)

ChuckKuecker (
Thu, 21 May 1998 19:52:37 -0500

At 03:45 PM 5/21/98 -0400, you wrote:
>The problem with "stealing" information is that it is
>sooo difficult to show the missing information, since
>it isn't. As long as you still have something, I haven't
>stolen it.

Where does this reasoning leave trade secrets? If they become public
knowledge via theft, under your reasoning, there's no recourse unless you
catch the thief in the act?

>After you sell any other product, you don't insist that you
>continue to own it and can decide who gets it next, so
>why with information?

The information in a patent is freely available to anyone who wishes to see
it. The nominal fee the patent office charges is for filing and
reproduction. The right to build PRECISELY what the patent describes is all
that is owned by the patent holder. All others are welcome to use the
information to make a better product, or to make the original patented
thing obsolete, if they wish. They are just not free to reap the benefits
of someone else's hard work in developing the original product, for a
period of time that should be long enough for the inventor to recoup his
initial expenses and most likely for the whole idea to become painfully

Obviously, there are people and businesses out there who abuse the patent
system, such as the guy who had an 'idea' for the microprocessor, but never
did any actual development. Later, when others had independently invented
the thing, he came back and fought for a patent on the grounds that it was
'his idea'. I believe he won..

A local electrical engineer here has made a career of patenting any and all
schemes related to discharge lighting such as metal halide, florescent, and
neon, and electronic ballasts. Numerous times a cursory search of the
Motorola data books from ten and twenty years back will find the identical
circuit he has received a patent on last week.

Instead of scrapping the whole system and the protections given to prevent
a real inventor's ideas from being stolen by those with the bucks to outgun
him, why don't we think of ways to correct the flaws in the present patent
and trademark laws? Perhaps a return to the 'working prototype' concept
would suffice - if you can't build a working model of what you propose,
it's either not well enough thought out to be a real invention, or it's
unpatentable because it does not work.

Chuck Kuecker