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USPTO To Reexamine Eolas, SBC Patents

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the they-did-it-for-sideways-swinging dept.

Patents 96

theodp writes "The USPTO Director has ordered reexaminations of the infamous Eolas Distributed Hypermedia Method (discussed earlier(1) on Slashdot) and SBC Structured Document Browser (discussed earlier(2) on Slashdot) patents. Maybe this will inspire Tim O'Reilly to get that killer piece of 1-Click prior art off his bookshelf!"

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karma (-1, Offtopic)

cft (715198) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453067)


Today I'll be spinning on a Wheel
I'm a slave to a Wheel
And there isn't any stopping
What mistake(s) could I have made?
I'm a slave serving time for a life that I've forgotten.

I'm a slave of Karma
Spin the Wheel and I'm a king reborn
I'm a slave to Karma
I'm coming back, yeah, I'll be coming back
But for the last time.

Today I'm a king on the Wheel
Still a slave to the Wheel
But this time around I'm smiling
Keep me cautious, keep me safe, just in case there's a chance
I can leave this Wheel behind me.
Stand in the Middle and you won't get dizzy
Stand in the Middle and you won't fall down
If you stand in the Middle you can keep your balance
Stand in the Middle while the Wheel spins round and round...

I'm a slave of Karma
Spin the Wheel and I'm a king reborn
I'm a slave to Karma
I'm coming back, yeah, I'll be coming back
But for the last time.
I'm a slave of Karma
Spin the Wheel and I'm a King reborn
I'm a slave to Karma
I'm coming back, yeah, I'll be coming back
But for the last time.

How do all the Wheels inside the Wheels revolving,
Go on, and on, and on, and on, and on...
Spinning on the Wheel the souls of One evolving,
Live on, live on, live on, live on, live on...
Anyone who claims that they know the answer's coming back again...

Who's at the center of the Wheel
The inventor of the Wheel
or another spinning servant
I'm the Master of my Wheel of my very own Wheel
Universal and recurrent

I'm a slave of Karma
Spin the Wheel and I'm a King reborn
I'm a slave to Karma
I'm coming back, yeah, I'll be coming back
But for the last time.

REMEMBER THE MAINE! [*] (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453406)

I wish I was a big studly manly man like Donald Rumsfeld so that I could imaginarily assrape that sweet West Virginia hillbilly hosemonster, Jessica Lynch!

I wouldn't even insist that she tell me that she went down fighting and shot personally 1,237 Iraqis dead!

[*]Being that it was the prototypical case of the war^H^H^Hdefense department totally misrepresenting a situation for propaganda purposes to inflame the masses for a faux war.

Pattent System (2, Insightful)

spooje (582773) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453079)

Great now if we can just get the USPTO to review the entire pattent process we should be all set.

Re:Pattent System (0)

freedommatters (664657) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453086)

hallelujah!

Re:Your Sig (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453133)

Exactly what has happened to you since 9/11 that has interfered with the way you live that in any way demonstrates an erosion of your constitutional rights? I think you'll be hard-pressed to come up with anything that justifies your sig.

Re:Your Sig (1)

freedommatters (664657) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453223)

what part of my sig says that anything has happened since 9/11 that has interefered with the way i live my life that in any way demonstrates an erosion of my constitutional rights?

Re:Your Sig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453594)

I think he means the part of your sig that says something has happened since 9/11 that interfered with the way you live your life in a way that demonstrates an erosion of your consitutional rights.

Re:Pattent System (5, Interesting)

*weasel (174362) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453190)

there's something to be said for limited application resubmissions.

the current malicious patent application process is to submit as broad and vague a patent as possible (particularly in software) and resubmit over and over, narrowing it down only as much as the particular examiner requires.
(not all patent applying company's do this - but the ones who do, -always- do).

at some point there should be a mechanism to prevent such obvious and disingenuous 'gaming' of the system.

the patent idea is supposed to be cooperative: a limited monopoly for an inventor in return for public disclosure of the invention (provided it meets the qualifications for being patentable), with the intent of enriching the public domain.

the business practice of filing patents for litigation purposes (sue your competitors out of business because they can't even afford to -defend- themselves) - is equal parts sickening and maddening.

Patent litigation should have to go through a review process at the USPTO to determine fitness of the claim (paid for by the sue-er, reimbursed by the infringer in the event of guilt).

instead we wind up having vague patents that are pushed across a reviewer's desk as fast as possible, being enforced in a court of law that does not and should not have the technical expertise to determine veracity of the claim.

If there was an internal USPTO review process prior to litigation - then they'd have the authority to revoke, suspend, or demand more specific clarification of overly broad patents that slipped through.

but for some reason there's never a call to restructure the procedures for established government bureaus. even when disaster strikes, and the problems hit the forefront, the solution always seems to be simply to create yet-another-layer of bureaucracy.

paid for by the sue-er? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7454285)

This is a joke right?

