10

Problem statement:

I see innumerous patents being filled with vague and generalized descriptions, with most of them never coming to fruition. Humanity as a community suffers because of these patent lockers, who hold onto human advancement for years for meeting their own individual needs.

Expected solution:

Is there a way (preferably free) by which people can contribute their idea to the public domain? If enough people can log their ideas under the public domain, then everyone can benefit from it.

The patent trolls can think of about a hundred ideas. But if thousands of brains contribute their hundreds of ideas in the public domain, then humanity can greatly benefit from it. The goal is to put every idea that the human brain can think of into the public domain. If a corporation wants to make a profit they can, as it's royalty free and everyone can pick it up and make better products out of that idea.

6
  • 3
    This would probably be bad. Ideas can't be patented themselves, but this website would inform trolls in which areas they could profitably file patents that do implement such ideas. As MadHatter also notes, a good defensive publication requires something more substantial than just an idea.
    – MSalters
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 9:38
  • 3
    priorartarchive.org seems something like this. I think I've heard of another but cannot find it right now.
    – ecm
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 12:47
  • 2
    tdcommons.org seems similar too.
    – ecm
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 13:39
  • 1
    priorart.ip.com also relevant
    – ecm
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 15:08
  • 2
    A great example of a patent fiasco is modern North American circuit breakers. Most breakers use a common shape and they will cross-fit competitor panels. However the electrical contact shape was subject to patent squabbling, so each is different enough that they make poor contact when crossed. The result is the public misconception that they are compatible, and millions of panels with alien breakers at risk for contact burn-ups. There's not some rich treasure there; these sophisticated 2-mode breakers are like $5. Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 21:52

1 Answer 1

23

The mere act of publication of an invention serves to put it into the public domain for patent purposes, thus rendering it unpatentable. The body of pre-existing ideas that might help thus invalidate a patent is known as prior art, and the idea of publishing your own invention in order to prevent other entities patenting them is known as defensive publication.

If you've had a patentable idea, and embedded it in a software implementation, the act of freely publishing your software will serve as defensive publication, particularly against later software implementations. It certainly helps if you use one of the large, centralised repositories for software development, because it eases the task of people doing large, automated prior art searches, and because you get third-party-verifiable timestamps on everything, but the important thing is to publish. The FSF maintains a list of the "freeness" of various contenders, which can be found here.

And although your concept is laudable, remember that ideas are not generally patentable, only their implementations. That's another reason that having a piece of free software embodying your novel idea is an important step towards freeing up that idea for the general benefit of humanity.

12
  • 1
    "Public domain" has two meanings: 1. Everyone can know about it (public knowledge). 2. Everyone is allowed to copy it (free of copyright restrictions). Open Source software is in the public domain according to the first meaning, but not the second meaning.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 8:30
  • 2
    The FSF list is barely relevant from an Open Source perspective (seriously, it's 2022, and they still complain about Javascript?), and even less for this purpose. For the purpose of defensive publication, GitHub scores top marks. It's well-known and will hold up in court. Gnu's "Savannah"? It's the first time I've heard about it.
    – MSalters
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 9:43
  • 8
    @MSalters you're entitled to your opinion, but the FSF is entitled to theirs also, and as for contemporary relevance that list was last updated less than two months ago (19/2/22). Unhappiness with license-opaque, minified JS isn't limited to the FSF, nor do I think it misplaced. If you haven't heard of Savannah I can only assume you've not tried to download the authoritative source of any GNU package recently, because savannah.gnu.org is where they've all lived for some time.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 10:02
  • 3
    "And although your concept is laudable, remember that ideas are not generally patentable," if it only was like that. But it is not, for reasons probably best explained in the documentary "The Patent Scam". However the purpose of sites like tdcommons.org is to pre-empt the patenting of overtly broad ideas and is one example of what was asked for.
    – alec
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 4:25
  • 3
    @alec What about making this into an actual answer (and summarizing the key points of the mentioned documentary and of the strategy of the site that you link to?
    – Zimm i48
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 9:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.