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IBM Snags Patent On Half-Day Off of Work Notifications

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the looks-like-you've-been-missing-a-lot-of-work-lately dept.

IBM 163

theodp writes "The USPTO appears to have lowered the bar on obviousness, awarding a patent to IBM Tuesday for its System for Portion of a Day Out of Office Notification. 'Out of office features in existing applications such as Lotus Notes, IBM Workplace, and Microsoft Outlook all implement a way to take a number of days off from one day to many days,' acknowledges purported patent reformer Big Blue. 'Yet, none of these applications contain the feature of letting a person take a half-day or in more general terms, x days and x hours off.' Eureka! And yes, the invention is every bit as obvious as you can imagine."

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Huh (5, Funny)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651558)

Then I demand a patent on going to work.

Re:Huh (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651694)

Sorry, I already have the patent on "System for Portion of a Day Working". ....now back to reading my /. articles....

Re:Huh (2)

Forge (2456) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651934)

We have that where I work.

I am not sure of the name of the package.. but it has a web interface that you can use to check how many days you have available and to apply for time off. I can use that to not just request a 1/2 day, but also to request just a few hours.

Does this mean we (and whoever created our HR software) have to sue IBM? Or can we just ask for a cut when they start collecting license fees on this patent?

Re:Huh (2)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652016)

We have it, in outlook.
you simply schedule a half day meeting and tag it as OOO (makes it purple in the shared calendar .

Re:Huh (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652190)

That won't send out-of-office notifications to people who send you emails though. (Not that I would ever enable them for that situation myself).

Re:Huh (5, Informative)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652284)

My outlook does exactly this, it's almost identical to the image they submitted...
http://canazza.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/outofofficeobviously.jpg [wordpress.com]

Re:Huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38652448)

Yeah...it's kind of been in Outlook since 2007: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/290846

Re:Huh (5, Informative)

CrankyFool (680025) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652498)

It's worth noting that while the USPTO just GRANTED the patent, it was filed back in 2006. I was all set to join the pile-on -- Outlook 2011 on the Mac has this feature -- but I can't recall Outlook, at least, having this feature back in 2006.

Re:Huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38652590)

Wish I had points for you. So few people here understand the system we have in the US. They hear one person say "it's broken" and they just pile on because it's the cool thing to do. Your clarity and reason is a breath of badly needed fresh air here.

Re:Huh (2)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652846)

Well, my screenshot was from Outlook 2007, so it's been around since then (released in Jan 07). The patent was filed in September 2006.
My question is why it took 6 years to look at and grant the patent? We've now got countless mail clients that now use this as a standard feature.
Have IBM been warning them they have a Patent Pending on this (or other, as yet ungranted) item? What happens to all these mail clients? How much will IBM be charging for use of this patent? What if they can't/wont pay up?

Re:Huh (2)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#38653242)

But I was doing the same thing in 1995 with cron and vacation.

Re:Huh (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 2 years ago | (#38653330)

I was doing the same thing 1994 with cron and vacation. You owe me some money.

Re:Huh (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652446)

I am not sure of the name of the package.. but it has a web interface that you can use to check how many days you have available and to apply for time off. I can use that to not just request a 1/2 day, but also to request just a few hours.

Our time entry system at work (again, no idea what the name is) allows us to simply enter a number of hours.

We can enter decimals, so I've taken "1.25" hours of flex time before ... and I can separately access how much vacation and flex time I have. At a previous job, we accounted for our time in as little as 15 minute increments, and we could do that with our time tracking software as well ... this isn't new, or even novel.

Seriously? A patent on accounting for time in less than one day increments?

This is stupid, obvious, and has likely been done elsewhere countless times ... whatever moron at the patent office granted this should be forced to eat a stack of patent filings; staples, bindings, and all. I mean, really, what is it, "A system for accounting for actual hours worked and taken off in sub-hour increments ... with a computer".

