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The Patent Anaconda

By myrtleglove in Internet
Mon Dec 05, 2005 at 03:06:38 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

Of all the companies seeking an Intellectual Property stranglehold on the Internet, one takes the prize for sheer gall.

Although it escaped public notice at the time (perhaps because it was published on September 11, 2001), Amazon.com once applied for a US trademark (Serial Number 75765366) on the "0-click", not knowing that the concept would soon appear on the net as a joke.

Software Patents

The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, once said that some patents combine "well-known techniques in an apparently arbitrary way, like patenting going shopping in a yellow car on a Thursday." The fact that the USPTO actually granted a large number of these patents (despite a requirement to examine them for obviousness) was one of the major issues of the dot-com era.This has often been attributed to the lack of USPTO resources for finding prior art. As the vast majority of knowledge about software was either part of the undocumented public knowledge, or stored in obscure places, it wasn't usually considered by patent examiners.

The situation has improved a little since the 1990s. A number of software prior-art databases have arisen. The USPTO now encourages its examiners to search a variety of prior art sources such as the wayback machine. Companies such as IP.com now provide searchable databases of "defensive publications" which also allow customers to post discoveries to prevent their patenting by others.

However, when the first wave of e-commerce patents hit the USPTO, they were left floundering. It is arguable whether the quality of examination has really improved since then, as patents are still being issued that raise eyebrows amongst software professionals. For example, Microsoft's XML patent has come in for a fair amount of criticism. The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure have shown how it is just about impossible to conduct e-commerce without infringing some patent or the other (even in Europe, which supposedly has much greater restrictions on the patenting of software).

Nonetheless, one patent continues to stand out as the epitome of restrictive Internet patents.

The One-Click Patent

The "One Click" patent, as one of the new breed of software patents for which the normal rules of obviousness seemed to have been suspended, was widely criticised at the time it was granted.This didn't stop Amazon from suing Barnes and Noble for infringement, thus gaining a tactical injunction before the Christmas shopping period in 1999, but ultimately settling out of court.

The satire site Despair.com said of Jeff Bezos:

"He's really inspired a new movement in the dotcom universe - frivolous, destructive intellectual property lawsuits. I couldn't be happier to be a part of the revolution."

Amidst the protests and calls to boycott Amazon, Jeff Bezos moved into damage-control mode. After all, Amazon still had a large proportion of customers who also took an active interest in the development of the Internet and didn't look kindly on attempts to throttle the growth of e-commerce.

After talking to Tim O'Reilly, Jeff Bezos created a web page in which he refused to give up his patents, but promised to lobby politicians to:

1. Reduce the lifespan of software and business-method patents
2. Have a public comment period for patents, allowing members of the public to submit prior art.

Naturally, and perhaps predictably, nothing came of this.

A second wave of spin came with the formation of Bountyquest, formed by Bezos with Tim O'Reilly. This was a venture in which the general public, typically people with no knowledge of patent law, were asked to submit prior art to try and invalidate the "One-Click" patent, amongst others. Again, nothing came of this either (except for some additional prior art for Amazon to cite preemptively in future patent filings). O'Reilly later claimed that he had "killer" prior art, but it has yet to surface. In any event, Amazon's drive to patent e-commerce has only accelerated since then.

Amazon's plan to control the web

Search any international patent database for Amazon.com, and over 100 patents and applications come back. The Register says of 3 of these patents:

"It's a sweeping landgrab which puts e-commerce rivals on the alert. The techniques granted to Amazon.com by the patent office are already ubiquitous on commercial and social networking web sites." -and points out that Jeff Bezos once said he would never patent such things. Amazon also reportedly attempted to hide a patent application on blogging by filing a nonpublication request.

The original "One-Click" patent application is used as the basis for a number of Amazon's additional patent filings around the world. The Japanese application ran into unexpected hurdles when the Japanese patent office initially rejected the application, citing Japanese version of the book "User interface design" by Alan Cooper and an earlier Japanese patent. The Japanese "gift giving" incarnation of this patent has only recently had an examination request filed. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

The "international" versions of the "one-click" patent application tend to have narrower claims than the original one in the US. Amazon, like all US patentees, is under a continuing duty to disclose any prior art that it knows of to the USPTO. Therefore any prior art known to Amazon that is prompting them to narrow these claims should already be in the file wrapper of the "One-Click" patent in the US.

The use of patents in litigation by Amazon is increasing too.