So what your saying is I have to have cash for lawyers AND the USPTO?

The US Patent system is flawed in so many ways. All the US needs to do is look at other countries who are getting their act together.

The US is for instance the only country that allows a Priority Date based on what a person claims, rather than the date filed.

As for broad patents ... well you need to be as broad as possible in your claims, but at the end of the day ... MOST COUNTRIES also look at the description.

The US just loves those legal bull *BURP* shit claims above all else, which is where the lawyers have a field day. Which lawyers? The lawyers on BOTH sides.

As for software patents, I wouldn't have no problem with them if they were specific [to a product] AND (yes the big and) the company actually demonstated a use, rather than just make a claim which they hope might be applicable to something in the future.

Maybe I should have studied law instead of engineering. Then again I'd be in striking distance of a giant bunch of arseholes on a daily basis ... all more than willing to sue for anything I might do to them.

Re:paid for by the sue-er? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7454800)

if you want to sue someone over a patent, sure.

you had lawyers to file the claim - doesn't seem like a stretch to me.

if there is infringement, you'll reclaim your expenses 100% on top of any settlement.

hell a fee for the USPTO pre-litigation exam wouldn't even be necessary. most company's would shirk away at unnecessary litigation at the mere thought of giving the USPTO another look at their carefully overly-broad patent.

surprisingly though, it's -not- the lawyers who are propagating this type of stuff. at least, not the IP lawyers i've met (dealing with 2 firms of them and their foreign associates, i'd say i've met quite a few).

thing is, they're paid to file the suits their clients want filed. if they don't file ridiculous suits, they'll lose their client.

for instance -there is a certain cereal manufacturer that loves to sue people for supposed infringements on their 'trademark' - even in situations where it's -clearly- not a competing product, industry, or company. most times the -only- similarity is in regards to the -type- of animal they have for their trademark.

their business people come up with these desires to sue. each time they are warned that the odds of winning are astronomically against them, but the client insists - so what do you expect them to do? play moral judge and lose a client? c'mon. they're a for-rofit business. no firm would stand for one lawyer acting up like that - they'd be out of a job before the client could sneer. they advise against ridiculous suits - but they don't refuse them.

not all lawyers are ambulance chasers. most ip lawyers come from technical backgrounds - and think surprisingly similar to most /.-ers.

it's a shame.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7454937)

That such an insightful post will be filtered by most as being a 0. Bummer.

2nd post, or third .. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453090)

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Losers. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453673)

Yet another automated post, and not a single word about anal gel.

oh! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453096)

I just wanna fuck some tight asian pussy. Just once in my life please!

How many times... (4, Insightful)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453111)

... has this happened in the US ?

If this can be duplicated for other patents, could this a possible route to pointing out how futile software patenting is ? I'd guess that if the USPTO had to constantly re-examine s/w patents they might be more leery of granting them ...

Simon

Re:How many times... (4, Informative)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453336)

... has this happened in the US ?

Director ordered re-exams are rare, a few hundred a year. They tend to only take place when the USPTO is absolutely forced to.

In this case the director is responding to a public request made by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web on behalf of the 600 odd companies in his consortium. This is the type of request that the director of the USPTO can hardly afford to ignore.

There are other ways to obtain a re-examination. Anyone can file at any time by paying a fee. The problem is that the re-exam process tends to be as prefunctory as the exam process and if you lose at re-exam the courts are likely to reject challenges based on the material presented in the re-exam.

I suspect that we will see the Eolas patent quickly evaporate. Director ordered re-exams in the middle of littigation are highly unusual. The trigger for obtaining a director ordered re-exam is considerably higher than the threshold for invalidating a patent.

Re:How many times... (1)

Malcontent (40834) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453905)

More likely the Directory is responding because huge donors to the administration stand to lose if this patent is upheld.

Re:How many times... (1)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453980)

More likely the Directory is responding because huge donors to the administration stand to lose if this patent is upheld.

It is possible, but over the years most of the pressure on the USPTO has come from patent barons and the lawfirms who service them lobbying to keep the rules loose.

I see this more as a recognition by the patent baron donors that trying to defend the Eolas patent might end up as the catalyst to wider reforms which would hurt their interests.

Re:How many times... (2, Insightful)

joab_son_of_zeruiah (580903) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453350)

This has nothing to do with the concept of software patents, or there merit.

The reason for this is because there are patent lawyers that would be out of work if were not for software patents.

There will be about as much progress here as there has been in tort law reform.

Re:How many times... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453584)

This just shows how little you know about the legal system. Tort reform is unnecessary, as it's not really out of control (a few big judgments aside).
The US gov. did a study a few years back which I'm having trouble finding. It shows that the average tort case is for a car accident with a settlement of $10,000. No biggie. They don't talk about 99.9999% of the tort cases on TV.

