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Statement on Software Patents - - - Photo of a gear assembly off of an old barn - - - Original photo copyright Barbara Henry - - - Licensed through iStockphoto.com

Videodiscovery Statement on Software Patents

Transcript of proceedings from public hearings by the Patent and Trademark Office, Department of Commerce, Docket #931222-3322: Use of the Patent System to Protect Software Related Inventions, January 26-27, 1994 at the San Jose Convention Center and February 10-11, 1994, at the Crystal Forum in Arlington, Virginia.

This statement is from the San Jose hearing on January 26, 1994.

[This document was extracted from public sources on the internet. The original was expressed as plain text. In the conversion to HTML, some format changes were made, clear typographical errors corrected, unneeded hyphens eliminated and some underlines converted to hyphens. Care was taken to minimize these and to ensure those that were made did not affect the content.]

D. Joseph Clark, PhD
CeO and Chairman of the Board, Videodiscovery

CHAIRMAN AND CeO, VIDeODISCOVERY MR. CLARK: Thank you very much, Commissioner Lehman. My clock says 9:28, and that's what it says on the sheet, so I congratulate you the good timing of your re- marks, and I'll try to do the same.

I really appreciate the opportunity to come and talk to this group. I have a publishing company in Seattle, Washington that publishes multimedia products for science education, and we're pretty well known at this time throughout the country, and we're totally frustrated by our experiences with the patent system. And so what I would like to do during my time is kind of share with you personal experiences that we had in order to illustrate some of the problems that I think are inherent in the current patenting process, and then I'd like to recommend two or three different solutions.

Now, you've sort of preempted my remarks, and I'm really appreciative of it. It's the first time that I've heard that the Patent Office was drafting legislation that would take care of most of these, but there's one part of it that 0 to try to deal with and maybe ask you a question about.

On the plane on the way down I thought it was in some way almost poetic that I was headed down to California. I was a little bit anxious about earthquake country, you know, in fact I didn't sleep very well last night. But I thought about the earthquake thing as not being too dissimilar from the situation we find our- selves in with the patent system, that is to say, in the last year and a half we've heard some rumblings coming from the Patent Office with patents like the Grass Valley patent and the Optical Data patent and then the Compton patent which sort of got a 7.3 on the Richter scale as far as I could figure out, and my big worry is that there's no end in sight, that is to say, given the secrecy in the Patent Office, we don't know what to expect tomorrow, next week, next month, and so on.

In my case, I experienced a situation where a patent was called to my attention that literally could drive me out of business. I started Videodiscovery in 83. I worked very hard for ten years to get it to the point it is at, with sixty people, and for somebody to have a patent that was a club that could just close down my operation didn't set well with me. I didn't know much about the patent system until about a year ago when I got a letter from my competitor that called attention to the award of two patents, and they indicated that they thought we might be infringing on their patents and suggested that I contact their technical person to see about licensing the technology.

Well, they had two patents. One of them was for a method of instruction that we lovingly call the Socratic Method, and the other patent was for a method to customize a curriculum, using a computer to do it, and we thought that that had been a process that had been going on for a long, long time.

So my immediate reaction was confusion. In the first place I couldn't believe that anybody would patent these things. If I could have the Number 3 slide, please. I just want to describe this patent for you. The patent on the Socratic Method, as I say __ this is not the way it's described, it's described as a method of instruction __ was composed of a trilog, and the trilog had three components. One was a random-accessible reservoir of information like a video disk player __ could have been a CD-ROM or a hard disk, I guess, or maybe a textbook, a teacher was the second component, and the students were the third component. The way this system worked was that the teacher was given instructions where to go on the random-accessible reservoir of information, withdrew the information, passed it on to the students, the students responded, and then they would go back to this system.

Now, they got a patent for this. I couldn't believe it. And my first reaction was anger, disgust, you know, disbelief, and so on. More recently I've modified my position where I believe that the, the Patent Office is indeed not the culprit, but the victim in a system. Any system that operates in secrecy like that where they can't confide or consult with the members of an emerging industry, for which there's no prior art, no experience, no in- formed judgment on the part of the examiners, is ultimately a victim to this thing where they have to __ they, they can't distinguish obvious from unique and are almost obliged to issue the patent.