Having had to shell out about $40 million for the use of Soverain's patents, Amazon has shown that it will use its portfolio against anyone who dares challenge it. Faced with an allegation that it was infringing one of Cendant's patents, Amazon responded with a lawsuit against Cendant for patent infringement. In a lawsuit from a small one-man company, IPXL, for patent infringement, Amazon greedily pursued costs when he lost, only failing to obtain them because of mistakes by the Amazon legal team.

Fighting Back

There have been a few attempts to combat software patents.

The Public Patent Foundation has filed requests to re-examine both a data compression patent relating to the JPEG and Microsoft's FAT Patent. The Electronic Frontier Foundation "is launching a Patent Busting Project to take on illegitimate patents that suppress non-commercial and small business innovation or limit free expression online." and has made a list of patents targeted for destruction.

Surprisingly, neither of these relatively well-funded ventures has addressed the "one-click" patent, despite its high profile and continuing potential for damage to e-commerce . (The EFF once suggested it, but it didn't make the final list).

Nevertheless, a few campaigns that directly attack the Amazon "one-Click" patent and its descendents are gathering momentum around the world.

The FFII are involved in a post-grant opposition against one of the European descendents of the "One-Click" patent, which essentially tries to patent gift-giving.

In Australia, the Telecommunications giant Telstra is attacking in court the version of the "One-click" patent that has been filed there. They say they want to protect the industry from being affected by Amazon's application.

A lone blogger has put together a 268-page request for re-examination of the original Amazon One-Click patent in the USA. His prior art includes an internet shopping patent and references to the DigiCash payment system. He is looking for donations to fund the request.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o joke
o wayback machine
o IP.com
o Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure
o infringing
o "One Click"
o widely criticised
o Despair.co m
o web page
o claimed that he had "killer" prior art
o The Register
o attempted to hide a patent application
o additional patent filings
o Japanese application
o unexpected hurdles
o "gift giving" incarnation
o lawsuit against Cendant
o post-grant opposition
o attacking
o blogger
o request for re-examination
o One-Click patent
o internet shopping patent
o DigiCash
o Also by myrtleglove

Display: Sort:
The Patent Anaconda | 38 comments (21 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
There's not only the 1-click-patent on ecommerce (2.25 / 4) (#4)
by modelnine on Sun Dec 04, 2005 at 08:05:51 AM EST

Fine article! You might just yet link to an article by ffii.org on Eshops if that's the patent area you want to discuss:


Keep up the good work!

PS: I'm not commenting on your layout, others have done that already. ;-)

One of the products I work on a fair bit (2.75 / 8) (#12)
by daani on Sun Dec 04, 2005 at 10:17:43 PM EST

is a component used in embedded systems. All of our customers are very concerned about accidentally infringing on a patent. But we don't have the resources to do any patent searches, so we try very hard to only use algorithms that we can find a 20 year old reference to in a textbook or paper.

This has led to the strange situation where whenever we implement something, even if the algorithms come straight out of a developers head we have to search for something similar enough in old literature in case some clown has patented it since.

My point? "Legitimate" algorithm patents can also be problematic. Patent law does not only prevent people from stealing ideas. It also means anyone without a big legal department can't invent anything. Or you could just risk it.

This is what K5 is supposed to be about... (1.50 / 2) (#19)
by haplopeart on Mon Dec 05, 2005 at 12:46:46 PM EST

+1 FP all the way the best article written for the site in a good long time!
Bill "Haplo Peart" Dunn
Administrator Epithna.com

Not much here . . . (2.71 / 7) (#21)
by Neil Rubin on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 12:27:53 AM EST

Allow me to summarize. Amazon is evil because:
  1. Amazon filed a trademark application for the "0-click" mark on August 26, 1999. The trademark was never granted and the application was abandoned by Amazon on June 5, 2002. (Search for 75765366 at uspto.gov.) Net result: Amazon wasted a few thousand dollars on lawyers and trademark application fees.
  2. Amazon obtained a patent on 1-click, sued barnesandnoble.com, and lost. That is, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that Amazon could not obtain a preliminary injunction against barnesandnoble.com because barnesandnoble.com had "mounted a substantial challenge to the validity of the [1-click] patent." Net result: barnesandnoble.com has to change their ordering system for a little while, a precident is established against really silly Internet business method patents, the Patent Office becomes more careful in reviewing such patents, and everyone involved spends a lot on lawyers. Yes, this is all annoying, but it is hardly evidence that the sky is falling.
  3. Amazon protects itself against patent suits by using its own patents against those that sue it. Sounds to me like this is only a problem if you plan to sue Amazon for patent infringement.
  4. If you sue Amazon and lose because you didn't have a case, Amazon might try to make you pay its legal fees. Probably only a problem for you if you plan to extort money from Amazon by bringing baseless suits.
Aside from the 1-click mess, which in the U.S. at least ultimately came out the right way, why exactly should I care about any of this if I'm not in the business of suing Amazon or of representing it in court?

