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View Poll Results: Did VEX need to request permission from FIRST for Clean Sweep?
Yes, sure VEX needed to ask permission 6 11.76%
No permission needed 45 88.24%
Voters: 51. You may not vote on this poll

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Unread 05-12-2009, 11:30 PM
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Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

Please allow me to preface this thread with the fact that I'm a HUGE VEX fan; I'm especially a fan of the people who make VEX such a great program. And, I'm NOT a patent attorney.

Reviewing the 2009-2010 VEX Competition, Clean Sweep, it seems the rules are consistent with FIRST's recently granted Cooperation Patent. VEX's Strength of Schedule Points is defined as,

Strength of Schedule Points (SP) – The second basis of ranking teams. Strength of Schedule points are awarded in the amount of the score of the losing alliance in a Qualifying Match.

seem to satisfy the patent's summary,

... a first participating player, team, or alliance is motivated to cooperate with a second participating player, team, or alliance by rewarding the first participating player, team, or alliance for assisting the second participating player, team, or alliance to achieve a higher score than might otherwise have been the attainable.

Since it seems logical that the common person should be able to understand if they are violating someone's intellectual property rights, I would like to pose the following question to everyone,

Do you think VEX needed to request permission from FIRST for Clean Sweep?

I have NO insider information on what agreements VEX has with FIRST, so this is simply a hypothetical question based on an actual scenario rather than a question of what VEX has done or must do; I'm sure VEX is thorough in their implementation of their competitions.

What do you think ... vote if you'd like,
Lucien
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Unread 05-12-2009, 11:49 PM
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Re: Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

I assume that IFI had prior knowledge of the patent situation that FIRST was going through. Out of the entire world their are only 5 other robotics competitions that have more than one robot out at a time, and 3 of them only have one on one. Since FIRST and Vex are built on similar principles I would assume that worked something out. Remember that the IP that IFI established a few years back that allows all FRC competitions to run...the IP I am speaking of is the "On, but disabled" function that FRC robots use. I'm sure they worked something out.
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Unread 05-13-2009, 12:56 AM
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Re: Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

Temporary tangent:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Ross View Post
Out of the entire world their are only 5 other robotics competitions that have more than one robot out at a time, and 3 of them only have one on one.
Is there a citation somewhere for that claim? Right off the top of my head, I can think of at least eight different robotic competition programs just in the U.S. that involve simultaneous multiple robots on the field, and only one of them is 1-on-1. And I am pretty sure that number will double or triple with just a little bit of research.

This is a relevant side-bar discussion, as multiple robots competing simultaneously is a significant element of the "Coopetition" patent claim. The existence of other competitions with similar characteristics, particularly those that pre-date the patent claim, will have a bearing on just how enforceable the claim may actually be.

-dave



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Unread 05-13-2009, 02:32 PM
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Re: Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dlavery
Temporary tangent:
Is there a citation somewhere for that claim? Right off the top of my head, I can think of at least eight different robotic competition programs just in the U.S. that involve simultaneous multiple robots on the field, and only one of them is 1-on-1. And I am pretty sure that number will double or triple with just a little bit of research.

-dave
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No, there is no citation. I think Phil was recalling a discussion I had with him several times. I believe I used the number "8" in my discussions with Phil because I had done limited "ad hoc" research on the competitions that run more than one at a time and had come up with 8, but in no way did I mean than those "8" were all that existed. Also, I put a disclaimer on my original comments to Phil, which was "K-12" student robotics competitions. There are also several college/university related robotics competitions out there that are and have been running many robots simultaneously for quite awhile.

However, I too agree that the discussion of "multiple robots simultaneously" is one that has some bearing on this discussion for sure and I thank Phil for bringing it up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dlavery
I get concerned when I hear anyone from a student on a rookie team all the way up to a member of the Board Of Directors talking about "competing" with the other programs. Without a doubt, there are those within FIRST, BotBall, VEX, BEST, BBIQ and MATE that are concerned about "being overtaken" by "the other guys." This is a horrifically inane and patently foolish viewpoint.
Yep.
I've seen it.
I couldn't agree more.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dlavery
FIRST, BotBall, VEX, BEST, BBIQ and MATE reach a combined total of less than 7% of the high schools in the United States. 93% of the market is currently untapped.
... SNIP...
The very best growth model is one where these organizations all work together to their mutual benefit, to accelerate their combined growth rate, and to reduce their own costs of identifying and recruiting school participation (can anyone say "coopetition"?)
Amen. AMEN. YES!!!!

