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Last NTP Patent Tentatively Thrown Out

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the congressmen-rejoice dept.

Patents 198

pcause writes "Reuters reports that the fifth NTP patent has been rejected. What does it say about the US Patent office and software patents that these patents have made it through trials, appeals, etc and only now has the Patent Office decided they weren't any good in the first place?" From the article: "The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has sided with BlackBerry portable e-mail device maker Research in Motion Ltd. by issuing a non-final rejection of a fifth patent at the center of its legal battle with patent holding company NTP Inc. The decision means the patent agency has now issued non-final rejections of all five patents at issue in a BlackBerry patent-infringement case before a federal judge."

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198 comments

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My first ever slashdot comment (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14626184)

Wow, I'm the first aswell.

Hello everyone.

Re:My first ever slashdot comment (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14626206)

what's up, chief?

RIM = SCO (1)

DS_User (874465) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626278)

"In a court brief filed on January 17, RIM's lawyers argued that Spencer should refrain from imposing any injunction for a number of reasons, including an "exceptional public interest" in maintaining uninterrupted BlackBerry service for national security officials, among others."
As you can see these greedy f***s that own US companies can give a f*** about us or the security of our country. Not to mention that its going hurt many businesses and employees of businesses, as if the economy isn't messed up enough already. I hope they crash and burn just like SCO.
I moral of the story kids: If your compnay sucks, don't pull an SCO to make money, because you will loose, everyone will hate you, and your name will become "*something edited by staff members*"

Remember the FAT patent reviews??? (3, Insightful)

stevew (4845) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626535)

Non-Final - Hmmm...remember the FAT patent that MS got? It was rejected at this stage, but later upheld in the "FINAL" review. (FAT - File Allocation Table as invented by Gary Kildal in CP/M (or maybe even earlier than that???))

So if experience is a teacher here, then this means nothing.

Have you compiled your kernel today?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14626743)

No. I am running Debian 2.2 kernel... Woody Baby!!! Now that is stable.. err. OLD STABLE!

Re:Remember the FAT patent reviews??? (1)

ipandithurts (516079) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627323)

Correct. As my experience with the USPTO, nearly 90-99% of all patent applications that are ulitmately issued receive one or more "non-final" rejections. The rejection could be even due to a typo or a "bad drawing". In the present situation, the patent is being re-examed due to new "prior art" being brought forward for which it is believe to be not merely cumulative of the prior art reviewed when when patent was originally issued. As this is a "non-final" rejection (as all of the other four rejections were" this story is really a non-story in my opinion.

Easy to side with RIM (4, Interesting)

drhamad (868567) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626210)

As easy as it is for me to want to side with RIM, and be excited that this last patent was thrown out...

I'd like to know several things. First, what WAS the last patent? The article doesn't say - I'm sure someone could dig it up, though. Also, why was it rejected, and if there was good cause to reject it, why did it survive so much previous scrutiny? While the USPTO will accept almost anything at first - they don't do rigorous review of everything submitted, until it is challenged - they start scrutinizing them once court cases come up. So how did it survive previously if it could not survive now? Could this perhaps be only a political decision? The USPTO bowing to administration pressure?

Re:Easy to side with RIM (1)

Firewalker_Midnights (943814) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626319)

They do not have the time or the resources to evaluate everything thoroughly. The enormity of the amount of patents that come in on any given day is so vast that it would be impossible to review each patent thoroughly on its own. At least, from what I've read and experienced, this is what I've seen to be "true".

Re:Easy to side with RIM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14626412)

They do not have the time or the resources to evaluate everything thoroughly. The enormity of the amount of patents that come in on any given day is so vast that it would be impossible to review each patent thoroughly on its own. At least, from what I've read and experienced, this is what I've seen to be "true". Yes, that is what I said - they do not rigorously review patents when they first approve them.

Under pressure... (3, Insightful)

QuaintRealist (905302) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626362)

"What does it say about the US Patent office and software patents that these patents have made it through trials, appeals, etc and only now has the Patent Office decided they weren't any good in the first place?"

This is a political decision, but related more to the US Senate/House than to the administration. I have been waiting for the politicos to stuff this one, and as the deadline for RIM drew near, they are doing so.

Now we can just hope that this has an effect on the USPTO beyond just the RIM case, extending to the other questionable patents they have approved...

Re:Under pressure... (1)

joebok (457904) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626541)

Maybe in this case the outcome is good, but I wonder what if the patents were good? I don't think that pressure was applied to the USPTO because it isn't issuing good patents, it was pressured because it was issuing inconvenient patents.

I don't know - I can't tell if the checks and balances in the system are working or broken.

Will the USPTO learn the lesson to issue better patents, or will they learn the lesson to check with congress before they issue a patent?

NTP: A "Virtual Company" (2, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627225)

In this case I don't think you need to worry about that.

NTP is the one gaming the system here -- the NY Times called them a "virtual corporation" (according to Engadget [engadget.com] ), and they're nothing but a holding company with a fat war chest set up to create landmine lawsuits over the patents that they hold.

In terms of patent abuse, these guys make Microsoft look like Mother Teresa. They don't make anything (except lawsuits), they don't do anything, and the only way they have of making money is by going after the 'deep pockets' of established, successful companies. In short, they're an inherently parasitic business.

Is what they're doing legal? Yes. Should it be? Clearly not.

