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Google Patents Your Rights Online

Google Patents Staple of '70s Mainframe Computing 333

Posted by Soulskill
from the collecting-the-classics dept.
theodp writes "'The lack of interest, the disdain for history is what makes computing not-quite-a-field,' Alan Kay once lamented. And so it should come as no surprise that the USPTO granted Google a patent Tuesday for the Automatic Deletion of Temporary Files, perhaps unaware that the search giant's claimed invention is essentially a somewhat kludgy variation on file expiration processing, a staple of circa-1970 IBM mainframe computing and subsequent disk management software. From Google's 2013 patent: 'A path name for a file system directory can be "C:temp\12-1-1999\" to indicate that files contained within the file system directory will expire on Dec. 1, 1999.' From Judith Rattenbury's 1971 Introduction to the IBM 360 computer and OS/JCL: 'EXPDT=70365 With this expiration date specified, the data set will not be scratched or overwritten without special operator action until the 365th day of 1970.' Hey, things are new if you've never seen them before!"
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Google Patents Staple of '70s Mainframe Computing

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  • big deal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dickens (31040) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @11:02PM (#42952123) Homepage

    It's not like Microsoft was ever going to be interested in that anyway. They must get cents back from the disk manufacturers for perpetuating their ever-growing temp folders.

  • really? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lkernan (561783) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @11:03PM (#42952137)
    I don't know whats worse, Google applied for this, or the USPTO approved it.
  • Oh bullocks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @11:13PM (#42952231)

    The summary is wrong. Folks, please stop reading the abstract, and read claim 1 instead.

    This is what is patented:

    1. A computer-implemented method comprising: selecting a file having a path name in a distributed file system, wherein the file is divided into a plurality of chunks that are distributed among a plurality of servers, wherein each chunk has a modification time indicating when the chunk was last modified, and wherein at least two of the modification times are different; identifying a user profile associated with the file; determining a memory space storage quota usage for the user profile; deriving a file time to live for the file from the path name; determining a weighted file time to live for the file by reducing the file time to live by an offset, where the offset is determined by multiplying the file time to live by a percentage of memory space storage quota used by the user profile; selecting a latest modification time from the modification times of the plurality of chunks; determining that an elapsed time based on the latest modification time is equal to or exceeds the weighted file time to live; and deleting all of the chunks of the file responsive to the determining.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @11:16PM (#42952259)

    And the inventive step is....
    And the non obvious part is....

    The problem here isn't the USPTO, it's the Patent Appeals Court that modified the Supreme Court decision (that an invention needed to be more than the sum of its parts), and decided that as soon as you'd been told about an invention, your judgement would be tainted by 'hindsight bias' and thus unable to determine prior art. So unless it's written down in that form, the patent should be awarded.

    Can I ask the idiots in the Patent Appeals Court, is THIS invention more than the sum of its parts?

    No?!

  • by samkass (174571) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @11:19PM (#42952279) Homepage Journal

    Here is the crux of the first claim: "1. A computer-implemented method comprising: selecting a file having a path name in a distributed file system, wherein the file is divided into a plurality of chunks that are distributed among a plurality of servers, wherein each chunk has a modification time indicating when the chunk was last modified, and wherein at least two of the modification times are different; identifying a user profile associated with the file; determining a memory space storage quota usage for the user profile; deriving a file time to live for the file from the path name; determining a weighted file time to live for the file by reducing the file time to live by an offset, where the offset is determined by multiplying the file time to live by a percentage of memory space storage quota used by the user profile; selecting a latest modification time from the modification times of the plurality of chunks; determining that an elapsed time based on the latest modification time is equal to or exceeds the weighted file time to live; and deleting all of the chunks of the file responsive to the determining."

    Can we please have an end to the stupid articles where someone intentionally mis-interprets the abstract or even just the title of a patent and pretends it's some simple thing that's been done for decades to try to drum up anti-patent sentiment? There seems to be one a week or so.

  • by c0lo (1497653) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @11:29PM (#42952359)

    If you actually read the patent, it is specifically for a similar method, but designed for Distributed File Systems.

    Ahhhh... that's good.

    You see, I was scared shitless that we are still quibbling over patents granted with the only claimed difference over some old methods (patented or not) being "on a computer".
    I see now how wrong I was: we stepped in the glorious era of the "in the cloud" claims.

  • by stevesliva (648202) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @11:30PM (#42952365) Journal

    Can we please have an end to the stupid articles where someone intentionally mis-interprets the abstract or even just the title of a patent and pretends it's some simple thing that's been done for decades to try to drum up anti-patent sentiment? There seems to be one a week or so.

    Unlikely. Nonetheless, anti-patent sentiment is a good thing. Far too many people assume there's some sort of fairness or justice to the whole mess, and there isn't.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @11:43PM (#42952471) Journal
    Your point? I deal regularly with foreign born. My wife is foreign-born. My in-laws speak tamil and many of my ex-gf's families only spoke spanish. So, really, what is your point? Do you have anything intelligent?
  • by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @11:44PM (#42952483) Homepage Journal

    It's still a dumb patent; a trivial weighting addition doesn't change this. I mean, seriously, that's less complicated than your average photoshop filter, and it's an obvious "innovation" that any engineer would think up if they were to be asked to implement file expiration on Google's platforms.