Re:How many times... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453650)

This was what I was referring to: Tort Reform [braytonlaw.com]

Re:How many times... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7455721)

Most likely, they'll say "See, the system works!" and happily go on to grants patents for things like putting pants on one leg after another.

I've always wondered (5, Funny)

levik (52444) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453119)

If you lisence Amazon's 1-Click patent, do they give you an SDK to help understand this advanced and innovative technology?

HERE IS A PICTURE OF A MAN STRETCHING HIS ANUS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453201)

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Hmmmm, other motivations.... (2, Insightful)

RedStapler (676382) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453121)

Not to be entirely cynical but what are the odds that Microsoft had a little bit to do with the review by the USPTO. It would seem the best way to avoid paying the billion dollar+ damages claim would be to get the USPTO to invalidate the claim. In this case, I am not sure though that MS would be entirely in the bad as the plug-in patent seems a bit too broad in the first place.

Re:Hmmmm, other motivations.... (5, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453170)

"Not to be entirely cynical but what are the odds that Microsoft had a little bit to do with the review by the USPTO."

And what if they did? It's a patent that, in all likelihood, never should have been awarded, so it really doesn't matter much to me who got the USPTO to examine it as long as it and bad patents like it are thrown out.

Seriously people, you have to stop cutting off your nose to spite your face. This is a good thing!

OT Sig reply: Re:Hmmmm, other motivations.... (0, Offtopic)

robslimo (587196) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453409)

You might want to adjust the link in your sig. I think this is the URL you're refering to.

Use tunyurl.com if you can't squeeze it in the sig.

Re:Hmmmm, other motivations.... (1)

Dunark (621237) | more than 10 years ago | (#7454442)

The problem is that if Microsoft's power and money was the key element in getting the USPTO to move, the same trick obviously won't work when one of MS's own bogus patents becomes a problem.

Sure, it's good to get rid of a bad patent, but what we really need is a way to get the ball rolling that does not depend on Microsoft's support.

Re:Hmmmm, other motivations.... (1)

KDan (90353) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453192)

Get your head out of your ass. Corporations do what is good for them. I don't like Microsoft one bit, but tagging everything they do as "evil" or "in the bad" and being surprised because they do one thing which benefits everyone else smacks of religious fanaticism, usually accompanied with hefty doses of stupidity.

Daniel

Re:Hmmmm, other motivations.... (2, Insightful)

RedStapler (676382) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453329)

Hmm, wondered why it was so dark, oh wait, maybe my head wasn't up my ass.

Sheesh people, the comment was merely meant to postulate on why the USPTO suddenly decided to review several of the patents. It doesn't make a bit of difference whether it was Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Oracle, *insert big tech company here* but more so what actually triggered it. It just seems especially odd that suddenly the review is triggered when there have been several significant efforts to get some of the more questionable patents looked in the first place for quite some time.

I think it is a sad commentary when the only way to get changes done is through back door channels rather than overt/open channels (i.e. review process, etc.). The "in the bad" comment which seems get everyone's feathers all in a tizzy is really addressing this fact, can Joe Citizen go out and drive these changes or is it limited to those with sufficient $ to participate in the process.

Re:Hmmmm, other motivations.... (4, Informative)

kansas1051 (720008) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453289)

You dont have to be a billionare to force the USPTO to reexamine a patent. Its called inter partes re-examination, ANYONE can file for it, and all you need to do is submit prior art (or even just an argument) that says the patent was granted in error. Its not cheap though, it can cost a few thousand dollars depending on the scope of the reexamination, but it is an affordable option for a company faced with litigation by an over-broad patent.

Re:Hmmmm, other motivations.... (1)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 10 years ago | (#7454957)

You dont have to be a billionare to force the USPTO to reexamine a patent. Its called inter partes re-examination, ANYONE can file for it, and all you need to do is submit prior art (or even just an argument) that says the patent was granted in error.

You might not need to be a billionaire to file for a patent reexamination. But given the number of ludicrous patents out there that haven't been reexamined, I can only conclude that you have to be a billionaire to get a patent reexamination, especially one in your favor.

I mean, come on. It's completely obvious that the only reason the USPTO is willing to reexamine the patents in question is because of Microsoft's influence over the government (they were able to get the government to kill its own antitrust case -- that takes a LOT of influence).

Re:Hmmmm, other motivations.... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453307)

" Not to be entirely cynical but what are the odds that Microsoft had a little bit to do with the review by the USPTO. It would seem the best way to avoid paying the billion dollar+ damages claim would be to get the USPTO to invalidate the claim. In this case, I am not sure though that MS would be entirely in the bad as the plug-in patent seems a bit too broad in the first place."

