5/21/2015

05-21-15 - Software Patents are Fucking Awesome

Awesome. Spotted on encode.ru. It was inevitable I suppose :

"System and method for compressing data using asymmetric numeral systems with probability distributions"

By these tards :

Storleap

Someone in the UK go over and punch them in the balls.

For those not aware of the background, ANS is probably the biggest invention in data compression in the last 20 years. Its inventor (Jarek Duda) has explicitly tried to publish it openly and make it patent-free, because he's awesome.

In the next 10 years I'm sure we will get patents for "using ANS with string-matching data compression", "using ANS with block mocomp data compression", "using ANS as a replacement for Huffman coding", "deferred summation with ANS", etc. etc. Lots of brilliant inventions like that. Really stimulating for innovation.

(as has happened over and over in data compression, and software in general in the past; hey let's take two obvious previously existing things; LZ string matching + Huffman = patent. LZ + hash table = patent. JPEG + arithmetic = patent. Mocomp + Huffman = patent. etc. etc.)

(often glossed over in the famous Stac-Microsoft suit story is the question of WHAT THE FUCK the LZS patent was supposed to be for? What was the invention there exactly? Doing LZ with a certain fixed bit encoding? Umm, yeah, like everyone does?)

Our patent system is working great. It obviously protects and motivates the real inventors, and doesn't just act as a way for the richest companies to lock in semi-monopolies of technologies they didn't even invent. Nope.

Recently at RAD we've made a few innovations related to ANS that are mostly in the vein of small improvements or clever usages, things that I wouldn't even imagine to patent, but of course that's wrong.

I've also noticed in general a lot of these vaporware companies in the UK. We saw one at RAD a few years ago that claimed to use "multi-dimensional curve interpolation for data compression" or some crackpot nonsense. There was another one that used alternate numeral systems (not ANS, but p-adic or some such) for god knows what. A few years ago there were lots of fractal-image-compression and other fractal-nonsense startups that did ... nothing. (this was before the VC "pivot" ; hey we have a bunch of fractal image patents, let's make a text messaging app)

They generally get some PhD's from Cambridge or whatever to be founders. They bring a bunch of "industry luminaries" on the board. They patent a bunch of nonsense. And then ...

... profit? There's a step missing where they actually ever make anything that works. But I guess sometimes they get bought for their vapor, or they manage to get a bullshit patent that's overly-general on something they didn't actually invent, and then they're golden.

I wonder if these places are getting college-backed "incubation" incentives? Pretty fucking gross up and down and all around. Everyone involved is scum.

(In general, universities getting patents and incubating startups is fucking disgusting. You take public funding and student's tuition, and you use that to lock up ideas for private profit. Fucking rotten, you scum.)


On a more practical note, if anyone knows the process for objecting to a patent in the UK, chime in.

Also, shame on us all for not doing more to fight the system. All our work should be going in the Anti-Patent Patent Pool.


Under the current first-to-file systems, apparently we are supposed to sit around all day reading every patent that's been filed to see if it covers something that we have already invented or is "well known" / public domain / prior art.

It's really a system that's designed around patents. It assumes that all inventions are patented. It doesn't really work well with a prior invention that's just not patented.

Which makes something like the APPP even more important. We need a way to patent all the free ideas just as a way to keep them legally free and not have to worry about all the fuckers who will rush in and try to patent our inventions as soon as we stop looking.

3 comments:

won3d said...

So when I was working at Google (notably not working on spam filters...), occasionally I'd be in a situation where my collaborators would want to patent something because of course Google has a cash bonus program to get people to file patents. Invariably, I'd feel guilty (they need to buy so many diapers etc) and go along with it as long as I didn't have to do any work.

I would still feel a little guilty about feeding the patent beast. My solution was to take half my share of the bonus and donate it to pubpat.org. Google also does charity matching, and as it turns out PubPat qualifies, so effectively Google is paying out my share of the patent bonus to a patent reform organization. I of course get some $ minus substantial taxes.

Mezz said...

Just in case nobody came forward with the basics already, challenging a patent application in the UK is this:

https://www.gov.uk/observations-about-patentability

It says 3 months but the patent is still pending, so should be good. In essence it's just sending a bunch of arguments with supporting evidence and they'll "consider your observations".

Fabian 'ryg' Giesen said...

The patent in question has been submitted, but appears not to have been published for review yet.

Until it does, we don't even know what the claims are. Though in this case, the title of the patent is a strong hint; the whole "asymmetric numeral system" terminology is very idiosyncratic. If someone else came up with the idea independently (that is, without being aware of Jarek's papers), they would almost certainly name it differently. No offense to Jarek, but the eccentric nomenclature is part of the reason it took so long for everyone else to realize this was valuable.

old rants