So the point there is that I think that if we would remove the veil of secrecy, which I hope is part of the legislation package, and I'm not sure that is attached to, you know, ultimately or necessarily to first-to-file process, so I'd like a clarification about that, but that is really critical, to support change in our industry. At one point it was the computer industry, it was the biotechnology industry, it was the software industry, the multimedia industry, what's going to happen next week, next month and so on, but whatever the new, emerging industry is, unless that law is changed so that there's some better process, we're going to face the same kind of dilemma.

Let me come back to history on my case. As soon as we got that indication, as a small company I did not have many attractive alternatives. One was litigation, which was very very expensive, and I could literally not afford that, and the other one was the reexamination process. In talking to no less than ten patent attorneys over the course of last year, I never got one that recommended reexamination process, and so I'm very happy that the Patent Office recognizes the problem with that and is going to include more third-party involvement in that reexamination process. But that was one of my recommendations.

As it happens, when we filed in Court in August to ask the Court to find these patents invalid based on the obviousness of the patent and the existence of prior art, the other party had sixty days to respond; and on the sixtieth day they decided to donate the Socratic Method back to the public where it belongs. The second patent, however, they asked for reexamination in the Pa- tent Office. That puts us in a terrible position. We know that the inventor has a tremendous advantage through the reexamination process as it exists. We also have some trumps, some prior art that we know that will knock that out, and we don't know whether to provide it to the Patent Office or to save it for litigation if it emerges from the Patent Office. So you can kind of see our dilemma on that thing.

So a recommendation that I would have is to change the process so it's published prior to award. That would solve the problem and serve existing, you know, changes and so on (sic). Second recommendation would be improve the examination process. I think that that's being considered, and so on. But a compromise position, and something that I would like to see for immediate relief __ I'm talking we need Federal aid now, an immediate relief to get us out from under this anxiety, is either a hiatus on any more patents coming out for multimedia __ that would be preferable __ if you can't do that, then I'd like to see the Commissioner empowered to constitute a commission and do peer review of any patents that have come up. The Commissioner would identify new emerging industries, all right? And when they saw that, because there's no prior art, because there's no experience with the examiners and so on, that they work with the industry leaders in that particular industry, to develop the prior art collection, to set the guidelines for what's patentable, to review patents as they come out.

So I hope that you can sympathize with the position of a small business person who has gone through the fear and the anxiety of having something like that ripped out from under them. I feel I've been extremely lucky to get my resources together and to be able to operate in this system.

Thanks very much for your attention; I'd be happy to answer questions.

COMMISSIONeR LEHMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Clark. In terms of this reexamination process that you're concerned with right now, I think one of the problems that we have in reexamination right now is that generally speaking we limit the prior-art references in a reexamination to those that are submitted by the person who is seeking reexamination, and that creates a problem for third parties.

MR. CLARK: Aha!

COMMISSIONeR LEHMAN: So in this situation it sounds to me like the patentee kind of got the leg up on you by being the first to request reexamination. Is that problem.

MR. CLARK: Yeah, I don't disagree. Yeah. I don't disagree that I was outmaneuvered, you know, but __ yeah, you're right. You're right.

COMMISSIONeR LEHMAN: I really appreciate that. Does anybody have any other comments? If not, thank you very much for coming down here and sharing these thoughts with us.

MR. CLARK: Thank you.

 

I obtained this transcript from public sources on the internet. In an email on Friday , 04.Feb.2000, I wrote to obtain more info (e.g., is it still representative of the company view). I have not yet received a response to this email.


