Crowd forecasting software patents

One of the first researchers in the forecasting tournament field, Robin Hanson, has filed several patent applications sharing the following description:

Systems and methods for operating a prediction market, including methods for finding disagreement with the consensus among participants and methods for managing liquidity. Also, an interactive user interface to facilitate investing, with one user action, in a prediction market.

One of these appears to have been granted, #8612331.  The main claims for protection appear to be as follows:

  • Methods to find disagreement among participants
  • A liquidity management process
  • A user interface that facilitates investing in a prediction market

The application includes a bunch of screenshots.

Wow, software patents.  This will keep the lawyers busy if there ends up being any money in this business.  I’m a big free software fan myself.  I wonder if Zocalo infringes any aspects of these claims?

And are there any other similar patents?  Alas, yes.  The patent above cites no less than 24 prior patents. The patent is classified under two US Patent Office codes:

  • 705/37: Trading, matching, or bidding.  Subject matter including the trading or exchange of securities or commodities within an organized system.
  • 705/35Finance (e.g., banking, investment or credit).  Subject matter drawn to a computerized arrangement for planning the disposition or use of funds or securities, or extension of credit.

Um ok…..this puts forecasting tournaments and mathematical methods in the category of trading and finance.  I won’t bother trying to search for all patents in those 2 categories as stated, I imagine there are a gazillion.  Let’s see if Google Patents will let us search just for “prediction market”.  Well yes it can, giving about 30 pages of relevant results.

How can anybody possibly work in this field without a huge legal budget?  Just asking.  How many of these patents are enforced, how do you enforce them, and are there any lucrative judgments?  Also just asking.  Also kind of don’t want to know.  I really hate business, the legal business, and the business of the legal business!  But I love watching lawyer shows, like 파트너.  Go figure.  I have my inconsistencies!


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