It would be different if they actually had a wireless-email product which was being infringed on by the Blackberry, but they don't and never did. All they ever wanted to do was bleed RIM for about a half billion dollars, and the hell with anyone who uses the service.

I think RIM is going to come out of this okay, and kudos to them for standing up to NTP. Regardless of what I'm sure were self-interested reasons for doing so, it was the right thing to do.

Re:Under pressure... (2, Informative)

coolgeek (140561) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626810)

Nice hat you have there? Is that tin foil?

Really, calling a non-final decision on these patents "politically motivated" is a stretch. If your conspiracy theory held any water, the USPTO would have issued final decisions, thereby removing any possibility that the patents may be upheld when NTP appeals the non-final decision. Yes, I know that hat of yours is telling you that the USPTO will control the review process and it will be a sham, however that theory overlooks the fact that NTP will be able to file suit against the USPTO as the first sign of any shenanigans, and then have the benefit of judicial intervention.

Overall this is a very good thing. It lays down the gauntlet that these shill IP firms like NTP may have to seriously cough up some cash to try to exert their extortion. I really don't see what could be patentable for wireless email. We've have packet radio for decades already.

Re:Under pressure... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627309)

The problem here, so far as I can see it, is that RIM, while probably now unfettered, still racked up a rather large number of legal bills fighting one of these fine companies whose business model amounts to extorting licensing fees through the patent system. There's no recourse for recovery. NTP's defense is that they thought the patents were legitimate. The various courts' defense is that it's not their job to decide the validity of patents. The patent office itself is just going to go "Well, we have a review process, you see..." The system is so open to abuse, and lawmakers either so witless or unconcerned that I doubt there will be any solutions in the short term, but it's very clear that patents in these types of cases at least are stifling innovation, not encouraging it. It only serves to take the patent system further out of the hands of the average person or smaller business.

Re:Under pressure... (1)

10scjed (695280) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627315)

This is a political decision, but related more to the US Senate/House than to the administration. I have been waiting for the politicos to stuff this one, and as the deadline for RIM drew near, they are doing so. Now we can just hope that this has an effect on the USPTO beyond just the RIM case, extending to the other questionable patents they have approved...

I dunno, I'd rather have a technically inept USPTO than a politically corrupt one, having to choose the lesser of two evils. Remember who owns the politicians.

Re:Easy to side with RIM (1)

db32 (862117) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626453)

I imagine it has less to do with politics as many of the conspiracy folks say. I imagine it has more to do with bureaucracy than anything. Almost without exception, government agencies are full of this nonsense. I expect the USPTO would have eventually come to this conclusion anyways. If there was any effect by the political arena, I am sure it had more to do with cleaning up some of the bureaucratic nonsense and getting it through in a timely fashion rather than actually affecting the outcome too much.

Re:Easy to side with RIM (3, Informative)

sbowles (602816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626507)

This OBJ Article [ottawabusi...ournal.com] doesn't discuss the particular patent that was thrown out, but it does indicate that new evidence of prior art presented by RIM was instumental in the decision.

The above article also indicates that other patents held by InPro where overturned by German and UK officials in the last week.

Re:Easy to side with RIM (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626589)

RIM hired a whole bunch of lobbyists who argued that Blackberries were necessary for national security. Congressmen backed them up, saying that in the aftermath of 9/11, cellphones did not work but Blackberries kept going. The subtext is that if Blackberries were eliminated, there would be no way for Congressmen and other civilian organizations to communicate. The patents here have already been scrutinized by a district court and upheld as valid and infringed. Suddenly, the PTO gets through these reviews in record time and finds all the patents in suit are invalid. Hrm.

Re:Easy to side with RIM (2, Informative)

3TimeLoser (853209) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626759)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the Blackberries of old (circa 2000/2001) use the pager network instead of cellular? If so, then I doubt the current Blackberries will fare much better than cell phones in the next disaster. Kind of makes that "Blackberries kept working after 9/11" argument a little weak.

Re:Easy to side with RIM (3, Informative)

CaymanIslandCarpedie (868408) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626887)

The patents here have already been scrutinized by a district court and upheld as valid and infringed.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the district court specifically DOES NOT have any say on whether or not a patent is valid (they can only rely on the patents current status with the USPO. So the the USPO has granted a valid patent, the court doesn't do any scrutinizing on whether its valid or not, it just decides if it was infringed upon. The courts must rule based on the assumption the patent is valid cause it just ain't thier job to decide either way.

Re:Easy to side with RIM (1)

KarmaMB84 (743001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626944)

They usually leave it up to the courts to decide if the patent is valid or not rather than review it themselves when its disputed. That's the entire point of bringing prior art to the judge. The problem is that judges don't have a clue about tech so tech patents stand up in court when they shouldn't.

Re:Easy to side with RIM (2, Informative)

weisen (461536) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626767)

Do you have actual knowledge that these patents "survive[d] so much previous scrutiny" or is this the first actual challenge at the patent office?

The previous challenge was in court which, as far as I know, came to the conclusion that RIM infringed the patents, not that the patents were valid. What seems to be happening is a race between the patent review process and the legal process.