What the hell is Soverain? (1.50 / 2) (#22)
by wurp on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 04:15:36 AM EST

I mean, I could google it, but I only care enough to bitch about an unusual reference put out there with no other comment, not enough to go look it up.

Other than that, great article!  Not really much new information, but it's a great summary.
Buy my stuff

Fucktard (none / 0) (#31)
by it certainly is on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 05:03:53 AM EST

Soverain is a software and services company that is focused on Global 3000 ...
Soverain will improve and extend upon your technology - extending the life of ...
www.soverain.com/pages/1/ - 15k - Cached - Similar pages

Amazon hit by 'shopping cart' patents lawsuit - ZDNet UK News
It is Soverain Software that is now taking Amazon to court over the 'shopping
... Amazon says it is now being pursued by Soverain over patent number 5708780 ...
news.zdnet.co.uk/internet/ecommerce/0,39020372,39147408,00.htm - 53k - 7 Dec 2005 - Cached - Similar pages

Amazon resolves patent lawsuits to tune of $40m | InfoWorld | News ...
Amazon.com will pay out $40 million to Soverain Software LLC to settle two lawsuits
alleging patent infringement, the online giant revealed in a filing on ...
www.infoworld.com/article/05/08/11/HNamazonpatents_1.html - 78k - Cached - Similar pages

The Seattle Times: Business & Technology: Amazon.com set to pay on ...
Amazon.com, the world's largest Internet retailer, agreed to pay $40 million to
Soverain Software to settle two lawsuits over patents related to online ...
seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2002435599_amazon12.html - 26k - Cached - Similar pages

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

Intellectual Property (none / 1) (#23)
by Trystan on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 07:08:08 AM EST

There are those who claim that intellectual property rights are a good thing.  Patents help corporations innovate by protecting their investment for a set period of time.  Copyrights protect their investment by allowing them to control distribution of the finished product (in terms of items that are copyrightable).

Why do we need both?  Why can't patents and copyrights exist but refuse to allow a situation where both would protect something?  A patent used to be used for mechanical inventions and required a sample to be submitted along with the application.  When that requirement went away is when the USPTO began to slip into uselessness.

"Business methods" should not be intellectual property.  They offer nothing innovative to society at large, propagating higher prices and restricted supply because law provides a safe haven against competitors.

Heck, right now we've got the DMCA, patents, and copyright.  The recordable CDs we purchase have a tax applied to them that is given back to the music industry.  The DMCA has been used to try and prevent a garage door opener from being made, replacement ink cartridges from being made, and a third party technician from working on a company's product.

How soon before we lease our television?  Our X-Box 720?  When we lease, we don't own, and don't think an EULA is anything more than a lease.  But don't worry folks!  The EULA specifically says that the manufacturer isn't liable for patent infringement or other safety concerns.  The manufacturer can make something as cheap as they want, give it to you, have you sign a piece of paper, and they're off the hook.

(In the Blizzard vs. Bnetd case the presiding judge issued a statement that by agreeing to the EULA, the EULA became a binding contract and all provisions of it immediately became effective.  Since those provisions included giving up certain rights to the software as provided by copyright law, Blizzard was able to pursue the case.)

The companies want our money but want to provide a shoddy product.  They want to stifle our ability to compete with them.  They want the old market to stay, where information isn't spread.  They want our freedom to speak and express our concerns taken from us.  Sony recently filed a patent on technology that will lock a DVD to the particular machine it is first played on.  Are we to look forward to having to replace our entire game or movie library when our DVD player breaks next?  (Side note:  the patent granted above is something worthy of a patent, I am not arguing that.)  This is after their MediaMaxx and other "protective technologies" impaired consumer machines - all in the name of intellectual property rights.

I recently repaired my own PlayStation 2 - in the future, this might very well be a crime unless I have the explicit permission of Sony.