Actually it was the World Wide Web Consortium W3C and Internet community but hey it's not like you have to read the article.

Re:Hmmmm, other motivations.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7461005)

Yeah, it's not like you need to like at the W3C member list [w3.org] either.

Re:Hmmmm, other motivations.... (1)

J. J. Ramsey (658) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453420)

"Not to be entirely cynical but what are the odds that Microsoft had a little bit to do with the review by the USPTO."

IIRC, the W3 consortium had requested a reexamination of the Eolas patent.

Re:Hmmmm, other motivations.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453504)

Slashdotter logic: never praise Tim Berners-Lee for something if you can bash Microsoft for it.

Re:Hmmmm, other motivations.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7460985)

Isn't Microsoft a member of W3C as listed here [w3.org]

Re:Hmmmm, other motivations.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7455335)

Actually webstandards.org is claiming at least some responsibility.

http://webstandards.org/buzz/archive/2003_10.html# a000237 [webstandards.org]

why do people do dumb things? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453135)

www.dotphoto.com

login: username: pokechoke
password: pistol

click on sign in button

click on thumbnail view button to view photos together

click on image view button to view individual photo

upload picts to LoSuR photo album as you wish....

ENJOY!

Re:why do people do dumb things? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453161)

It's just some gay porn. Nothing interesting to see.

How long... (-1, Offtopic)

clifgriffin (676199) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453137)

Till it runs linux? Blogzine.net [blogzine.net]

I assume... (1, Redundant)

jeffkjo1 (663413) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453146)

I assume he has also ordered 're-evaluations' of the jobs of the 2 clerks that granted these patents as well.

Probably Not (1)

JohnDenver (246743) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453622)

From what I understand, it isn't the patent clerks' job to scan the Internet and look for prior art, rather thier search for prior art is limited to thier own patent database.

I wouldn't be surprised if these 2 clerks were forced by USPTO policy to grant these patents, regardless of thier opinions. I suspect this policy has been influenced by the Commerce Dept. and many federal judges over many years of litigation..

Hell, they may ever reassign the same 2 clerks to re-evaluate the patents with a little pressure from the top to invalidate them in light of new evidence.

Re:Probably Not (1)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 10 years ago | (#7455293)

it isn't the patent clerks' job to scan the Internet and look for prior art

IANAPL, but the way I understand the situation, they ARE supposed to look at more than just the patent database - if they were able to do their jobs correctly, they should scan all of the literature which is "typically available to a practictioner of the art" for the field of invention that they are reviewing. All of that stuff represents "prior art", and by not including it in their acceptance decision, they are requiring that somebody in society pay unnecessarily to have their decision overturned. (Since it's the Patent Office which is getting a lot of that money, one might conclude that they have a conflict of interest.)

I have a feeling that, given their workload & the policies implemented by their higher-ups, the examiners have been effectively restricted to looking for prior art in the patent database - even though they shouldn't be.

Putting a leash on the patent monster (4, Insightful)

dcavanaugh (248349) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453182)

The Patent Office is a government agency. Like all government agencies, it lwill do whatever it takes to sustain itself and grow. Their growth strategy has been to collect fees and issue patents, often without much regard for prior art and common sense.

Trying to stop the growth of USPTO is like trying to stop the sun from rising. Perhaps there is a way for them to collect additional (even higher) fees for re-examining questionable patents. Considering all the garbage that is out there, they is quite a bit of work to be done and a captive market to pay for it. I think the Patent Office needs something to do. Pulling the plug on misguided patents would be a worthwhile effort. All we need for patent reform is a way to align the inevitable collection of fees with the policy goal of protecting only those truly innovative ideas that cost big money for R&D.

Re:Putting a leash on the patent monster (1)

ThisIsFred (705426) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453446)

Wouldn't shorter durations for technology patents increase revenue from fees? Or do they collect many times during the term of the patent? I would think that shorter durations / more fees would make their flow of revenue a little more even.

Re:Putting a leash on the patent monster (3, Informative)

jkabbe (631234) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453617)

Wouldn't shorter durations for technology patents increase revenue from fees? Or do they collect many times during the term of the patent? I would think that shorter durations / more fees would make their flow of revenue a little more even.

As I am studying for the patent bar right now I can answer that....

Maintenance fees (for utility patents) are due at 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years.

I hope I got that right!

Re:Putting a leash on the patent monster (3, Informative)

nudicle (652327) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453727)

I think the Patent Office needs something to do. Pulling the plug on misguided patents would be a worthwhile effort.

The patent office needs to *do something* but it certainly doesn't need something to do.

