Forum: Our Readers Write (June 2009)

Patentability

I enjoyed ”The Death of Business-Method Patents” [March]. A patent application should contain three things: (1) the work done, summarized in a paragraph indicating the contribution of the applying individual or business; (2) the applicability or utility of the patent to be sought; and (3) the requested scope of the patent. Items 1 and 3 would signal red flags if the scope of the patent sought was significantly different from the work done; items 2 and 3 would limit a patent to something less than ”anything under the sun” dealing with the method or process. These items, combined with making it illegal to sell or transfer a patent, may significantly improve the patent system. The idiotic patent claims mentioned in your article tend to stem from patents involving concepts rather than items, that is, patenting ”a way of doing X” rather than ”something that does X” and suing anytime anyone finds a way to do X that may or may not be similar to yours. There should always be a way of working around a patent. If such a workaround does not exist, then you have a concept or a law of nature, not a patentable item.

Michael J. Lewchuk, IEEE Member

Edmonton, Alta., Canada

The Cost of Convenience

In the article ”First Affordable Fuel Cells for Mobile Gear” [Update, April], there is a subtitle that lauds the device as ”cheap” and ”disposable.” Like many of the baby boom generation, I, too, was brought up to think that disposable = good , but I thought that IEEE and its membership had come to the realization that this equation is false and that actually disposable = bad . A rechargeable or even recyclable fuel cell would be good, but something you use once and toss in the trash? What a waste of natural resources! Additionally, according to the article, the device contains borohydride, a chemical I am not familiar with. Even if we accept the fact that we will waste all the metal and plastic in such a device, what are the environmental consequences of borohydride in a landfill?

Larry Philps,IEEE Member

Toronto

A Cool Car

As a Ford dealer, I thought IEEE Spectrum readers might want to know a couple of reasons, not covered in your ” Top Ten Tech Cars” article [April], why the new Ford Fusion hybrid is so uniquely efficient. The air conditioner uses a high-voltage electric compressor, and the heater system uses an auxiliary electric water pump to circulate coolant. Both of these features allow the gasoline engine to be shut off when other hybrids would be forced to keep theirs running.

Lance DeLissa, IEEE Member

Meade, Kan.

Four Out of Five Scientists Agree…

I note that most of the articles in Spectrum pay homage to the politically correct idea of global warming. From the data I see—much of it from government laboratories—we are now in a cooling cycle and have been since the mid-1990s. The PC terminology changed from ”global warming” to ”climate change” to take into account this anomaly, but the solution remains to have government tax the production of carbon dioxide. This global warming idea is said to be a ”consensus” of the cognoscenti, but remember that the Earth at one time was flat, also by a consensus of those in power.

It will eventually be necessary to replace oil and coal, but it makes no sense to commit economic and social suicide by rushing into uneconomical ”solutions” cobbled from the current alternate sources of energy. We need to work toward the future, but not by risking our present. All civilizations have progressed by finding cheaper sources of energy. This progression started with slaves and continued with animals, wood, and coal. Now other thermal sources have led us to our present living standard, which exceeds that of early potentates.

Remember, consensus is not proof.

Robert P. Alley, IEEE Member

N. Myrtle Beach, S.C.

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