All of these concerns should be of immediate concern to anyone who enjoys their life and the freedoms associated with it.  

A few comments (none / 0) (#26)
by Neil Rubin on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 05:59:39 PM EST

  1. You complain about things being protected by both copyright and patent, but you should recognize that copyright and patent cover different aspects of a thing and that courts insist on keeping those aspects distinct. For example, "the design of a useful article, as defined in this section, shall be considered a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article." 17 U.S.C. § 101. Blank forms are also not copyrightable, because they are utilitarian rather than expressive. 37 C.F.R. § 202(1)(c).
  2. Regarding the DMCA cases involving garage door openers and printer ink, the important word in your comment is "tried." The people trying to use the DMCA this way lost, and the courts got the law right. I think these cases are something to celebrate, rather than evidence that the sky is falling. True, it cost people a lot of time and money to get to the right answer, but I think that is inevitable as the system adapts to new technologies. Who ever said that we could enjoy the benefits of the rule of law for free?
  3. As far as the imagined future where we lease everything and become slaves to the megacorporations, the evidence so far is also promising. The market rejects technologies that make consumers worse off than they were before. DivX was rejected. The relatively flexible and consumer-friendly DRM of iTunes has trounced more restrictive competitors. Sony is taking a real beating over the XCP fiasco, and will likely owe its customers and artists quite a bit of money after the class-action lawyers are done. Certainly, the market can get things wrong, and we shouldn't be complacent, but I think that the past gives us reason to be optimistic.
  4. Regarding business method patents, it's not clear that they are going to be anywhere near the big deal that some might have predicted. The USPTO has instituted extra review procedures for them and they take significantly longer to issue than patents in the more traditional subject matter areas. In 2004, only 11% of applications for business method patents were ultimately being granted. Meanwhile, all of the big money patent suits I can think of, e.g. Eolas v. Microsoft and NTP v. RIM have involved patents in the more traditional areas of medicine, chemistry, electronics, and software. It is telling that the only outrageous business method case anyone can seem to cite is the 1-click case from six years ago, a case that the patent holder basically lost.

[ Parent ]
Replies. (none / 1) (#29)
by Trystan on Thu Dec 08, 2005 at 10:42:35 PM EST

1.  If copyright and patents are distinctly different then why are both being applied to software as forms of market control?  It's no longer enough that Microsoft Office is copyrighted.  Now the actual file formats it uses are encumbered by multiple patents.

I don't believe patents should be applicable to anything that is not concrete.  They should not be applied to anything "discovered" that is simple fact.  (Genome sequencing, mathematical formulas, software sorting.. actually, all of them are just about the same thing.  Heh.)  They should not be applied to anything that falls under the protection of copyright or could otherwise be considered an expressive work.  This applies to point 4, ultimately.  It doesn't matter if they're being applied for in force - patent protection simply should not apply.  There is no non obvious ways to run a business, cook your books, or whatever else the scheisters are looking for.

I'm not against copyright.  I'm even okay with the current term of copyright; I just wish that corporations which held older copyrights would release them more often.  Literature, in particular.  (There's actually been a quite decent surge in older software being pushed into the public domain or GPL type licensing.)

2.  SCO is currently "trying" to reposses UNIX intellectual property it claims is contained within Linux.  The case has been going nowhere for how many years now?  How many millions of dollars has IBM spent?  Market share, economic damage?  Whether you support SCO in their endeavor or not, surely you would have expected them to put forth some credible claims by now - and they have not.  That cost is unacceptable when being borne by an individual; it should be considered unacceptable when being borne by a company.

Unfortunately the Courts don't ultimately decide what is law and what isn't.  They only decide how the law is enforced, and in some cases, whether it's legal to be in effect.  The fact that companies view the DMCA as a possible tool in the above named cases and also as a general deterrent shows that they will push for more power in a similar vein.  This is what I disagree with - that the threat of litigation can be used against anyone at anytime with little to no repercussion.

It should also be noted that these cases are the ones who fought back.  How many have folded at the receipt of a litigation notice?  Intimidation is a large part of market control - look at the Microsoft anti-trust case for some great examples of that.

Lastly, it only takes one case to set a precedent that other case law builds upon.  Each case by itself diverts from the original opinion only by a bit, but when enough cases have been tried we find ourselves at the opposite end of the spectrum of where we want to be.

