Sunday, June 14, 2015

"60 Minutes" story on "smartest dog" omits relevant earlier work?

On June 14, 2015, CBS "60 Minutes" re-broadcast "The Smartest Dog in the World" which originally aired on October 5, 2014. Anderson Cooper was the commentator. Denise Schrier Cetta, producer.

Not mentioned was that the NY Times had covered the story years earlier, in 2011.

Although "60 Minutes" mentioned a scientific paper by John W. Pilley on his border collie Chaser, which was published in the journal Behavioural Processes. "60 Minutes" did not mention earlier relevant work. From the 2011 Times article:

Chaser belongs to John W. Pilley, a psychologist who taught for 30 years at Wofford College, a liberal arts institution in Spartanburg. In 2004, after he had retired, he read a report in Science about Rico, a border collie whose German owners had taught him to recognize 200 items, mostly toys and balls. Dr. Pilley decided to repeat the experiment using a technique he had developed for teaching dogs, and he describes his findings in the current issue of the journal Behavioural Processes.

One recognizes that when a later "author" copies work from a previous author, that is a bad thing. Here, one has a situation wherein a third party fails to cite relevant work of a first party.

Apart from the matter of "not citing prior art," there is an issue of "who came up with the key idea." The patent office is charged with the responsibility of identifying relevant earlier parties. In Cooper's story, arguably this was not done. Here, the "invention" of a dog (specifically a border collie) recognizing items was done by the Germans, but Pilley greatly improved upon the "invention." Cooper mentioned the latter, but not the former; which was the truly "inventive" action, or was it both?

Of the analogy to patents, one recalls non-obviousness requires a "difference in kind" not merely a "difference in degree":

The outcome of optimizing a result-effective variable may still be patentable if the claimed ranges are “critical” and “produce a new and unexpected result which is different in kind and not merely in degree from the results of the prior art.” Aller, 220 F.2d at 456; see Antonie, 559 F.2d at 620.



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