I'm a law student who spent the summer at a patent law firm working on software patent prosecution. You would not believe how understaffed the USPTO is for the volume of CS related patents. One of the ways this is most obvious is that a lot of objections the examiners sent back to us were completely, obviously, on their very face ridiculous. It was apparent that the patent examiner had read the material (either our claims or part of the defense of our application throughout the process), done a keyword search and found other patents using the same vocabulary but didn't do even a tiny little bit of investigation to find out if the work was even in the same area as our patent. Thus, we could overcome USPTO objections trivially most of the time because they were stupid objections.

Perhaps part of it was lack of experience on the part of the examiners, but I doubt it. They have way too many applications on their hands to do more than a cursory job with each one right now and the incentive structure just exacerbates the problem.

I also went to visit the USPTO over the summer and during our tour the guide (an examiner herself) mentioned that there were plans to hire some enormous quantity of new examiners in the next year. Although that won't fix the broken incentive structure, hopefully it'll help in some small way.

All of this is to say it's not as if the USPTO w/ its current staffing is sitting around twiddling its thumbs. Something needs to be done but they're not idly waiting for something to do.

Re:Here is the leash for the patent monster (1)

Iparadox (660769) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453734)

The PTO is a beaurocracy. In every beaurocracy, the boss is the group that signs the paychecks, i.e. the U.S. Congress, for the PTO. The first rule in every beaurocracy is "Never Embarasss The Boss". Different organizational cultures have different meanings for "Embarass The Boss", but for U.S. Federal Agencies, that means being invisible outside the organization, and never doing anything that generates complaints about performance, well made or not. Right now, big corporations rule. They complain to Congress about the cost and difficulty of the Patent process (imagine that!), and the cost and difficulty goes down (because more junk gets through). To raise the price for the individual, raise the number of complaints about incompetently approved patents. It has to be after-the-fact, because Patent proceedings are confidential prior to issue. So create a web site that posts individual patents, the name of the patent examiner that approved the patent (very important), and the prior art and comments from experienced developers commenting that the content of the patent is obvious to ones skilled in the art. This is now a source of reliable information to be used by voters when they notify their congressman that X in the PTO does a damn poor job when it comes to prior art and obviousness. First, the PTO will find ways to do better checks on prior art, Second, the PTO will discover that many more submissions are obvious (and right now, many are), Third, Congress will give more money to the PTO for investigators to turn up prior art and reject unqualified patents, so that Congress will not be embarassed in front of their boss, the voters. There was supposed to be a .sig here

What if it wasn't MS (4, Insightful)

oolon (43347) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453183)

I make you wonder what would have happened if it had not been MS. If MS had the patent and Eolas was being sued, the bet the patent office would have let the court decide if the patent should stand or not, which is the normal way they behave.

James

Re:What if it wasn't MS (1)

twoslice (457793) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453306)

I wonder what would happen if it was discovered that a patent clerk suddenly had one meeelion dolllars in their bank account that was deposited by an unknown person whose initials were B.G.

I think you're right, with one exception... (2, Insightful)

JohnDenver (246743) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453906)

I think this case had two things going for it, neither to be underestimated:

1. Microsoft's power to litigate and make news.
2. The impact this patent would have on just about every web user.

Factor #2 has been demonstrated to have some leverage in the realm of very obvious patents (BT's hyperlink patent).

While Eolas' patent may seem obvious to your average software engineer, it isn't to your average Joe. Had it not been Microsoft, I think the impact of the installed base would have been a significant factor.

Had it been MS vs. the World, I think it would sink thier reputation to where even loyal Microsoft users would want to stop buying thier products.

Just Say No to Stupid Story Submissions! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453206)

Are you tired of story submissions that end with retarded non-sequiters in the form of rhetorical questions? Are you sick of people too stupid to tie their own shoes trying to make brilliant observations?

Call your Slashdot representative today and Just Say No to Stupid Story Submissions!

Precedent (4, Insightful)

SparklesMalone (623241) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453215)

I doubt everything will be reviewed, but if there is a single review of a software patent then there is precedent for more reviews, and hopefully a message to all that patents aren't to be handed out like candy. Unfortunately the General Powers and Duties of the USPTO according to law [uspto.gov] are 1) to follow the policy of the secretary of commerce, 2) to issue patents, and 3) to disseminate patent information to the public. There is nothing in the general duties about ensuring the patent is "first art".

Re:Precedent (2, Informative)

ajakk (29927) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453296)

Yeah, there is nothing in those duties about ensuring that the patent is "first art" ... EXCEPT THE DEFINITION OF A PATENT. "Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title." 35 U.S.C. 101. That is the statutory authority for the USPTO to grant patents.

Re:Precedent (1)

SparklesMalone (623241) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453394)

Oh, I agree. I just find it sadly amusing that in an 84 page documenbt that describes details like how to order office supplies there are no standards for ensuring the invention is truly new.

Re:Precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453533)

Unfortunately, the USPTO redefined "prior art" to mean "prior patented art". So it doesn't matter if it's stupidly obvious, or has been published before. They'll still grant the patent if it's not already patented, and "let the courts decide". Of course, it usually doesn't get to court.