This is why software patents are incredibly stupid ... so many of them are "take well known solved problem, do it on a computer, profit" it's not even funny any more.

Re:Huh (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652940)

That feature is going to have to be removed.

Re:Huh (4, Funny)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652442)

I am writing a patent for taking portions of a day to slack off. The calendar will display all kinds of bullshit excuses, including writing a patent.

Re:Huh (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652708)

Thank god for these inventions! The system wouldn't let me take a half day before.

It's time (5, Insightful)

cmdr_klarg (629569) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651568)

It's time for pitchforks and torches at the USPTO...

Re:It's time (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651824)

Yeah, no kidding. Where I work we use MS Outlook/Exchange (formerly Oracle, I can't believe we could actually find something that's a downgrade from THAT, but we managed), MS Project and an open source vacation/leave request system. ALL of these have the features mentioned above, and have for YEARS.

Ok, they don't have a drop-down box or something idiotic like that, if that is part of the patent, but for outlook/exchange, I set my away message to show up when I will leave the office (say, noon 2012-01-12), I block off that chunk of the day on my calandar (noon-6pm, just to be safe, so nobody schedules me for a late meeting, thinking I'll be back), In project, I mark '4' hours under 'vacation' and I put '4' in the 'hours' spot of our vacation request program for that day.

I've been doing that for years. WTF is wrong with the patent system for granting this garbage?

Re:It's time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38652294)

Sometimes I think the USPTO approves this kind of patent as a sort of protest; just to get attention and force Congress to give them rules allowing them to reject "obvious" inventions and reference prior art other than publications.

Re:It's time (1)

plover (150551) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652532)

No, that would just make them look as incompetent as they are. It wouldn't prove the idea of patenting software is stupid.

I'm wondering if IBM isn't doing this to prove the USPTO is useless.

In reality, they're probably just adding to their portfolio of fake valuables, so that when they lawyer-up they can claim "thousands" instead of "hundreds" of violations of their IP.

Re:It's time (5, Informative)

jc42 (318812) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652606)

Sometimes I think the USPTO approves this kind of patent as a sort of protest; just to get attention and force Congress to give them rules allowing them to reject "obvious" inventions and reference prior art other than publications.

Actually, the Patent Office folks have explained this publicly in the past. Their motive isn't to get rules and definitions from Congress. They agree that such things should be the Patent Office's job. Their motive is to get Congress to fund the required work. Some years back, when Congress passed the laws that radically expanded what could be patented, Congress also cut back on Patent Office funding. The Patent Office can't do the "obvious" checking of patent applications, because they can't legally hire (and train) the people that the job has required for the past decade or so. The flood of patent applications has become an astronomical number.

The Patent Office folks made it pretty clear back then that their only possible approach was something that historians will find familiar: Approve them all, and let the Courts sort them out. Essentially, funding for patent examination has been moved into the Private Sector, aka the lawyers. This has, of course, radically increased the cost of a patent application, because the court system simply wasn't designed for this sort of task, and patent lawyers cost a lot more than patent examiners.

As long as our political system remains in its current "privatization is the way to go" state, this is not likely to change. And if you're complaining about the way that the current patent system is a dead weight on economic development, you should understand that that's exactly its function. A patent is a tool for limiting use of a bit of technology to someone who can afford to defend the patent. That's intentional, and it has always been used by the big guys against the little guys. The only way to fix it is to limit what can be patented. A decade back, the US Congress took exactly the opposite approach, and radically expanded what was patentable. They did this knowingly, to limit access to technology to the big guys (aka campaign contributors ;-). This isn't going to be fixed as long as the crowd that did that is still running the US Congress.

(Well, OK, there's an outside chance that the courts might cancel those laws on obvious Constitutional grounds. Anyone want to make a wager on when that might happen, how much the appeal process will cost, or how many years it'll take? ;-)

Re:It's time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38653122)

those who make the rules a mostly laywers themself , you do the math ....