The USPTO has a history of issuing patents for which there exists prior art both to "little guys" and "big guys." The resulting process of then having those patents invalidated can take years. All throughout the 1980's, the Patent Office refused to hire people with Computer Science backgrounds. I assume that they eventually relented, but this was after years and years of software patent review by people with Electrical Engineering backgrounds and virtually no software experience.

Re:Easy to side with RIM (0)

jeffmurphy (189766) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626783)

The patents in question are listed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NTP,_Inc [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Easy to side with RIM (2, Informative)

HidingMyName (669183) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627266)

The parent's link was broken, NTP's Wikipedia Entry [wikipedia.org] has links to several patents. Interestingly, many of the ones I looked at were filed in the 1997-1999 time frame. Wikipedia's entry indicates the patents that are rejected, but does not give the reasons why.

Re:Easy to side with RIM (2, Insightful)

Astin (177479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626879)

I think (although I'm not positive) that it's more a case of the reviews being fasttracked through the system. Usually, it could take years to get to a review because of the backlog. I'd imagine some political pressure was applied to move this to the front of the line, but not necessarily to influence the final decision.

Re:Easy to side with RIM (1)

ipandithurts (516079) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626932)

The article stated that this was a "non-final" rejection. In my personal experience nearly 95-99% of all patent applications that ultimately issue receive at least one "non-final" rejection. This story is, well, a non-story.

None of the patents were "thrown out" (5, Informative)

werdna (39029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626973)

As easy as it is for me to want to side with RIM, and be excited that this last patent was thrown out...

That isn't the case. The USPTO, on its own motion, placed these patents through a process called reexamination, in which each patent claim allowed is subject to review for subtantial new questions of patentability not previously considered by the office. So an examiner takes a new bite at the apple, based on new prior art, and reexamines te claims in view of the new art.

All that happened here, is that what is called an "iniitial official action" was issued, laying out the examiner's case that there existed new prior art that could invalidate the patent. First action rejection of all claims, which didn't happen in this case, is ROUTINE in ALMOST EVERY patent examination, and rarely indicates that the patent claims are in doubt. The next step is that the applicant files a response, either defending the claims as originally allowed, or introducing amendments or amended claims and defending them. It is then ROUTINE in MOST applications, that some or all patent claims are allowed to issue, either as originally filed or with some amendments.

So, if a single claim of a single patent survives unscathed, or allowed and amended claims are narrower but still infringed, nothing gets better for RIM.

The fact of initial rejections indicate nothing -- it is just another point of leverage for a settlement negotiation.

This is not the first time this has been pointed out in these letters.

Of course they threw it out (2, Funny)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626224)

They all have a crackberry.

Connections (5, Funny)

bohemian72 (898284) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626227)

It means that those government employees, all the way up to the Congress, who were worried about their Blackberry service made some calls to some people in the Patent Office.

Re:Connections (0, Flamebait)

mwjlewis (602559) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626337)

This is exactly what happened. Man, I was looking forward to getting rid of my BB too.

Re:Connections (3, Insightful)

blueZhift (652272) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626392)

Far from a funny, I think you are absolutely right. Once this patent issue became something real for those in power, you can bet that calls were made. In the end, if the rejections all stand, perhaps this will be a warning to those playing the patent and sue strategy not to overplay their hands.

Re:Connections (1)

self assembled struc (62483) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626599)

actually, i know this is a joke, but it's wrong.

the government can breach any IP law, trademark, patent etc it likes.

it's the government. (no really, it's written into the patent law statutes)

Re:Connections (1)

Bobo_The_Boinger (306158) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626835)

Doesn't matter if the government can break patents if the service provider is a private company who cannot break a patent, right?

Not so (1)

werdna (39029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627146)

I don't think there is any statutory exemption for the U.S. government in the patent act. (There is an express statement that States are not exempt, although the Supreme Court struck that down a few years back.) If I am mistaken, I'd be pleased to see a citation to the provision.

What government can do, of course, is to seize the patent, indeed ANY PROPERTY, all or in part through its power of eminent domain. Thus, no injunction can issue against the government. It's good to be the king.

The problem here is this -- it ain't free. The Fifth Amendment expressly provides that the taking of property for public use requires "just compensation." In fact, there is a special federal court that was created for and exists just to handle such claims: the United States Court of Claims.

Accordingly, I suggest that the iniitial poster was mistaken.

Washington is playing favorites (0)

strikeleader (937501) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626237)

Do you think the boys in Washington are afraid of loosing their toys?

Can someone explain to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14626327)

What exactly is it about the word "lose" and it's various derivations that leaves so many people unable to spell it properly in internet forums?

Next thing you know people will be spelling it "loo'se".

Re:Washington is playing favorites (1, Insightful)

Bellyflop (681305) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626372)

Absolutely - and some smaller guy just got squashed by RIM. They went through all of the trouble of inventing something, having it patented and then having their technology stolen by RIM with no compensation. The patent office is so spectacularly bad at maintaining a semblance of fairness and justice - it's basically just playing favorites.

Someone in Congress likes you? Congratulations, we can offer to hold up your patent or alternatively strike someone else's down. Uh oh! Made an enemy in the government? Well don't expect to get paid for your work!

Re:Washington is playing favorites (4, Interesting)

richieb (3277) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626429)

Absolutely - and some smaller guy just got squashed by RIM. They went through all of the trouble of inventing something, having it patented and then having their technology stolen by RIM with no compensation.

