Killing stupid software patents is really easy, and you can help
The US Patent and Trademark Office is required by law to let the public submit “prior art” for pending patents — essentially, evidence that the thing the patent-filer is claiming to have invented already exists. People who spot patents in need of killing post them to a Stack Exchange forum called Ask Patents, in the hopes that other forum members will come up with invalidating art.
Joel Spolsky writes about how he found — in 15 minutes, mind you — the prior art necessary to invalidate a dumb-ass Microsoft patent on scaling images. He documents the process by which he did it, and shows how easily you could do it, too. As Spolsky points out, software patents are all basically shit, and trivial to prove as such. It just takes a dedicated army of freedom fighters to find and submit the prior art that helps the overworked patent examiners at the USPTO to reject the garbage they get by the truckload.
Ask Patents could change everything. The Patent Office just does not have enough personnel to examine each patent in depth. So they look it over to obviousness and often just pass it on, figuring the courts will sort things out.
But the courts are a very dumb place to adjudicate innovation. So let’s crowdsource the process.
This could be exciting.