Re:It's time (1)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38653294)

You say this is "something historians will find familiar". Great! So it was a temporary problem last time? When was that, how did it end, how long did it take? Any citation? I'd love to read about this, especially the part about how it got better.

Re:It's time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38652476)

It'll cost ya! I've patented the use of torches and pitchforks to protest the USPTO.

Re:It's time (1)

Gibgezr (2025238) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652484)

Yup. The USPTO is officially broken. But how do we fix it? Replace it with an IP system that other countries agree to uphold, and thus force it upon the U.S.?

Re:It's time (1)

oxdas (2447598) | more than 2 years ago | (#38653434)

The USPTO gets most of the blame, but I you are pointing fingers in the wrong place. The USPTO tried repeatedly to deny these types of patents in the 80's and 90's and the courts kept forcing them to grant them. The courts were ordering the USPTO to issue these patents while giving the USPTO little guidance to determine what was and was not a software patent. Finally in 1994, I think the USPTO decided to just grant everything and let the courts figure it out because that was what was happening anyways. The Supreme Court didn't hear a software patent case from 1981 to 2008 and in those years the district courts essentially created software patents. When the Supreme Court finally opened its mouth in 2008, it didn't clear up anything. Part of the problem is Congress failing to fix the system, but most of the blame lies with the courts. While I wouldn't go so far as to say the USPTO is a victim here, they clearly have little real power over what gets patented.

Imagine.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651572)

Imagine being the guy that wrote this patent with a straight face. Must suck to be soulless.

Re:Imagine.. (5, Insightful)

envelope (317893) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651646)

He probably has a quota of patent applications he has to file.

Re:Imagine.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38652042)

He probably has a quota of patent applications he has to file.

Oh! So he was only following orders! I see ....

Well, he's just like a ..... bureaucrat.

Psych! You thought I was going to say "Mormon"! Didn't you?!?

Re:Imagine.. (1)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651696)

He probably didn't have a straight face either.

Re:Imagine.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38652460)

He is equine.

Re:Imagine.. (5, Insightful)

El Torico (732160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651842)

It's probably a bunch of guys sitting around, trying to "one up" each other on who can get the most outrageous patent.

Re:Imagine.. (3, Funny)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651890)

It's probably a bunch of guys sitting around, trying to "one up" each other on who can get the most outrageous patent.

I sense a new drinking game!

Re:Imagine.. (4, Funny)

demonbug (309515) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652110)

It's probably a bunch of guys sitting around, trying to "one up" each other on who can get the most outrageous patent.

I sense a new drinking game!

Sorry, that was the second patent they filed.

Re:Imagine.. (1)

CFBMoo1 (157453) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652130)

Thanks for the smiles. I wish I had mod points.

Re:Imagine.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38652872)

It doesnt matter when, or what - its currently Patents, SOPA - all this rubbish just makes me want to cry. Why does everyone want to ruin everything all the time. And why are the people in power allowed to be paid off with jobs and incentives. it never bothered me before, but today it hit me and literally almost makes me cry like a baby. there is no hope.

Re:Imagine.. (1)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652004)

I think it's actually two women. I think this is one of them: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=858297 [linkedin.com]

The other doesn't appear to have a LinkedIn account.

Patent on asking to go to the bathroom, too? (4, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651584)

I'm wondering if anybody knows if IBM has a patent on employees having to ask to go to the bathroom. That was one of the more unique aspects of working at IBM, in my experience.

I wonder (3, Funny)

slackware 3.6 (2524328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651598)

if any one has patented the process of taking a crap yet?

Obvious question ... (2)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651894)

if any one has patented the process of taking a crap yet?

... where would you want to take it to? Wouldn't you rather just flush it, like the rest of us?

Or are you one of those "Emma, come 'n look at this - you ain't gonna believe it!" types?

"Method and system for taking a crap."

1. Eat food (see our related patent application for "Method and system for eating food";
2. Wait. (period of time depends on food eaten and any contamination such as salmonella, see our related patents and our "brown paper" on "Montezuma's Revenge")
3. Do what comes naturally.