Look at the original Supreme Court case that led to software patents today.  Twenty years ago I'd wager a lot of folks would have ridiculed the patents being applied for today.

3.  The market rejects technologies in which the consumer is worse off than before assuming that competition is available.  With the increasing encumbrance of intellectual property in the technological fields it becomes harder and harder to walk the minefield without setting one off.

When competition is not available then the market takes what it can get.  Consider the changes in Tivo as of late.  When they had heavy competition from many areas and were extremely popular they rebuffed the Hollywood attempts at controls on their devices.  Now, DRM is a reality on most Tivos and the company is completely unapologetic.  Where do we go for a competitor with that feature set without the DRM?

Sony is taking a beating over XCP/Suncomm but what about the other CDs that the music industry is ramming down our throat?  If Mark Russinovich - that is, a major player in the Win32 development arena that no one will question the knowledge or examination of - had not outed the XCP fiasco, what would have stopped Sony from continuing to peddle their crap software?

iTunes.  Can't argue with you there.  I'm an addict.  The interface is beautiful, the selection is fairly decent, the speed and customer service are excellent.  Worlds ahead of anything else on the market - but only Apple's market leading position allows them to dictate to the record industry what the prices and DRM will be.  At this point, iTunes has the upper hand.  Do you honestly believe that if iTunes' sales begin falling substantially that the MPAA won't be after iTunes to modify their pricing tiers?

Macromedia was never supposed to make it into VCRs.  It did, thanks to Congress.  Now every new device that's created that can play video or audio that might be copyrighted includes some sort of copy protection scheme which is nothing but infuriating, annoying, and useless.

Optimism is great.  Optimism, and things going well, and being interpreted right, should never completely replace wariness and an eye towards my freedoms and property. :)
[ Parent ]

Concreteness and abuse of the legal system . . . (none / 0) (#30)
by Neil Rubin on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 05:03:33 AM EST

I agree with much of what you say, but I'm not sure that a "concreteness" requirement for patentability would achieve the result you want:
I don't believe patents should be applicable to anything that is not concrete. They should not be applied to anything "discovered" that is simple fact. (Genome sequencing, mathematical formulas, software sorting.. actually, all of them are just about the same thing. Heh.) They should not be applied to anything that falls under the protection of copyright or could otherwise be considered an expressive work. This applies to point 4, ultimately. It doesn't matter if they're being applied for in force - patent protection simply should not apply. There is no non obvious ways to run a business, cook your books, or whatever else the scheisters are looking for.
Your position sounds very similar to the existing USPTO guidelines for business method patents, requiring a "physical transformation" or "concrete and tangible result." You can't patent "genome sequencing," but you can get a patent on a machine that does genome sequencing using a particular method. You can't patent a genetic sequence, but you can patent the use of that sequence to test for or treat a particular disease. You can't patent the bubble sort, but no one had ever used or described it before and it was not obvious, you could patent the use of it on a computer.

To take a specific example, there was a patent covering certain uses of the RSA encryption algorithm. The patent, however, did not in any way limit anyone's ability to explain, discuss, or teach the algorithm. Part of the theory behind the patent system is that it encourages the public dissemination of new ideas and techniques that would otherwise be kept secret. The patent only restricted the creation, use, sale, etc., of a "cryptographic communications system" using the algorithm in certain specified ways. Arguably, the patent did not even cover such basic uses of the algorithm as signature verification.

As to the SCO case, yes the case has taken longer than it should have. Perhaps we can take solace in the fact that the legal costs will hurt SCO far more than they will hurt IBM. If SCO had been going after an individual, of course, the situation would be different, but individuals don't have the money to go after that motivated SCO to sue IBM in the first place or the voluminous records that fueled the discovery disputes that have prolonged the SCO suit.

Clearly, there are cases of corporations abusing the legal system to silence individuals. Many states, however, have so-called Anti-SLAPP laws that seek to punish such corporations. Sham litigation by corporations trying to create or protect a monopoly is also a Sherman Act violation, punishable by treble damages. Ultimately, however, it's hard to imagine a system that is open to all valid claims but completely immune from abuse.

[ Parent ]

*grin* (none / 0) (#33)
by Trystan on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 06:53:07 AM EST

Many of the patents being applied for today in the realm of software development encompass the implementation of an idea as you say, however, they do so in such a vague manner that the implementation becomes irrelevant; the act alone, in any form, could be considered infringement.