Statements and Policies on Software Patents

Adobe Systems Statement On Software PatentsAdobe Systems Statement On Software Patents: Opposition to software patents in a statement at a Public Hearing on Use of the Patent System to Protect Software Related Inventions, Wednesday, January 26, 1994 at the San Jose Convention Center.  (software_patent_adobe)

Autodesk Statement On Software PatentsAutodesk Statement On Software Patents: Opposition to software patents in a statement at a Public Hearing on Use of the Patent System to Protect Software Related Inventions, Wednesday, January 26, 1994 at the San Jose Convention Center.  (software_patent_autodesk)

Borland International Statement On Software PatentsBorland International Statement On Software Patents: Opposition to software patents in a statement at a Public Hearing on Use of the Patent System to Protect Software Related Inventions, Wednesday, January 26, 1994 at the San Jose Convention Center.  (software_patent_borland)

IBM Statement On Software PatentsIBM Statement On Software Patents: Support for the system in a statement at a Public Hearing on Use of the Patent System to Protect Software Related Inventions, Wednesday, January 26, 1994 at the San Jose Convention Center.  (software_patent_ibm)

Intel Statement On Software PatentsIntel Statement On Software Patents: Support for the system in a statement at a Public Hearing on Use of the Patent System to Protect Software Related Inventions, Wednesday, January 26, 1994 at the San Jose Convention Center.  (software_patent_intel)

Microsoft Statement On Software PatentsMicrosoft Statement On Software Patents: Support for the system in a statement at a Public Hearing on Use of the Patent System to Protect Software Related Inventions, Wednesday, January 26, 1994 at the San Jose Convention Center.  (software_patent_microsoft)

Mitch Kapor's Congressional Testimony On Software PatentsMitch Kapor's Congressional Testimony On Software Patents: Opposition to software patents in congressional testimony by Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus.  (software_patent_kapor)

Oracle Software Patent PolicyOracle Software Patent Policy: Well written. Reportedly "withdrawn", but worth reading.  (software_patent_oracle)

Silicon Graphics Statement On Software PatentsSilicon Graphics Statement On Software Patents: Support for the system in a statement at a Public Hearing on Use of the Patent System to Protect Software Related Inventions, Wednesday, January 26, 1994 at the San Jose Convention Center.  (software_patent_sgi)

Software Patent HearingsSoftware Patent Hearings: In January and February of 1994, the U. S. Patent Office held hearings on the use of the patent system to protect software related inventions. This is the text of the Federal Register notice.  (software_patent_hearings)

Sun Microsystems Statement On Software PatentsSun Microsystems Statement On Software Patents: Not opposition but not outright support either. Call it "concerns". A statement at a Public Hearing on Use of the Patent System to Protect Software Related Inventions, Wednesday, January 26, 1994 at the San Jose Convention Center.  (software_patent_sun)

Synopsys Statement On Software PatentsSynopsys Statement On Software Patents: Opposition to software patents in a statement at a Public Hearing on Use of the Patent System to Protect Software Related Inventions, Wednesday, January 26, 1994 at the San Jose Convention Center.  (software_patent_synopsys)

Taligent Statement On Software PatentsTaligent Statement On Software Patents: Support for the system in a statement at a Public Hearing on Use of the Patent System to Protect Software Related Inventions, Wednesday, January 26, 1994 at the San Jose Convention Center.  (software_patent_taligent)

Time Warner Cable Statement On Software PatentsTime Warner Cable Statement On Software Patents: Not opposition but not outright support either. Call it "concerns". A statement at a Public Hearing on Use of the Patent System to Protect Software Related Inventions, Wednesday, January 26, 1994 at the San Jose Convention Center.  (software_patent_timewarner)

Videodiscovery Statement On Software PatentsVideodiscovery Statement On Software Patents: expressions of the problems for a small firm. A statement at a Public Hearing on Use of the Patent System to Protect Software Related Inventions, Wednesday, January 26, 1994 at the San Jose Convention Center.  (software_patent_videodiscovery)

Wind River Systems Statement On Software PatentsWind River Systems Statement On Software Patents: Opposition to software patents in a statement at a Public Hearing on Use of the Patent System to Protect Software Related Inventions, Wednesday, January 26, 1994 at the San Jose Convention Center.  (software_patent_windriver)

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