The whole patent system, not just software patents, has to GO. They only exist so that MBA businessmen can 0wn the ideas of engineers. Engineers should rise up and overthrow the MBA idiots.

Re:Precedent (1)

ajakk (29927) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453886)

No they haven't. The Patent office routinely rejects patents based on the examiner's own knowledge, printed publications, and competitors products. Heck, I have even had a patent rejected because the software (to the examiners eyes) worked like a simple algorithm that he found in a old computer science book. The main problem with the patent office is that they do not have enough knowledgable staff to comprehensively review computer science patent applications. They routinely reject patents using stupid rejections that are easy to overcome, as opposed to spending the time necessary to fully research the prior art. This could be fixed if the patent office was allowed to keep all the money the received in fees and hire more examiners (and pay the ones they have more).

The Patent system in the US is much more complicated than people on /. make it out to be. People should read up a little more on how the system actually works, rather than the rumors and FUD that is spread here.

Anal Gel patent also being reviewed (2, Funny)

arrogance (590092) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453224)

Did no one notice this one [uspto.gov] from the link in the article?
6,520,942 Reexam. C.N. 90/006,758, Ordered Date: Sept. 24, 2003, Cl. 604/290, Title: METHOD TO IMPROVE PERI-ANAL HYGIENE AFTER A BOWEL MOVEMENT, Inventor: Edward L. Putman, Owner of Record: Edward L. Putman, Vernon, CT, Attorney or Agent: Owner is representing self, Ex. Gp.: 3761
What a lovely patent. [uspto.gov] Anal gel.

Re:Anal Gel patent also being reviewed (4, Funny)

robslimo (587196) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453347)

From the patent:

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

There are no drawings provided.


Thank goodness, no drawings provided!

Goatse guy (1, Funny)

XSforMe (446716) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453377)

Maybe we should help them out and point them to the goatse guy?

Re:Anal Gel patent also being reviewed (1, Funny)

NickFitz (5849) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453405)

There are no drawings provided

They left the drawings in the bathroom, and somebody used them to improve peri-anal hygiene.

Other reviews (1, Redundant)

ekephart (256467) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453237)

From the SBC link, another patent under review:
"6,520,942 Reexam. C.N. 90/006,758, Ordered Date: Sept.
24, 2003, Cl. 604/290, Title: METHOD TO IMPROVE PERI-ANAL HYGIENE AFTER
A BOWEL MOVEMENT, Inventor: Edward L. Putman, Owner of Record:
Edward L. Putman, Vernon, CT, Attorney or Agent: Owner is
representing self, Ex. Gp.: 3761"


Well...
U.S. Cl. 604--290 6 Claims

1. A method to improve peri-anal hygiene comprising:
providing a gel of viscosity thick enough to rest for several seconds on a piece of toilet paper without causing noticeable disintegration of the piece of toilet paper;
dispensing a quantity of the gel onto the sheet of toilet paper;
applying the gel to an anal area using the sheet of toilet paper as an applicator; and
wiping the anal area with a dry sheet of toilet paper to dry the anal area of moisture left by said applying the gel.

Am I the only one who found this slightly amusing?

Re:Other reviews (1)

DataCannibal (181369) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453782)

Am I the only one who found this slightly amusing?

I doubt it, this is Slashdot, home of the prison anal rape fantasists

Re:Other reviews (1)

OzPhIsH (560038) | more than 10 years ago | (#7454110)

Thankfully, I have some killer prior-art on my bathroom shelf. So don't worry everyone, your will remain free and clean!!

Anal hygiene? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453243)


Gawd, did you see the patent near the bottom of that list? "METHOD TO IMPROVE PERI-ANAL HYGIENE AFTER A BOWEL MOVEMENT" !!!

Some ass-wipe's patented himself!

So wait (3, Interesting)

Lane.exe (672783) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453252)

If they review these patents, and find them to be void, every past legal proceeding involving these patents gets reversed? The decisions no longer hold, etc.? That actually seems unlikely. New laws 9 times out of 10 don't grandfather or reverse old decisions. It makes little sense that overturned patents should also.

Grandfathering is a different idea (2, Informative)

JohnDenver (246743) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453450)

Think of reversing a patent as invalidating evidence, which will probably be submitted to an appeals court at a later time. Once you've found evidence is invalid or is misrepresented, then all arguments based on that evidence need to be reargued.

This reversing of a patent will probably be submitted to the appeals court (if there isn't already a more convienent avenue), which will overturn the prior decisions.

Re:So wait (1)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453685)

As you have surmised, patents are considered valid (and enforceable) until they have been overturned in Federal court through the patent appeals process. As long as the patent holder can pay to keep the appeals process going, they can still litigate based on the patent. (The company I'm working for has encountered this issue recently.)