Re:Obvious question ... (4, Funny)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652038)

"Method and system for taking a crap on a computer."

1. Eat food (see our related patent application for "Method and system for eating food";

2. Wait. (period of time depends on food eaten and any contamination such as salmonella, see our related patents and our "brown paper" on "Montezuma's Revenge")

3. Do what comes naturally on a computer.

Excellent, I shall file this immediately.

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38652322)

I'd like then to patent at least 3 methods for wiping your ass. I'd be nice to see people to either paying royalties to you, or suffering the consequences.

Prior art? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651600)

I can already do this in Outlook, and have done so on several occasions... how is this new?

Re:Prior art? (1)

subsoniq (652203) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651826)

Yeah, Exchange 2007 introduced this in late 2006 when it released.

Re:Prior art? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651960)

Yeah, Exchange 2007 introduced this in late 2006 when it released.

This patent was filed in September 2006. Maybe Microsoft will be paying royalties for using IBM's invention before long.

Re:Prior art? (1)

SighKoPath (956085) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652330)

Exchange 2007 Beta 2 (which the release announcement states is feature complete) was out in July 2006. I don't think they'll be paying royalties.

Re:Prior art? (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652890)

that was under 'first to invent' not 'first to file'. the current system will work the way you described. this patent however will require a trial with discovery and proving who invented it first.

Re:Prior art? (1)

MichaelKristopeit404 (1978298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651946)

i wrote these features into the intranet at the company i worked for in 2000... it's not new at all.

Re:Prior art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651990)

Hence the lowering of the bar...

Re:Prior art? (1)

tjbp (2499800) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652048)

It's not new. The patent was filed in September 2006.

Re:Prior art? (1)

Ptur (866963) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652104)

How? I don't see any way in Outlook to make it send out of office replies for every afternoon, for example....

Re:Prior art? (1)

hrimhari (1241292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652772)

That's not what the patent grants either. If it were, it could have had a stronger ground...

Re:Prior art? (4, Informative)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652194)

Despite the summary, the patent describes a particular specific application, where every aspect of the system is based around minute-granularity timestamps, rather than mere dates. The application also follows a particular architecture, which is all nicely explained in the actual patent itself. The half-day example was just mentioned for clarity, and does not affect the patent itself.

Duh (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651620)

I was going to state how even our in house payroll software lets us put in for portions of a days leave, but then I realised this is about automated out of office notifications - and I'd have to admit, obvious as it is most of the ones I've seen work with dates, not portions of dates.

No, not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651650)

Outlook has had this for ages. You simply schedule a meeting for an arbitrary period of time and set the availability to 'out of office'. How is this any different?

Re:No, not really (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651712)

Outlook has had this for ages. You simply schedule a meeting for an arbitrary period of time and set the availability to 'out of office'. How is this any different?

People (from within and outside of your network) do not get an "out of office" auto reply if they send an e-mail to you at the time interval selected by scheduled meeting. Do they?

Re:No, not really (1)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651846)

Ok, zimbra (mail server app) has the ability to set, to the second! (i believe) your out of office message.

So hm, yup, that'll send an out of office message, and you can set to to any text you like "Hi, i'm out of the office for the next 32 minutes and 42 seconds!"

Re:No, not really (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652002)

The copy of Zimbra I'm using, at least, only has that option for whole days.

Re:No, not really (1)

agallagh42 (301559) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651864)

People (from within and outside of your network) do not get an "out of office" auto reply if they send an e-mail to you at the time interval selected by scheduled meeting. Do they?

Yeah, he's doing it wrong. In outlook, you use the Out Of Office Assistant to schedule the start and end time of your time out of the office. It can be scheduled down to the minute.

For example, I can set up (in advance if necessary) an out of office autoresponder to start at 1pm on thursday and end at 10:30am the following tuesday.

Re:No, not really (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651972)

How is this any different?

No one filed a patent for it until now.