Whether that's a result of the legal requirements of filing a patent application or companies simply attempting to grab as large of a piece of pie as possible is debatable.

"Concreteness" is extremely hard to define, I agree.  I don't believe the law is a black and white matter.  Interpretation and application of a few words can make all the difference in the world; however, the law wants to be absolute.  This is where I say the citizens should have a say in what is and isn't granted, that we should all act responsibly and grant those applications that deserve it, etc.  

I know that's a silly viewpoint, and I know it would never work, but it is my philosophy. =)

Thanks for putting up with me.  I'm not as well versed in the particular cases as you are and I've got quite a bit of interesting new reading material and resources from the conversation.

Merry Christmas!
[ Parent ]

excuse me (1.00 / 2) (#24)
by circletimessquare on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 01:02:39 PM EST

i've thought these thoughts before

plus, i've registered these thoughts with the international thought police authority

please refrain from having my thoughts, or i shall take legal action

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Double-plus-good post! (none / 0) (#36)
by A synx on Tue Dec 13, 2005 at 08:02:33 PM EST

[ Parent ]
make'em short (none / 1) (#25)
by mrgomel on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 04:46:32 PM EST

20 year patents for software are an abomination without an economic justification.

The twenty years period was designed for technology areas which have a looooong period of recovering the initial investment. Pharmaceuticals are such an area, where the designed drug gets approved only after 12-15 years.

Software does not need this. If one believes that software patents play any significant role at promoting progress, then they ought not be given out for longer than say, 3-5 years. That's enough to give your hipothetical startup, say Google 1998-2004, enough time to go from zero to 30 billion USD market cap. (110 billion as of today).

If using products/ideas as we want is outlawed... (none / 1) (#27)
by bighappyface on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 06:52:46 PM EST


australian legislation (none / 0) (#38)
by user 956 on Wed Dec 28, 2005 at 02:22:32 AM EST

That's actually going on in Australia right now. They're legalizing the taping of TV shows, and copying CDs to your MP3 player... basically what we consider "Fair Use". So many people do it, they acn't enforce the law (kind of like speeding when the limit is artificially low, i suppose)

Top Chuck Norris Facts.

(lazy sunday)
[ Parent ]
No mention of RMS? (none / 0) (#28)
by epcraig on Thu Dec 08, 2005 at 11:18:11 AM EST

Nor of his boycott?
There is no EugeneFreeNet.org, there is an efn.org
Isn't that kind of missing the point? (none / 1) (#32)
by Kasreyn on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 06:27:56 AM EST

If you prove prior art, yippee - a different numbskull is given the keys to the internet's functionality. All you've done is exchange one person with too much power over the rest of us, for another such person. The real issue is, should it be acceptable for the basic usability of such a valuable marketplace as the internet to be held hostage to any single interest? Ie., shouldn't basic enabling technologies like this be in the public domain? And where is the line drawn between marketable commodity and market-enabling technology?

I'm sure someone is waiting in the wings to lecture me about discouraging creativity. IP is about providing a limited monopoly, not handing over the keys to the marketplace itself. Everyone fares better when a potent new technology makes commerce more efficient, including whoever developed it, whether or not they have a patent.

"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Prior Art (none / 1) (#34)
by thejeff on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 08:29:16 AM EST

The other numbskull only gets the keys if he already patented the prior art. If you can show that the patented idea was in use, (and not patented), before the patent application, then the patent should be overturned and the idea becomes public.

Part of the problem is the Patent Office is used to just looking through former patents to see if something is new. In computer science for years little to nothing was patented, so there was nothing to find.

[ Parent ]

No, see 35 U.S.C. 102(b): (none / 0) (#35)
by Neil Rubin on Sat Dec 10, 2005 at 05:04:21 PM EST

A person shall be entitled to a patent unless-- . . . the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country, more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States

That is, if the prior art reference is more than a year old, no one can file any new patent application. The end result is that the "invention" is in the public domain. The rules are even more strict in Europe and Japan--in Europe, there is no one year grace period, for example.

[ Parent ]

0-click prior art (none / 0) (#37)
by user 956 on Mon Dec 26, 2005 at 12:09:36 AM EST

There must be some sort of prior art for that 0-click patent. For example: I have gestures installed in Opera that I use all the time. Can't that torpedo this POS patent?

Top Chuck Norris Facts.

(lazy sunday)
The Patent Anaconda | 38 comments (21 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
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