What exactly did the little guy invent? Delivery of email via radio waves? Was a protocol designed? Distribution system designed?

What "little guy" (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14626756)

You forgot to mention that the "little guy" is already dead.

Besides, he didn't invent anything--he *patented* an obvious concept and waited for someone ELSE to invent something that used the concept, so he could sue them.

Re:Washington is playing favorites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14626969)

No. They're scared of losing them, you numpty.

can RIM sue the patent office? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14626245)

Can RIM countersue the patent office or the lawyers of NTP who embarked on this mission on a basis of obtaining part of the extortion fee?

Re:can RIM sue the patent office? (1)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626479)

Could NTP sue the patent office for selling them invalid patents?

Re:can RIM sue the patent office? (1)

tehwebguy (860335) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626512)

i think you are joking around, but the truth is that this could really help.

if the patent office is afraid of getting sued, (like the LAPD are, hence they don't name suspects, only persons of interest) they might stop issuing so many BS patents.

well (4, Insightful)

revery (456516) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626258)

Well, it kinds of throws the supreme value of having the government as a client into sharp relief, doesn't it?

It's About Time (4, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626285)

It's about time these patents were thrown out, although I would have preferred a court ruling that said patent law does not extend beyond the US border. I may love my country, but that doesn't mean I think they're always right.

Re:It's About Time (1)

biodork (25036) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626368)

Ummm...

US patent law only covers the US... so I think your wish is granted.

Re:It's About Time (2, Insightful)

drhamad (868567) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626436)

Correct, US Patent Law technically only covers the US - although by treaty, it'll include more - much more. But I agree, I think the posters wish has already happened ;) If a company does business in the US though, they are then subject to US patent law, of course. And that is what RIM has done - could anyone seriously contend that RIM doesn't need to honor US patents when doing business in the US? That would be ridiculous.

Re:It's About Time (1)

beanyk (230597) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627112)

That would be ridiculous.


Indeed. Patently ridiculous.

Re:It's About Time (1)

ipandithurts (516079) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627277)

Even under treaty, a U.S. Patent only covers the U.S. Treaties simply allow patents to be filed in other countries that are based on a patent filed in a WIPO member country. For example, I file a patent in the U.S. I can then file a "copy" patent in Canada or another WIPO member country (pretty much ALL countries) within 18 months and get the same "priority date" or date of filing in the WIPO member country as I did in the U.S.

RIM needs to be hit on the head anyway (3, Informative)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626289)

They started this patent war, they were the ones who were suing a bunch of smaller firms doing the same thing as RIM, that's why the late Thomas Campana even started his lawsuit on the first place - he saw a newspaper article about RIM suing other firms for patent infringements, the same sort of patents NTP was sitting on.

Re:RIM needs to be hit on the head anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14627159)

Yeah right... NTP is a company made up of lawyers. The only thing they do is sue other companies for royalties. And your trying to tell us the only reason they are suing RIM is because they think RIM was a bully? C'mon

Re:RIM needs to be hit on the head anyway (2, Insightful)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627285)

"They started this patent war, they were the ones who were suing a bunch of smaller firms "

Absolutely true, and RIM should be lambasted continually until they apologize for their unethical business behaviour.

But it is also important to remember that this is a victory for true technology companies, inventors, and innovators. While RIM did use the same tactics as NTP there is a core difference between RIM and NTP. RIM is a company that makes and sells a product, they have individuals within the company who invent and innovate and are building upon the inventions and innovations of others. NTP on the other hand is simply a technology leech that produces nothing and, as evidenced by five of their patents being thrown out, don't even invent or innovate.

RIM should repent and change their evil ways so they will be a constructive force in our technology dependant societies, but NTP is a scourge which should be litigated into oblivion.

burnin

My cold dead hands (2, Funny)

funkmeister (783995) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626290)

I was just getting ready to photoshop a picture of Heston with a blackberry: "Not from my cold dead hands". Guess I don't need to now.

Re:My cold dead hands (1)

Laura_DilDio (874259) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626380)

Great idea! I'd love to see it! Even better: Get your filthy paws off my blackberry, you damned dirty ape! Even mo better: They finally did it -- they had to screw up my blackberry service. Ahhh damn you! Damn you all to hell! (pounds surf with fist) .

It Says... (5, Interesting)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626304)

What does it say about the US Patent office and software patents that these patents have made it through trials, appeals, etc and only now has the Patent Office decided they weren't any good in the first place?

It says that the USPTO has and will continue to issue bullshit patents on anything put in front of them, but that when a patent affects 25% of the government, regardless of validity, they will toss it out so they don't risk actual reform. No need to fret, however, any bullshit patents that only act as a cudgel for big businesses to kill or blackmail small businesses will remain inviolate.

Re:It Says... (1)

toby34a (944439) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626342)

It also makes a statement on the true quality of patent applications out there- I could literally draw a design in poop and send it in and if it was techinically feasible, hold the patent for it... and then if Microsoft came out with my design for this new wonderful machine or software idea (whatever it may be) I could tell Bill Gates where to go... hmmm... interesting idea...

Re:It Says... (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626419)

"I could literally draw a design in poop and send it in and if it was techinically feasible, hold the patent for it"

It wouldn't have to be technically feasible. It only needs to be good enough for (or far enough over the head of) the clerk that processes your application. It doesn't have to be technically feasible until someone sues you.