Add Minutes, Too! (1)

mtrachtenberg (67780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651660)

I'll take my royalties at my Post Office Box.

Re:Add Minutes, Too! (1)

schroedogg (596283) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651788)

OK, then I call the unix timestamp patent! I'll be out until 1326267061 and not a second later.

MS Office (2)

pootypeople (212497) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651672)

I may not remember correctly, but doesn't Office 2007 and above have an option where you can set what time to enable/disable the out of office message? That would seem to cover this patent. When was the application made?

What do folks at the USPTO do, exactly? You would think any reasonably-intelligent person would reject this on obviousness grounds and not even need to find prior art.

Re:MS Office (3, Informative)

nologin (256407) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651770)

Patent filing date is September 7th, 2006.

Since Outlook 2007 does have this feature, it would be the likely candidate for prior art, since it would have been release somewhere in that time frame.

Re:MS Office (3, Informative)

Spad (470073) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651874)

Exchange 2007 RTM build date was December 2006, though the betas/RC would have obviously pre-dated that by a few months.

Re:MS Office (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651878)

I may not remember correctly, but doesn't Office 2007 and above have an option where you can set what time to enable/disable the out of office message? That would seem to cover this patent. When was the application made?

What do folks at the USPTO do, exactly?

Filed: September 7, 2006

Re:MS Office (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652922)

Invented: ????

US wasn't First-to-file yet.

Outlook Already Does this.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651698)

I have outlook 2010 and it already does this, unless I'm missing something...

From the end of the Microsoft Documentation:

If you selected the “Only send during this time range” option in step 4, the Out of Office Assistant feature will continue to run until the date and time set for the End Time in step 5 is reached.
Otherwise, the Out of Office Assistant will continue to run until you repeat step 1 and select the “Do not send Out of Office auto-replies” option.

The dialog in question even looks like the one in the patent...

EJB Only? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651700)

At least it seems that the patent is not that generic, their claims are specific to EJB.

Where's the Patent Payoff? (3, Interesting)

mounthood (993037) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651724)

Where's the payoff for the avalanche of poor patents? IBM isn't getting paid, the USPTO isn't better off, so are the politicians getting paid? Why is this system continuing? Two reasons I can see: protection for the largest companies against new start-ups, and getting foreign countries to adopt US Patent laws and extort their corporations. But is that really it, is that the whole game? IBM isn't full of idiots and the politicians are (always) working an angle, so why this continued patent madness?

Re:Where's the Patent Payoff? (3, Insightful)

NotSanguine (1917456) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651906)

Where's the payoff for the avalanche of poor patents? IBM isn't getting paid, the USPTO isn't better off, so are the politicians getting paid? Why is this system continuing? Two reasons I can see: protection for the largest companies against new start-ups, and getting foreign countries to adopt US Patent laws and extort their corporations. But is that really it, is that the whole game? IBM isn't full of idiots and the politicians are (always) working an angle, so why this continued patent madness?

The payoff is selling it as part of a portfolio of patents to cover other equally obvious stuff, like they're doing with Google now. Jeebus, our IP system is broken!

Re:Where's the Patent Payoff? (1)

mounthood (993037) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652620)

The payoff is selling it as part of a portfolio of patents to cover other equally obvious stuff, like they're doing with Google now.

Selling to the next sucker is one way to get paid, but that happens in every market and isn't special to patents. Maybe it's just momentum that keeps the system running: we've spent so much on patents we can't stop now! Like the housing boom where the market prices reinforce the system, and it doesn't stop until enough people say the emperor has no clothes, then it all crashes at once.

Re:Where's the Patent Payoff? (2)

Cassini2 (956052) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652612)

Where's the payoff for the avalanche of poor patents?

IBM will be sued the moment the PTO grants a similar patent application to another company, so they file first.