Re:So wait (1)

NotAnotherReboot (262125) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453842)

All of those court proceedings were based on the fact that the patent office thought it was patent worthy. I would be pretty sure that the courts would have taken a different side had the patent office said "we really don't think this is a valid patent."

EOLAS isn't on the list (2, Informative)

perrye (619347) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453260)

I can't find any mention of the EOLAS patent on this list: Director Ordered Reexamination [uspto.gov] Check your sources!

Re:EOLAS isn't on the list (2, Informative)

Xentax (201517) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453353)

Yes, but one of the other links in the blurb is a News.com story [com.com] which says that the Eolas patent was also ordered to be re-examined.

The same article also says Eolas is a 'one man software company', which is news to me though not very surprising. "Software Company" is a misspelling of "litigation engine" I guess...

Xentax

Re:EOLAS isn't on the list (1)

SparklesMalone (623241) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453451)

It hasn't been updatd since October. There's a patent on FTP mput...

No FEAR! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453290)

U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property James E. Rogan

Man, I love him on Fear Factor.

Especially when he makes them eat worms and stuff.

Nice set of patents there (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453373)


COVERING DEVICE FOR AN OPENING IN THE
OUTER SHELL OF A MOTOR VEHICLE .. Like a window?

VISION FACILITATION APPARATUS AND METHOD
My glasses seem to do this...

HOD TO IMPROVE PERI-ANAL HYGIENE AFTER
A BOWEL MOVEMENT

Ok lets move right along...

So... (1)

drakaan (688386) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453417)

Go Microsoft, go???

That's SO unfair...

Patent on cookies? (1)

evbell (723550) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453424)

Was MS granted a patent on cookies [uspto.gov] today, or am I reading this wrong?

Re:Patent on cookies? (1)

matzi11a (518757) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453655)

mmmmm, i wonder if there is any prior art for this kind of thing.

Re:Patent on cookies? (1)

matzi11a (518757) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453774)

looking a little further reveals that it is actually a continuation to 2 patents, the first submitted back in '96!!

Re:Patent on cookies? (1)

NickFitz (5849) | more than 10 years ago | (#7454203)

You're reading it wrong. The patent refers to a method for allowing a user to customise the content of a page returned by a web server, through the use of a configuration page. Although the illustrative description of the patent refers to the use of cookies to identify the user, this is no more a "patent on cookies" than it is a patent on computers, networks, the Internet or any of the other technologies referred to as being involved in the process decribed.

Of course, it's still laughable to suggest that this should be granted. Anybody got prior art on the use of cookies to allow the punters to customise a page, details of such customisation being held on the server? Note that, as somebody has pointed out, this is a continuation of a patent granted in 2002, which was in turn a continuation of a patent aplication made in 1996.

Re:Patent on cookies? (1)

DShard (159067) | more than 10 years ago | (#7456888)

Anybody got prior art on the use of cookies to allow the punters to customise a page, details of such customisation being held on the server?

Your reading from it right now. I remember doing that eons ago on /.

Re:Patent on cookies? (1)

angle_slam (623817) | more than 10 years ago | (#7454490)

You're reading it wrong. It was granted yesterday. :-)

Re:Patent on cookies? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 10 years ago | (#7518159)

Maybe the wrong link was provided but that "patent on cookies" leads me to a patent on a method of circuit placement in an IC layout:

"One embodiment of the invention is a recursive partitioning method that place circuit elements in an IC layout."

Re:Patent on cookies? (1)

evbell (723550) | more than 10 years ago | (#7519424)

Oops ... the original link was an index into a search. This one [uspto.gov] should always work.

Another patent that was re-examined... (3, Interesting)

gmajor (514414) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453750)

From the bottom of the uspto page (no pun intended):
METHOD TO IMPROVE PERI-ANAL HYGIENE AFTER A BOWEL MOVEMENT

Wiping your ass with moist toilet paper was actually patentable. Non-techies might be more interested to hear that absurd patents are not just limited to the technology realm.

Re:Another patent that was re-examined... (1)

Starrdanzr (716669) | more than 10 years ago | (#7455248)

There is actually a patent that some guy got for the manner in which he combed his hair. I've seen some others that looked as though they would be more cumbersome that the current methods available. The PTO does not evaluate whether a patent is defensible, only that prior art has been referenced and that yours doesn't infringe upon a current patent. I've been running some searches for prior art for my S/O who has some ideas and it's been educational! ;)

Re:Another patent that was re-examined... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7457103)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the WHOLE FRICKING PATENT PROCESS supposed to be limited to the technology realm?