..and, if you look REALLY REALLY close the seeds for this have been planted.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of being a part of this:
http://www.tsarobotics.org

Sadly, there once was a lot more content there than you see now. The list of attendees was a who's who from the robotics education/competition world. Key folks involved in Botball, FRC, FLL, the old FVC, Bots IQ (they got rid of the word "battle" on purpose because they felt it sent the wrong message) were there. I think people involved in MATE were there too, but I'm not sure. Some were national reps, some were regional reps, some invited guests, some there in an "official" capacity, and some not. All were hand picked for specific purposes however. Jeff Seaton spoke, Vince Wilczynski spoke, Alex Slocum spoke. Several more collegiate Robotics Educators spoke. Robin Shoop was there, so was Dan Larochelle and his boss from Intelitek. So was Donn Griffith. Other large corporations such as DuPont had reps on site. The whole thing was "put on" by the Technology Student Association and funded by an NSF grant. It's interesting to note that TSA does not currently have a pure "Robotics Competition" as a part of their national events, but they clearly see the value and some of their regional and state chapters have begun to adopt some VEX initiatives, etc.

The aftermath of that collective effort produced this document:
http://www.tsarobotics.org/roboticsframework.html
"The Standards-Based Competition Curriculum Development Framework"

So, although this was a seemingly one-time event, look at what it produced and look at what is possible. Also know that some relationships that were previously non-existent or somewhat contentious before continue today in a positive way.

There are things your team and organization can do to help grow these relationships. Our team is fortunate enough to be a part of a larger club that is also home to a TSA chapter. Because of that, wonderful stuff like this occurs:
http://www.tsaweb.org/LMHS-Portable%20Inspiration
http://www.usfirst.org/who/content.aspx?id=11844

I also had the privilege of helping to edit some of the content for robotevents.com - specifically the mission statement is what I'm most proud of. Here's a home where all of these organizations can "get together" if they so choose.

It was also very encouraging to see representatives from other robotics competitions (including FRC from the Dallas Region) in the vendor/display area at the VRC World Championship in Dallas a few weeks ago.

I bet lots of teams and organizations on these boards do similar things and I bet there's lots more other teams can do locally to help bring these groups together as well.

Now, if someone can figure out how to line up all of the planets to bring all of these organizational leaders and key players together in an official capacity, with a slightly wider focus than the previous Robotics Education Symposium had, you'd earn an even BIGGER cookie than the one Pat Fairbank received.

Those of you who know me know I'm really into the Randy Pausch efficiency thing and there's no one task that I'd like to see accomplished more than our mission of inspiration for the socially conscious designers of the future. The model Dave proposes IS the best one and there's some evidence to show that it's possible and it CAN work.

For now, I'm choosing to be an optimist about these patents and will believe that they will never be enforced in ways that would slow the progress of our mission until I see otherwise.

Let's make this happen.

Namaste.
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Unread 05-13-2009, 09:37 PM
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Re: Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

The patent made slashdot today. http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/05/13/2220203
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Unread 05-14-2009, 01:57 AM
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Re: Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

Judging the current CD and slashdot response, it would appear that FIRST needs some major PR to patch this one up, or at least make some clarification as to it's intended purpose.

I too am not a patent lawyer. As a logical thinker, I am puzzled by the purposefulness of a patent such as this. Enforcement of the "idea" would have detrimental effects on FIRST. It may just be a flag in the ground, a "we got here first"-type statement.