As long as it passes the "will the PTO grant this?" threshold, IBM files it. They have to file it, because five years later someone else will attempt to patent the same feature. The PTO will issue the patent in due course, and sometime later a patent troll company will buy the patent and source code (like SCO). Presto IBM will be sued for billions of dollars for violating patents and copyright, for something that happened many years ago. To prevent this from happening, IBM files patents, such that the technology shows up in the PTO database of patents.

The interesting thing is that this technology was probably present in email systems running from the 1970s. Nevertheless, IBM still felt the need to patent it.

Re:Where's the Patent Payoff? (1)

mounthood (993037) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652736)

Protection against patent trolls is just an effect of the system, but how does the system payoff for IBM or the USA? Protection for IBM could also be bought by paying a few politicians to change patent law, but that isn't happening. So where's the payoff?

Re:Where's the Patent Payoff? (2)

pieterh (196118) | more than 2 years ago | (#38653202)

IBM filing trivial patents for defensive reasons? Please, that's a joke. Filing a patent does not defend against attack from a troll. You cannot file all possible patents any more than you can claim all possible combinations of letters. A billion patents is still 0% of infinity.

IBM file trivial patents because they make $$$ from patent licenses. The director of the USPTO, Dave Kappos, was chief patent lawyer at IBM. It is a pure case of regulatory capture. IBM *own* the US patent system, file 50% of all software patents, and use this as a mainstay of their business plan.

Re:Where's the Patent Payoff? (1)

Yogs (592322) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652738)

If you think IBM isn't getting paid a ton licensing its war chest of patents you're crazy. Estimates vary, but they are LARGE.

And that's not even the primary reason companies go for patents, especially the stupid ones.

The real reason to go for as many patents as possible is to have as many legal weapons as possible to bludgeon and gut any up and comers with a competing product. A protracted legal battle against a foe with those kinds of resources, even if won, will sink most companies.

Re:Where's the Patent Payoff? (1)

mounthood (993037) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652898)

If you think IBM isn't getting paid a ton licensing its war chest of patents you're crazy.

Licensing fees paid will be in proportion to the number of patents and lawyers, but other large companies have to pay those fees, so why aren't they fighting to get the patent system fixed? Unless IBM (et al.) are extorting foreign companies, the system isn't a boon for the USA, and we should be seeing serious efforts to get the system fixed.

The real reason to go for as many patents as possible is to have as many legal weapons as possible to bludgeon and gut any up and comers with a competing product.

Protection for the largest companies against new start-ups is one advantage, but they get that protection from the politicians *much* cheaper then the current patent system.

Re:Where's the Patent Payoff? (2)

Xarin (320264) | more than 2 years ago | (#38653176)

Making money off the patents for IBM is a nice benefit but I believe ultimately this is being driven by companies needing to cross license IP. I worked at a company where we cross licensed IP with IBM and whoever had a bigger stack of patents would not pay anything and the other company would pay based on the relative difference in size of the stacks. We had incentives for engineers to patent our IP so that our stack would be bigger and the negotiations would be more favorable.

Re:Where's the Patent Payoff? (2)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652962)

Inventors may get an award or bonus for a filed / granted patent. So that's a quantity over quality incentive. Patent lawyers get paid for getting patents filed, accepted, attacked, defended, etc. again, quantity over quality. In fact, patent lawyers make more when there is post-award litigation whether or not they're on the offense or defense. Even more quantity-over-quality incentive.

Lotus Notes 8.5 does this... (1)

Known Nutter (988758) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651732)

I can add that IBM's Lotus Notes 8.5 -- released in 2009 -- already had the ability to specify hours of a partial day.

Re:Lotus Notes 8.5 does this... (1)

digitalloving (1540905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652032)

The patent was filed in 2006.

Re:Lotus Notes 8.5 does this... (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652034)

One would hope that technology found in a patent filed in 2006 for improving a specific product would appear in that product some time after 2006, yes.

8 hours is half day at IBM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651762)

AND now under the new system we will know who to drop down to part time list. P.S no benefits for part timers

partial days off item (1)

Independent_forever (1851460) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651784)

what are they talking about? Outlook does this now...it's called setting the hours....maybe I am missing the exact feature this article refers to...