  • by bl968 (190792) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @12:34AM (#42952691) Journal

    find /tmp/* -mtime +14 -exec rm {} \;

  • I'm Sorry, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sycodon (149926) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @01:05AM (#42952815)

    But the USPTO is populated by idiots.

    They are deserving of the disdain and ridicule reserved for the Postal Office, Congress, etc.

    Which is a shame because I've always figured they had some pretty smart people there. The examiner should have taken a shit on the application and mailed it back with a note saying,"this is what your application is worth".

    They are either complete morons or...are getting payoffs. And Google will just use it as club some day on a small outfit that doesn't have half a million dollars to fight a lawsuit.

  • by sycodon (149926) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @01:13AM (#42952853)

    Software should not be patentable. Period.

  • by jatoo (2393402) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @02:12AM (#42953113)

    They are either complete morons or...are getting payoffs.

    Or they are precisely following moronic policy

  • Re:Really! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @02:16AM (#42953129)

    Yes; maybe; and the whole summary is stupid. From claim one of the patent; the very first paragraph:

    having a path name in a distributed file system, wherein the file is divided into a plurality of chunks that are distributed among a plurality of servers

    So; where the mainframes of the 70s had single consolidated disks stores this is talking about doing this on a distributed filesystem. The area of application is indeed new completely opposite to the claim of the summary.

    Patents are not supposed to control what you do; instead they control how you do it. Since the way that Google is claiming to do this is by going around comparing the timestamps on a bunch of different distributed chunks of a file, this is something that no mainframe of the 70s is likely to have had to to so it may even be a new way to automatically delete temporary files. I wish people would begin to understand this and commenters would point it out every time. I wonder if this isn't a bunch of patent lawyers trying to make us look silly.

    Having said that; If you had a distributed file which kept a timestamp on each of several separate chunks, how would you go about deciding when to automatically delete it? My guess is that the solution you would come up with quickly is basically the one in the patent. You certainly wouldn't have great difficulty in deciding how you do it; suddenly think "maybe there's a patent that might tell me how to do this"; go to the patent office and read the patent then come back inspired and manage to solve your problem only because Google was so nice as to publish their solution. Patents are supposed to record valuable secrets that companies might otherwise keep to themselves in a way that helps humanity. This one is failing at that.

    What this comes down to is that the whole idea of patents on things as abstract as software is stupid and is an illegal interference in free speech a right everyone should have under the universal declaration of human rights. The patent officers of the USPTO and the congressmen who put them there should be arrested.

  • by jockm (233372) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @02:19AM (#42953143) Homepage

    Or they are normal people, without much domain knowledge, forced to handle too many cases in too little time, and fit within the rules of a broken system.

    I personally find that to be the more plausible situation.

  • by Lotana (842533) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @02:41AM (#42953251)

    Or maybe they are not experts at the field of computing. Certainly not much history about our field is being recorded, especially in easily accessible form.

    Imagine if someone give you to approve a patent application on some specific aspect of rocket design. How would you approach to researching this, when you got thousands more applications to process with tight deadlines?

    Plus we only hear about when obvious troll submissions get through. I certainly don't know the ratio of good and bad patent grants. Alas as far as patents are concerned, Slashdot crown will accept nothing but impossible perfection.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @03:05AM (#42953341)

    I'm not even from the US but I'm sure the USPTO has thought of this since the start. They had to assume that the patents will come from all fields of technology so I don't expect there to be 20 people, the same 20 people, discussing ALL patents. I'm sure there are committees per various fields of science and technology.
    I'll even wiki it AFTER I have posted this, that's how sure I am of this :P

  • by reve_etrange (2377702) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @03:41AM (#42953495)
    The USPTO is supposed to support itself with fees [uspto.gov]. The largest fee is for reexamination, creating a financial incentive to grant bad patents (which are likely to be reexamined). -da
  • Re:Really! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @07:40AM (#42954421) Journal

    It's not prior art, it's obviousness. In terms of file storage, I consider myself "ordinarily skilled in the art", yet 5 years ago I put in such a system to expire files at work on a distributed filesystem. The problem is that the USPTO is allowing obvious stuff to be patented. They even admit as such - unfortunately I can't find the article - but I remember reading the USPTO saying "only 5% of patents they grant are what they call pioneer patents" (in other words, something really new and worthy of patent protection). The reform needs to be that only these "pioneer patent" applications actually get granted and the rest thrown out.

  • by wren337 (182018) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @09:20AM (#42954763) Homepage

    This is a case of the USPTO saying "We don't understand this fully, we'll let the courts figure it out".

    And the courts say "We don't understand this fully, we'll defer to the experts at the USPTO".

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