Re:Another patent that was re-examined... (1)

borgheron (172546) | more than 10 years ago | (#7458782)

No. Any "useful, non-obvious invention" can be patented. Whether that's how you build a rocketship or how you jerk off. ;)

One thing most people misunderstand is that patents do not grant the exclusive right to an invention to one person. It grants the right to control who and who does not utilize the invention. There is a subtle difference.

The latter basically means that it is up to the holder of the patent to determine if there is infrigement and prosecute. Patent holders must be vigilant.

GJC

Re:Another patent that was re-examined... (1)

Wanker (17907) | more than 10 years ago | (#7460817)

It's not absurd, it's Aloe Vera!

USPTO search [uspto.gov]

-----
What is claimed is:

1. A method to improve peri-anal hygiene comprising:

providing a gel of viscosity thick enough to rest for several seconds on a piece of toilet paper without causing noticeable disintegration of the piece of toilet paper;

dispensing a quantity of the gel onto the sheet of toilet paper;

applying the gel to an anal area using the sheet of toilet paper as an applicator; and

wiping the anal area with a dry sheet of toilet paper to dry the anal area of moisture left by said applying the gel.

2. A method to improve peri-anal hygiene comprising:

dispensing a gel onto a piece of toilet paper using a gel pump, the gel having a viscosity of sufficient thickness to prevent noticeable disintegration of a portion of the piece of toilet paper when the gel is applied to the portion; and

wiping an anal area with the gel using the piece of toilet paper as an applicator.

3. The method of claim 2, further including:

storing the gel in a container, the gel pump being secured to the container.

4. The method of claim 2, further including:

wiping the anal area with a dry piece of toilet paper for substantially drying the anal area of moisture left by said wiping the anal area with the gel.

5. An apparatus for improving peri-anal hygiene comprising:

a gel pump attached to a container; and

a gel applied to a portion of a piece of toilet paper by said gel pump, said gel having a viscosity of sufficient thickness to prevent noticeable disintegration of said portion of said piece of toilet paper when said gel is applied to said portion.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein:

said gel comprises Aloe Vera gel.
-----

Re-evaluation (1)

knautilus316 (629085) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453781)

The patent office is going to admit that they might have made a mistake? This has me extremely worried.

Is this prophesied in the Book of Revelations, or Nostradamus or something? Will this throw the Earth out of orbit? Somebody get Satan on the phone, and ask if it's snowing.

~Knautilus

Re:Re-evaluation (1)

borgheron (172546) | more than 10 years ago | (#7458822)

Uncalled for. The USPTO has rexamined and invalidated patents before. It does the Patent Office no good to issue bad patents, although that happens *all the time*.

GJC

What I have not seen mentioned (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7453791)

No one seems to understand that throwing out this patent will have no effect whatsoever on reforming the patent system. This is just another case of microsoft proving that they are above the law by changing the rules to fit their current business model.

Yes, the patent system is wrong, and yes it should be reformed. But if MS wants to get out of this mess, they should have to change the rules for all, not just themselves.

Selectively applying the laws will only continue the problems we face now.

They're not "Changing the Rules." (2, Insightful)

AzrealAO (520019) | more than 10 years ago | (#7453843)

First off, Microsoft was denied the ability to argue prior-art in the original trial.

Secondly, it's the W3C that's requested the Patent Re-examination.

Thirdly, it's a patent re-examination, it's rare, but it's a normal part of the process. No one is changing any rules at all here.

But of course, it's benefits Microsoft, so clearly, there must be some shenanigans going on, Microsoft getting(buying) special treatment that no one else would get, right?

Remember! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7454489)

Nobody can patent your mare!

Higher bar for patents (2, Insightful)

samwhite_y (557562) | more than 10 years ago | (#7456240)

If you look at the number of patents that are created per year (in the 10s of thousands I think), you would think a lot of creative and useful activity was being done. But if you look at the visible effect on our actual world and environment, it is not hard to see that most of these patents are not that original or do not have much new creative insight.

Out patent office is biased towards approving patents, not towards denying them. This is probably somewhat due to the understaffing (and lack of appropriate training) because it takes more energy and thought to come up with an effective argument to deny a patent then it does to just let it slide through. If we made a law which forced the patent office to raise the bar on which patents got through (it should probably be knocking down 90% of the applications it receives), then that would probably help quite a bit.

However, this is yet another good government idea that is probably politically impossible because such a solution will create too much outcry from players who are comfortable with the status quo (Another example: Try taking away the agriculture handouts from our large agribusiness corporations).

Try taking away the agriculture handouts from our (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 10 years ago | (#7518207)

It's because of these corporate welfare handouts to agrobusiness that the Doha Rounds of the WTO negotiations in Cancun, Mexico fell apart. The US and Western Europe, who gives agrobusinesses billions in subsidies wants other countries like Brazil to open up their markets to imports while stopping those countries from giving their own farmers subsidies, driving them out of business, making those countries dependent of heavily subsidied imported food.
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