-Rick

Re:It Says... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626484)

no it says that if you have enough money and contacts you can get anything done.

how about all the BULLSHIT patents that rim holds and have been using to keep smaller companies from making a similar service?

This is not a win for anyone.

Re:It Says... (1)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626638)

I wish I could rate your post at 100 instead of being 5 because you are dead on. What it means is that any time a patent is incovenient to Uncle Sam, the Patent Office will rethink it. Let's not fool ourselves folks. This decision will in no way restore sanity to the US Patent Office.

The US Patent Office loves patents. Think about it. The more they approve, the more money they get. If Uncle Sam is addicted to anything it's not Crackberry, it's MONEY. The easier patents are to get, the more people apply for them. The more who apply, the more money USPO makes, the more employees they have, the more they can justify hiring more managers to manage more employees and so on. The USPO has no reason at all to favor a sane patent system. It would reduce their income.

Re:It Says... (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626769)

The US Patent Office loves patents. Think about it. The more they approve, the more money they get. If Uncle Sam is addicted to anything it's not Crackberry, it's MONEY. The easier patents are to get, the more people apply for them. The more who apply, the more money USPO makes, the more employees they have, the more they can justify hiring more managers to manage more employees and so on. The USPO has no reason at all to favor a sane patent system. It would reduce their income.

You are so far offbase it's not even funny.

The USPO doesn't keep the patent application money even if it is granted. It all goes into the general fund, not to the department. If people apply for double the ammount of patents, they don't get even $1 more. Additionaly, if your patent is rejected, you do not get your money back.

The first part has been the primary problem with the patent office lately. They can't hire enough patent examiners since congress controls 100% of their purse strings so even if their work load doubles, their patent examiners remain pretty much the same.

Finally, the reasons patents have become so easy to get is that the courts have pretty much eliminated the obvious test completely. This has been their primary problem, not greed as you claim.

Re:It Says... (1)

stanwirth (621074) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627073)

Guys, it's the USPTO, not the USPO. The USPO is the United States Post Office. The USPTO is the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

You can't be serious (1)

werdna (39029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627219)

It says that the USPTO has and will continue to issue bullshit patents on anything put in front of them, but that when a patent affects 25% of the government, regardless of validity, they will toss it out so they don't risk actual reform.

All evidence is to the contrary. What is your basis for suggesting these patents are truly in trouble? A kazillion dollars were spent in defense of RIM at trial, including multi-kazillion dollars in an effort to identify real prior art to invalidate the claims of the patents in suit. After that, a judge and jury, dealing with legal and factual questions respectively, found the patents not invalid, and the judgments were twice affirmed by the Federal Circuit.

It is ROUTINE for initial official actions during examination and reexaminations to ding all or nearly all the claims of a patent, and this indicates nothing about whether the patent claims will survive, either unscathed or with irrelevant amendments. Until this process is over, you are simply hoping past hope that these facts will ultimately support your prejudices. It may feel good for yout to engage in name-calling, but that isn't much of an argument.

Canadian Plot (5, Funny)

king-manic (409855) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626324)

This is just one step in a grand conspiracy by those sneaky canucks to take over the word.

I for one welcome our touque wearing overlords.

Re:Canadian Plot (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626336)

Any particular word?

Re:Canadian Plot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14626397)

I'd say "antidisestablishmentarianism" is a good choice, eh?

Re:Canadian Plot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14626488)

I think I prefer "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolvanoconiosis" eh?

Re:Canadian Plot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14627021)

Loic, is that you?

Re:Canadian Plot (1)

GrievousMistake (880829) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626609)

Dude, it's the man. He wants the word.
It's all part of the conspiracy, y'see. Against the people.

Fascinating how the definite article can sometimes make statements even vaguer, innit?

Re:Canadian Plot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14627142)

Innit? Clearly you're not British: you used that in the proper way. I'm sure it's now only used where expanded out ("isn't it") doesn't make any sense.

Re:Canadian Plot (2, Funny)

jemoody (532095) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626695)

We'll take "chesterfield".

Re:Canadian Plot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14627029)

"barcalounger"

Smells fishy (1)

Saint37 (932002) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626335)

How does a judge have the expertise to decide this. Are expert witnesses providing the rationale behind the decision or is this a case of political pressure on the court influencing its decision. Definitely something that needs to be clarified.

http://www.commodore69.com/ [commodore69.com]

Re:Smells fishy (1)

drhamad (868567) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626469)

This was not a court decision, this was a USPTO decision.

That being said, there would be a massive amount of expert testimony and testimony of those involved if it did come down to the judge to have to decide. I'm not sure why "this needs to be clarified" though - trials are not held to please the public's interpretation of them. If you want it clarified, go to court and watch the proceedings. And read the final decisions - those will tell you what the judge (at least expressly) based his decisions on.

Blackberry will stay. (1)

Drakin030 (949484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626379)

I am coming to the connclusion that the Blackberry will be staying. People are begining to take sides, not to mention im sure there are plenty of things going on behind the scenes.

Im sure right now there is a gov. official holding someone at gunpoint telling them not to side with the Blackberry. Its not going anywhere, the goverment wont let it. They are dependant on it.

Of course! Its just about money. (1)

werdna (39029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627263)

I am coming to the connclusion that the Blackberry will be staying. People are begining to take sides, not to mention im sure there are plenty of things going on behind the scenes.

