[thelist] Ethical issues concerning re-use (and heavy modification) of images

Arlen.P.Walker at jci.com Arlen.P.Walker at jci.com
Thu May 9 12:00:01 CDT 2002

>"A 7-year-old Minnesota boy has patented a
>method for swinging side to side, meaning he
>could conceivably take playmates to court
>if they try his new trick without permission. "
>Great system, eh?

Yep. But an examiner who obviously either led a sheltered life or decided
to grant the patent just to get the lawyer off his back (note that the
patent was originally denied and the lawyer appealed). I have a pet theory
about how all this has come about, involving the fact that a corporate
patent lawyer being placed in charge of the PTO (not the current director,
BTW) but I'll spare you the details. You'll note the absurd patents are
relatively recent.

It's not perfect; it's not possible to design a system that cannot be
abused by a determined individual. But rest easy, the absurd patents we're
discussing will be gone in 20 years (the swing patent probably in four,
unless lawyer dad wants to pony up the maintenance fee); the effects of the
copyright mess, if not attended to, will still be with us a century from
now. If everything involving the web was placed under patent right this
very minute, it could only freeze things for 20 years; copyright lasts
forever (at least that's been the historical trend).

I'm surprised neither of you hit on my personal favorite, patent #6004596.
(For those not inclined to look it up, it's a peanut butter and jelly

The idea behind limiting the terms of patents and copyrights is to enrich
the commons, allowing us to innovate. Patents have been working because of
cross-licensing, which constitutes a limited form of sharing; copyrights
don't, mainly because the big conglomerates in those industries *don't*

(Don't make the mistake of thinking I'm biased on this just because I hold
a patent; after all, I also hold numerous copyrights, so I have a foot in
both worlds. I just think the copyright world is completely fubar, while
the patent world simply went through a bad period and is, hopefully,
begiing to right itself.)

Have fun,
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
DNRC 224

Arlen.P.Walker at JCI.Com
In God we trust; all others must provide data.
Opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
If JCI had an opinion on this, they'd hire someone else to deliver it.

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