Patently Obvious
(via /.)

Everything I have read about this particular bit of patent nonsense (ha!) has come at this issue from the perspective of “Shutting down compooters is hard!”

No-one seems to be coming at this from the perspective of “Granting a patent on something like this shutdown method is exactly why the patent system in these parts is broken.”

Computers need to shut down. And it might be more difficult than you thought. But just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that brilliance is required to do it.   Shoveling wet gravel is difficult. So is finding Amanda Tapping’s phone number (seriously–call me babe!). But neither task is necessarily accomplished by novel method that confers a unique advantage to anyone.

By the same token, there is nothing novel in this approach to shutting down.  It’s just thorough. This might be an improved method of getting something to do what it’s supposed to do, but there’s no new work here.  It just sucks less by doing things that should be done. And fer chrissakes–all this does is turn off stuff you turned on! You can’t get a patent turning off a light.  The fact that you used to turn off the light by throwing slices of ham at the switch from across the room, and now you just walk over and flip the switch doesn’t make flipping the switch any more impressive.

Now, if you invented a new design for a switch, that would be novel. But turning things off that you turned on, with the same results that you’ve been promising for years, is not novel.

Granting a patent to do something prosaic, non-sucktastic fashion just creates another barrier that prevents other people from not sucking. That’s a great advantage for whoever manages to patent it first, but as for as advancing things for society in general, encouraging competition, or any other thing that patents are supposed to accomplish, it’s completely counter-productive.  The bar just gets lower, the members of the Bar Association get richer, and that’s about all I have to say before I head out to the bar.

I believe it was the great thinker netdudicus who once said “Any sufficiently idiotic person will see pretty much anything that works as magical.”


  1. Over at the Slate site, there is an interesting article about someone who filed for, and was granted, a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He was actually filing on behalf of his 5-year old son, Steven. Steven’s invention: how to make a swing go sideways by pulling alternatively on the chains, instead of the more common back-and-forth technique driven by leg pumping. Sound silly?

  2. I have prior art on this, which probably goes back to before that kid’s dad found out where that kid would come from. I can also bring in a bunch of others from our informal swing-fighting league. All we need is a medical witness who can analyze old bone fractures and we can be bah-hillionaires!

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