Again, clarification would be lovely.
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Unread 05-12-2009, 11:56 PM
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Re: Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

I am not a lawyer, and am in no way involved with VEX, but I do not see an infringement anywhere in here. The patent seems to be discussing the idea of Coopertition, not of any specific application. If they patented the RS method of tie breaking, then the VRC would be blatantly copying it, but based on the passage of the patent given I don't think VEX had to say anything to FIRST about using their system.
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Unread 05-13-2009, 12:13 AM
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Re: Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

The patents haven't even been issued yet, have they? I thought they were just being reviewed now.

My answer is no. FIRST's patents are a joke (in my opinion) and I couldn't care less if anyone "violated" them.

At any rate, see Paul's post here. Unless a competition were to use the exact ranking algorithm that the 2003 game used, it sounds like they would not be in violation of the patent.
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Unread 05-13-2009, 12:59 AM
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Re: Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

I think Cory's reference to Paul's post is correct.

However, even assuming the patent could allow FIRST to sue Vex/Innovation First, if that were to happen there would be a major problem as both FIRST and Vex could be viewed as humanitarian and volunteer driven organizations with the goal of motivating students to go to college in technical fields as well as provide some working knowledge of engineering in high school.

In a 100% hypothetical and fictitious scenario: If FIRST were to use legal measures to try to limit Vex the only people that would be hurt would be the students themselves and it would be pretty obvious that FIRST had lost it's way.

There are a handful of wonderful educational robotics programs, each with advantages and disadvantages, like BotBall, Battlebots IQ, BEST, FIRST, Vex, etc. but all with similar goals. I do worry that sometimes these groups unintentionally try to knock each other down when each one appeals to students in different ways with the same goal... to inspire students to become engineers. Lawyers have their place, but if they were used to try to demerit programs striving for the same goals as us then it would be quite ashame.
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Unread 05-13-2009, 01:59 AM
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Re: Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

To be honest, if FIRST have tried to use it's patents to sue anyone I'd simply leave. Like Cory said I see the whole idea of the patent as nothing more than a joke.
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Unread 05-13-2009, 03:22 AM
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Re: Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

I thought Dean make a big deal about "trying to enforce patent non-infringement", i.e. using the patents symbolically to promote the idea of coopertition.
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Unread 05-13-2009, 05:46 AM
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Re: Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

IANAL, but the VEX Elevation game had the same QP/RP rules. They changed their names this year to Win Points and Strength of Schedule Points. I don't think FIRST could successfully sue for infringement in Clean Sweep if they made no claim about Elevation.
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Unread 05-13-2009, 09:01 AM
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Re: Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JackN View Post
I am not a lawyer, and am in no way involved with VEX, but I do not see an infringement anywhere in here. The patent seems to be discussing the idea of Coopertition, not of any specific application.
Sorry, thanks for playing. You cannot patent an idea. Patents are only granted for a specific application. The Coopetition patent is for the specific application of enticing teams to win while still helping their opponent to earn a high score.

The Clean Sweep game rules obviously infringe on the patent. However, I'm pretty sure the main point of this particular patent is to publicize the invention, and FIRST isn't at all likely to refuse other organizations the right to use it.
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Unread 05-13-2009, 09:07 AM
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Re: Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan Anderson View Post
The Clean Sweep game rules obviously infringe on the patent. However, I'm pretty sure the main point of this particular patent is to publicize the invention, and FIRST isn't at all likely to refuse other organizations the right to use it.
I was under the same impression. Just like it says in the name of the organization itself, FIRST seeks to inspire... I don't think they would sue another organization that's helping to accomplish the same thing.
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Unread 05-13-2009, 09:40 AM
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Re: Did VEX have to say Pretty Please?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan Anderson View Post
Sorry, thanks for playing. You cannot patent an idea. Patents are only granted for a specific application. The Coopetition patent is for the specific application of enticing teams to win while still helping their opponent to earn a high score.

The Clean Sweep game rules obviously infringe on the patent. However, I'm pretty sure the main point of this particular patent is to publicize the invention, and FIRST isn't at all likely to refuse other organizations the right to use it.
Here's where I disagree. The patent claims qualification rankings based upon adding the winning alliances score to twice the losing alliances score. It doesn't have any provisions for win/loss record in qualifying, or for solely using the losing alliance's score. I think VEX can get around the patent easily if it came down to it.
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