Of course the Blackberry will stay online, perhaps with a brief glitch. Nobody, least of all the plaintiffs, wants to see the valuable resource shut down. The problem is that RIM has been totally unyielding -- much to their detriment -- in an effort to win by hard-lining and stonewalling. Now that their failure has been dismal and almost absolute, this is just one last "hail mary" pass to get leverage in a hopeless negotiation.

Once the injunctin is in place, market forces will work their magic.

good things (1)

PMuse (320639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626385)

What does it say about the US Patent office and software patents that these patents have made it through trials, appeals, etc and only now has the Patent Office decided they weren't any good in the first place?

That the PTO had its head up its collective @$$ on computer patents in the 1990s (which everyone here knew) and that there is the slim possibility that the PTO has now pulled its head back out (which most people don't believe yet).

All evidence to the contrary (1)

werdna (39029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627297)

That the PTO had its head up its collective @$$ on computer patents in the 1990s (which everyone here knew) and that there is the slim possibility that the PTO has now pulled its head back out (which most people don't believe yet).

At least in this case, all evidence is to the contrary. These patents have been super-litigated and held up. The PTO reexam is highly unlikely to change that result, and if it did, would be highly unlikely to survive an appeal. Think about it. If there really was killer art found by some miracle long after the case had been litigated -- we would be discussing their invalidity on the merits.

Drug companies beware (4, Interesting)

zerofoo (262795) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626389)

This action by the USPTO will have HUGE implications for anyone that has a patent on anything.

A patent is supposed to secure, for a limited time, exclusive use of the patented item for the inventor. What the USPTO has effectively done here is said:

"We rubber stamp almost everything. You shouldn't build a business on a patent until it has been tried in the courts."

Of course, most patents will not be tried in courts until there is money (and a big business) at stake....catch 22.

A patent is supposed to be a guarantee - the due diligence should have been done before the patent was granted. Now, no business based on a patent has any reason to believe that their business is safe, or that they will recoup the costs of their investment until the courts decide so.

The patents granted by the USPTO are effectively paper tigers and not worthy of investment trust.

-ted

Re:Drug companies beware (2, Insightful)

mpsmps (178373) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626637)

Actually, I think it will have the opposite result. Since it looks like NTP will end up getting hundreds of millions of dollars for invalid patents, people will start filing many more patents that they know won't stand up in court.

Re:Drug companies beware (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626872)

So are saying that you can sue if the USPTO approves your patent and then later decides it is invalid?

Re:Drug companies beware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14626985)

Wow, talk about talking out of your behind without actually understanding the issue. How many small little "intellectual firms" will file for patents without ever creating an actual working product. Instead they wait until someone has created a product, made money off of it, and then sued them to get royalties.

What does it say? (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626401)

It certainly implies to the man on the street that they can be bought by Crackberry addicted CEOs and similiar people with enough influence to apply pressure, be it political, financial or something else. Just when you thought that the USPTO could not be more of a laughing stock, they go and pull a stunt like this. If they had any sense, they would have let the courts decide the outcome and place the responsibility for any service disruptions or invalidated patents on the legal system.

Still, look on the bright side, this has hopefully made a lot of very influencial people realise that stupid patents, be they on software, business processes or anything else have far more potential for harm than good. Maybe once the USPTO has finished wiping the egg off it's face they will realise this too and be a little bit more careful about just how much latitude they give patent applicants in future. It's highly unlikely to make the problem go away of course, there are now far to many companies in the US operating purely on the basis of an "IP Portfolio" for that, but at this point anything that might apply some brakes to the process is to be welcomed.

Re:What does it say? (2, Insightful)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626642)

All of those points are moot unless they are backed up by changes in the law. To rely on policy instead of force of law is a recipe for further political manipulation. All patents should be treated the same, not just the ones that draw enough attention.

They can start by eliminating (as I understand it) the use of patent fees to fund the USPTO. Those fees should go into the general fund and the USPTO should have a budget like everyone else. That way the USPTO isn't encouraged to allow every patent that crosses their path to be accepted just to collect the fees.

The definition of "significantly new" needs to be tightened up also. Some forms of patents should also be eliminated, such as business methods (a BS invention if you ask me).

Someday we might see copywrite reform also but I'm afraid I won't live that long.

It shows... (2, Interesting)

mopslik (688435) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626406)

What does it say about the US Patent office and software patents that these patents have made it through trials, appeals, etc and only now has the Patent Office decided they weren't any good in the first place?

  • It says nothing about software patents in general, only something about these particular patents.
  • It suggests that, despite some rather glaring inefficiencies, that there is some hope that patents can be overturned when shown to be invalid.

NTP? BlackBerry? (1, Troll)

shish (588640) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626410)

Somebody patented the network time protocol? They're competing with a fruit company? WTF? I've even read the article and I have no idea what they're on about :-/

Can somebody please explain, or at least define the terms used?

Political pressure (4, Funny)

sphealey (2855) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626428)

It means that 20 Senators, 100 Congressmen, and 1000 federal judges, along with Tommy Lee Jones in a US Marshall's uniform, called upon the USPTO and told them that they could either find a way to invalidate the patents or they could all find themselves drafted under secret provisions of various secret laws and assigned as the US Navy's designated patent examiners at the secret underground Antarctic base for the rest of their lives, with no vacation time or days off. And no funeral; their bodies would just be tossed out for leapord seals to eat sometime around 2030.

