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Who's Really Being Protected?
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Dickinson: That's a tricky business because the copyright lasts for a hell of a lot longer than a patent lasts. The copyright will last fifty years past your lifetime, whereas the patent only lasts for twenty years from the date you file your application.



Tim: Yeah, but the problem is the patent has --

Dickinson: The accessibility of that software is going to be able to be gotten a lot sooner if you patent it rather than copyright it.

Tim: That's not true because in fact, you know, a patent sort of makes a much more far-reaching claim, and effectively, the way people are filing patents these days, they're effectively laying claims to the fundamental idea and not to a particular expression of that idea.

Dickinson: I think that's a bromide. I don't think it's true. I mean it's sort of a cliché at this point, but I think if you look at -- as I often say, you have to read the claims of patents. They're much narrower than the press releases of these companies would have you believe. You've got to read the -- and the hype of these is too far reaching. You've got to read the claim. If you read the one-click claims, for example, of Amazon.com, you'd come to the same conclusion the judge did, that this is a very, very narrow case. Barnes & Noble has introduced two-click technology, and they're not infringing on it.

Tim: No, actually when I read the claims as a layperson, you know, not a lawyer, they look extremely broad to me. Now maybe in court they were narrowed, but in fact just reading the claims as somebody who doesn't know the system --

Dickinson: Well, that's why you need a good lawyer. I wouldn't suggest that you do surgery on yourself either. You need to consult a lawyer on what is probably one of the most arcane areas of --

Pizzo: Mr. Director, Congress has recognized the Internet as a unique phenomenon and has manifested that recognition in certain moratoriums, particularly the moratorium on sales taxes. Do you think maybe, would you support a moratorium on Internet patents? Listening to you and Tim here, it's very, very clear to me that the divisions are very deep. Very new subjects are being raised here that need to be explored.

Dickinson: Nah. This is a telecommunications technology that is completely analogous to the telegraph in the 1830s, telephone in the 1870s, and the television in the 1920s and 30s. These are extremely analogous technologies. We had these fights when all those technologies were new, and we're having the same fight. "It's déjà vu all over again," as Yogi Berra said.

Tim: Yeah, I'm not sure that I would agree with that, and the reason -- I would say that the Internet, for sure, is a communications technology --

Dickinson: Well, would Mr. O'Reilly have denied Alexander Graham Bell a patent on the telephone?

Tim: No, I wouldn't have.

Dickinson: You want to control that mechanism of communication effectively by having that patent. It's the most valuable patent ever. It's the only patent ever to have a full volume of the Supreme Court Reporter when it was litigated. He defended nine hundred lawsuits.

Tim: I understand, and I personally am not talking about the fundamental Internet technologies. I'm talking about the ability of somebody to write a piece of software to implement sort of what seems to the developer an obvious function. I mean basically --

Dickinson: Obvious functions are not patentable. We don't patent obvious inventions. We just don't. And if you believe that it's obvious, and you've got prior art to show that it is obvious, send it on in, as I've said many times.

Tim: All right, well, one of the things that I do hope to see happen is certainly that we can build a vehicle that will, if you like, heap coals on the heads of the people who are bringing in what look to me like fairly spurious ...

Dickinson: And I applaud you for doing that. I think it's very important to make sure -- I'm very much a supporter of making sure that we have as broad an access to prior art as we can possibly get. So I am eager for you to develop that. I am eager for Mr. Bezos to get moving and fund the comprehensive software database he said he was going to fund, because we need that kind of prior art, we need those kinds of databases to help us do our work better.

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