Re:partial days off item (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651854)

Where would that be? I don't see anything about hours or scheduling of the Automatic Reply, Out of Office message (Outlook 2010).
I can set that I am currently Out of the Office, or that I'm currently In the Office, and what message to send while I'm marked Out of Office.

Re:partial days off item (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38652728)

Its not the feature you don't understand, its the entire way the patent filing and award system works in the US. Reading the comments here, it appears that IBM filed the patent right around the same time that the very first betas of the first version of Outlook that (eventually) featured this capability started to appear. What no one has said yet was whether or not this feature appeared in those early betas or was suddenly added as soon as possible right after IBM filed the patent, hoping to "go back in time to kill its mother".

I am being forced to work... (1)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651820)

...with IBM tools, at my current client project. Can I then file a patent for not going to work ?

MS beats them by a bit... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651844)

Outlook 2010 has had this for some time now... way to go IBM...

The reason is quite simple (2)

tweir (27510) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651952)

A good chunk of these BS/trivial patents stem from devs gaming the system.

Many corporations, and I imagine IBM is one of them, have patent bounties that are paid out in a multi-tier system:
- propose a patent application that passes the internal corporate review board: small $ bonus
- get the patent app files: bigger $ bonus
- have the patent granted: big $ bonus

I've known a few devs who have made a nice chunk of change in annual bonuses because they've learned the system. From devs on the line, through management & in-house counsel, there is zero disincentive to filing these applications, and a lot of potential personal upside.

Re:The reason is quite simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38652914)

Yes, there is such a system. Just replace all of your "qualifiers + $" with "$100" at each tier, and you'd be correct. But, like most things, the payouts used to be much better "in the old days". Yes, I am an IBMer with multiple patents and have been doing it for about 10 years now.

Partial costs? (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652066)

Did they only have to pay for half a patent also? The other half was off course bloody obvious.

Sanity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38652090)

from the linked jpg:

Subject: Out for the afternoon
Body: I will be back tomorrow!

More like:
Subject: Sanity is out for the afternoon
Body: Sanity will NOT be back tomorrow!

Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38652128)

The USPTO is allowing IBM to profit from the polar opposite of true innovation.

Opportunity abounds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38652180)

Quick! Snap up the patents for minutes, seconds, milliseconds, microseconds...

Can I patent "method for social masturbation" (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652432)

The patent office's real job is to keep all of society locked in their cubes, think of dumb things that produce nothing but will make a ton of money, forget that society even exists, and depend solely on food delivery and masturbation for survival. So, let us patent "method for masturbation." Yes, the traditional one. What, me invent something?

Not only obvious ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#38652548)

... but this is just a subset of existing integrated calendar/e-mail functionality.

"I will be $planned_function from $begin_time_date to $end_time_date. $optional_custom_message"

FFS, I implemented this with procmail and a couple of shell scripts fed off my PalmPilot schedule back in ancient times.

I don't care about existing art... (1)

Syphonius (11602) | more than 2 years ago | (#38653000)

Even in 2006, this would have been an obvious solution for anyone in the field.

Outlook (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38653006)

You can specify to the HOUR when you will be out of office until.

How does this not cover half days?

Turn On Out of office message: January 4 @ 5pm
Turn Off Out of Office Message: January 5 @ 12pm

See what I did there? Genius!

I just filed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38653118)

I just filed a patent application about filing stupid patents...

  - We's gonna be rich, ma!

Ridiculous but necessary (1)

kawabago (551139) | more than 2 years ago | (#38653328)

If companies don't patent every possible angle of everything then a troll will get that patent and go on the attack. The patent office has lowered the bar to the point that everything and anything is patentable and MUST be patented for self protection. This patent is purely the fault of Congress for ignoring the patent offices downward spiral to economic zombie. Braaaaains! Braaaaaaaaains!
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