And believe me, that was probably the only true BIPARTISAN delegation Washington DC has seen in 13 years.

sPh

Prior Art (4, Informative)

hipster_doofus (670671) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626495)

There was an article - I believe in the Wall Street Journal - about these patents being rejected within the last week. The USPTO only does a very minimal prior art search during the initial application process because there is just too much data to dig through in order to complete an exhaustive search for prior art. Once the patent is issued, if a patent disput arises, then normally the two sides of the dispute will provide additional information to the USPTO that supports their side of the argument. In this instance, RIM was able to find prior art in Europe that pre-dated NTP's patent applications by a year, or so. This prior art was the basis for the non-final rejections that have been recently returned by the USPTO.

Uh, huh (5, Insightful)

typical (886006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626530)

Wouldn't it have been easier to just disallow patenting this in the *first* place?

The five patents are 5,625,670 [uspto.gov] , 5,631,946 [uspto.gov] , 5,819,172 [uspto.gov] ,
6,067,451 [uspto.gov] ,
and 6,317,592 [uspto.gov] .

Let's take a look at the first of these patents:



1. A system for transmitting information from one of a plurality of originating processors contained in an electronic mail system to at least one of a plurality of destination processors contained in an electronic mail system with the information including originated information originating from one of the plurality of originating processors and being transmitted by an RF information transmission network to at least one of the plurality of destination processors and other originated information originating from one of the originating processors is transmitted with the electronic mail system without using the RF information transmission network to at least one of the destination processors comprising:

at least one interface, one of the at least one interface connecting the electronic mail system containing the plurality of originating processors to the RF information transmission network; and wherein

the originated information is transmitted in association with an address of the one interface from the one of the plurality of originating processors to the one interface with the electronic mail system responding to the address of the one interface to direct the originated information from the one of the plurality of originating processors to the one interface; and

the originated information is transmitted from the one of the at least one interface to the RF information transmission network with an address of the at least one of the plurality of destination processors to receive the originated information being added at the originating processor originating the originated information, or by either the electronic mail system that contains the plurality of originating processors or the one interface.


So, basically, written as confusingly as possible, these turkeys have filed for a patent that covers any email system in which some information is sent via RF and some is not and the devices involved have addresses. The last is pretty much a given, and the first is pretty straightforward.

I'm serious. Advances in device development simply do not require patents. This is stupid. Why should anyone be granted a monopoly over this? Why does the production of RF devices require a patent at all? Say I'm an engineer. I want to send email from a mobile computer (hardly a stretch to envision). So I select a data transmission medium. Well, there's RF, IR, etc. These all have different properties. I choose the one that is most appropriate -- RF.

Yes, this patent got thrown out, but what I'm saying is that this is not a field in which patents -- guaranteed, time-limited government monopolies -- are necessary to produce advancements. The lifecycle of a new device is maybe four years or so. A patent is *five times* that -- an eternity in the computer world. It's just not useful for pushing new technology into the public domain. Right now, 1986 technology is *just* leaving the domain of patents. That is ridiculous.

What the existence of this patent states is that it took *so* much R&D to decide on the use of RF as a transmission format for a mobile computer that the engineer who decided on it needs a *twenty year monopoly* on the production of all devices to recoup his investment. That's absolutely ridiculous.

Now, as I'm sure many people will point out, this patent was thrown out. However, you can easily find similarly absurd patents by simply searching for the latest patents containing "computer" [uspto.gov] on the USPTO. (At the moment, the top hit for "computer" on the USPTO is from some ambitious IBM woman who seems to have essentially essentially patented IDSes that have a threshhold on the number of failed login attempts in a time period [uspto.gov] (stunningly, she has chosen to produce a *readable patent*). I want justification for why my government restricts me from producing similar systems in the name of funding this work.

Plus, if NTP had been a little less greedy and offered to settle for, say, $100K or $200K, they could have siphoned money off of all kinds of companies without effort, just because of the legal costs of fighting these battles. The patent system is simply *broken*.

Also, for open source people, fighting these battles, no matter how much in the right they are, is generally not at option. They just get squished.

You have to ask yourself -- there are just under seven million granted patents. Do we need seven million government-granted monopolies in order to ensure that technology advances? I make new systems and produce new ideas every day, and almost every patent I've ever seen is a very straightforward solution to the problem, once the problem has been asked.

THAT's worth it (1)

sboyko (537649) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626853)

stunningly, she has chosen to produce a *readable patent*

Now THAT process is worth patenting!

Kill the Amazon "one Click" patent (3, Interesting)

up2ng (110551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626562)

I guess if the IRS came up with "One Click" tax returns Amazon's patent would have to be removed.

At least the US Gov. could have been a little more transparent about it.

"Go back to bed America, You are free to do what we tell you"

Re:Kill the Amazon "one Click" patent (1)

ronanbear (924575) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626851)

LOL.

Actually no. But if the IRS came up with One Click and Amazon tried to sue them (or their IT contractor) then a way would be found to invalidate Amazons patent. The big mistake NPT made was going all the way to the wire to try and get Blackberrys turned off. If they'd settled for less than their court award after the award NPT would have done much better. Since RIM probably didn't steal IP they just parallel developed it the damages were excessive and the punishment of shutting Blackberry down was absurd.

