Spark

Fighting patent trolls with stuff and nonsense

How an algorithm that automatically spits out nonsense inventions is taking on patent trolls.
Listen12:18

Sometimes we find innovation in the strangest places. Like in patent data. Yes, patents. A far more intriguing world than you may have imagined, where the egregious actions of patent trolls are the cause of upheaval.

To save the day –with algorithmically generated nonsense!— there's Alexander Reben.  

Alexander is an artist and engineer.
Alex Reben designs robots and thwarts trolls.
His work explores our relationship with technology and what it says about humanity. So he's a big supporter of creativity and innovation -- and not a big fan of patent trolls. "One of the key aspects of a patent troll company is that they themselves don't actually make these things, they're just a patent-holding company that just makes the IP in order to sue other people." Alex explains "Their purpose is not for innovation, their purpose is to create money, through the court system."

And that got Alex thinking about a different kind of art— prior art. In the U.S., if someone tries to patent an already published idea, the Patent Office won't give them a patent. And that means that prior art can be a useful concept in trying to stop patent trolls.

But under the current system finding that prior art and proving that an idea is prior art can be tricky. So Alexander got an idea. What if he could algorithmically create and publicly publish all possible new prior art? His new project is called...All Prior Art.

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