It might be different if RIM had actually copied NPTs work. NPT didn't create much of a fuss when the Blackberry came out. Why did they wait so long before suing RIM if they were patent trolls.

I vote (1)

Cyno (85911) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626602)

Dismantle the patent system completely. Software patents make no sense. As long as someone wants to push for software patents I call for no patents whatsoever.

I vote to dismantle the patent office.

Who's with me?

Re:I vote (3, Interesting)

Slowping (63788) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626828)

I agree... partially.

I think the patent system should not be granted by a centralised and under-staffed authority like the patent office. Rather, patents should be peer reviewed. After all, granted patents become publicly disclosed anyways. The patent office simply acts like a program committee. The patent office receives patent applications and, depending on the domain of the patent, picks random reviewers from a pool. The reviews are returned and weighted differently depending on reviewer's association with the applying party. The patent office then chooses whether or not to grant a patent. All patent applications and their reviews are made public. Not perfect, but I think it's a good compromise.

First, companies or individuals can register as reviewers for specific categories of patents. They are then added to the pool of reviewers for said category. If patent applications are given to a pool of a dozen or so random reviewers, the odds are small that a small group of companies can collude to push their own stuff through.

Right now there's no penalty for companies to file a ton of patents. But a peer-review system ensures that anything they wish to patent will be pre-examined by their competitors. I think this will automatically push most things off the patent treadmill and into trade-secret territory.

Second, instead of patent clerks trying to digest the mangled legalese that most companies file, their competitors have a vested intrest in using their own lawyers to demangle and pick apart any application. The clerks then have access to a relatively clarified view of whether or not an application is valid.

Finding Prior Art in a Limited Time (1)

paladin217 (226829) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626651)

What everyone has to realize is that there is a vast amount of data to dig through in order to find prior art that can be used to reject claims in a patent application. Simply put, a patent examiner is given a limited amount of time to research for prior art for each patent application. If a particular claim cannot be refuted, the patent examiner must accept it.

As someone previously mentioned, as the claims in the patent get challenged, more time can be spent looking for prior art that can be used to refute the claims in the patent application.

The system isn't perfect, but it is the best we have, considering how much technology has evolved in such a short period.

You FaFil It? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14626655)

of p8ogress. to make sure the

What does it mean? (2, Insightful)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626661)

It means the system works. It does not work the way lots of people would like, but then, those people aren't in charge, aren't looking to be in charge, and wouldn't make it if they tried to take charge. It may be inconvenient, but governments will apply their authority until it is taken from them by force. Nobody seems to be upset enough about this issue to stage a coup, so the status quo prevails.

That was a ridiculous question . . . (3, Insightful)

werdna (39029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14626842)

What does it say about the US Patent office and software patents that these patents have made it through trials, appeals, etc and only now has the Patent Office decided they weren't any good in the first place?

This is ridiculous question. What do you think it says? The timing arises from a corrupt decision led by pure politics, driven by the U.S. Senate, caused the PTO to take up a Commissioner's reexamination, to protect a non-US company from an injunction.

Does it mean that the initial examination by the PTO was substandard? Of course not -- in fact, that very question was the point of the trial and two appeals. RIM, spending kazillions to search the world for prior art and multi-kazillions on lawyers to tear the patent and PTO to shreds, couldn't convince either a jury or the Federal Circuit that the patents were less than airtight. It was simply the economic and political fallout of a possible injunction that led to this "hail mary" pass.

Does this mean that the present rejections raise new doubt about the patents? Not necessarily, and probably not. It is ROUTINE for the PTO to initially reject all claims of a patent on an initial office action, and this may be nothing more than a perfunctory "through the paces" rejection. I don't really know how much trouble the patents are in (and not all claims were rejected by the way), because I have not studied the documents, but I find it astonishing that there would be any better prior art than was considered by the courts before. So much money was spent to defend RIM in this all-or-nothing case, it is hard to believe that any substantial new question of patentability could now arise. In any case, only time will tell. And even if there is a final rejection of each adjudicated infringed claim in each patent, there will be an administrative appeal, and then an appeal to the Federal Courts, which have so far been unimpressed by the claims of invaliidty.

Do not be surprised, however, if the patents reissue with the original claims (only one claim of many asserted is needed!), or claims not materially weaker than they began.

Oh, there's the problem. (1)

Celestial Avenger (826964) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627088)

On each patent application, there's a part that says, "Do not write in this section," and they wrote, "OK."

Do something 703-312-6600 (2, Interesting)

galexand (151650) | more than 8 years ago | (#14627092)

Call your senators [senate.gov] and ask them to please gut the patent system.

But more directly, you can contact NTP. NTP is a legal fiction of a business invented by an author of legal fiction by the name of Donald Stout. He is a partner at Antonelli Terry Stout & Kraus, LLP [antonelli.com] . Their phone number is 703-312-6600.

A thousand polite calls will be more effective than a thousand rude ones. Though honestly a few dozen rude ones wouldn't start WWIII.

Once you call, ask for Don Stout and then say "Please stop abusing the patent system."

Keep in mind that it is illegal to use an interstate communications device to harrass someone anonymously. So give your name on request! Then it's legal!

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