Appeals Court Finds Patent On Electronic Catalog Obvious... Tosses Out Multimillion Dollar Award Against Hyundai

from the it-took-this-long? dept

Well, well. Two years ago, we wrote about a patent held by Erich Spangenberg, a notorious patent hoarder who is involved in a ton of lawsuits against companies who actually make stuff, attacked with highly questionable patents. The patent in question (5,367,627) basically described an electronic parts catalog, which Spangenberg used to sue tons of companies. The absolute ridiculousness of the patent even got the EFF's attention after the USPTO agreed to re-examine that patent (though, a quick look through the USPTO's system doesn't seem to show anything actually happening with the re-exam -- unless I'm missing something... which is entirely possible).

That said, one of Spangenberg's many lawsuits over this patent, done by a shell company called Orion IP or, later, Clear with Computers, was against Hyundai. A jury sided with Spangenberg over Hyundai, and Hyundai appealed. After all that effort, the Federal Circuit has dumped the original ruling, noting that the "invention" (if you can call it that) was "anticipated" by earlier inventions. But, honestly, if you want to get a deeper sense of just how messed up the patent system is, you should read the full ruling:


What gets me is the pure absurdity of the whole thing. First of all, this is an electronic catalog. The argument that this should be patentable never should have passed the laugh test. But, it gets even more ridiculous. When Hyundai points to an electronic parts catalog system that pre-dated this patent, the response from the patent holder was that this invention was different because not only was it a catalog but... it also created a customer proposal. Well, knock me down and sign me up for a 17-year-monopoly. I'm sure no one could have possibly come up with the idea for using an electronic catalog to create a customer proposal without such an incentive... Thankfully, the court found that the important claims in the patent were anticipated by the other product, but just the fact that they had to go through this ridiculous process should raise serious questions about the patent system.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    NAMELESS.ONE, May 18th, 2010 @ 4:34pm

    LOL

    just LOL.....go mike

     

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  2.  
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    KIm E Landwehr, May 18th, 2010 @ 5:19pm

    Patent problem

    I have never understood, why patents like this are ever issued, There is nothing new or inventive about this idea

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    abc gum, May 18th, 2010 @ 5:45pm

    ill gotten gains

    Are those who were previously sued and forced to pay, now have an opportunity to get their money back ?

     

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  4.  
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    mike list, May 18th, 2010 @ 5:50pm

    electronic catalog...

    auto-zone has been using a system that sounds like the description for many years

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    James Carmichael, May 18th, 2010 @ 6:01pm

    Re: ill gotten gains

    I think the government can afford to hire lawyers to sue people who abuse the legal system.

    Is there any kind of 'follow up' where the judge can 'tag' a person and investigate how much money they cost by wasting everyone's time?

    This seems like the obvious thing to do, but then again, maybe I'm crazy.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Rick, May 18th, 2010 @ 6:39pm

    Reverse Claim Proposal

    I propose the concept of reverse claims for lawsuits in the cases of patent disputes.

    When a patent owner WITHOUT an actual product sues a company with a product over their patent loses, the jury or judge must then determine the damages that would have been awarded to the patent owner IF he had won.

    Those damages would then be owed to the defendant who actually won the case brought on by the patent troll.

    Actually, this could all be solved by invalidating any patent that does not produce an actual PRODUCT within 1 year of application....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2010 @ 9:18pm

    Re: ill gotten gains

    Barring an extradordinary situation, the answer is "no".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2010 @ 9:25pm

    The claim filed by the patent holder was not totally lacking in merit as this article might otherwise suggest.

    The decision ultimately came down to how the claims of the patent were interpreted, and the appeals court happened to disagree with the interpretation ascribed to them by the trial judge, a respected jurist who has handled numerous matters involving patents.

    Once the appeals court decided what it believed was the correct interpretation, the issue then turned upon whether or not a specific piece of prior art by Bell and Howell fully described each and every feature contained in the claims of the patent. The court decided this was the case and, thus, the patent should not have issued. Importantly, if the prior art by Bell and Howell had taken place in late November 1987 versus its apparent date of March 1997, there is a possibility that the decision in the district court would have been affirmed and the defendant left on the hook for damages payable to the patent holder.

     

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  9.  
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    jjmsan (profile), May 18th, 2010 @ 10:19pm

    Re:

    That's a lot of verbiage to say "Well if they had decided the other way, he would have won. They didn't he didn't and it is still a meritless patent.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2010 @ 4:57am

    Should've bought that cow

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Willton, May 19th, 2010 @ 10:45am

    I'm sure no one could have possibly come up with the idea for using an electronic catalog to create a customer proposal without such an incentive...

    With that kind of outlook, I imagine you think every patented invention is obvious. You seem to saying that "everything that's possible will happen eventually, so everything is obvious." So much for innovation...

     

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  12.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 11:32pm

    Re:

    With that kind of outlook, I imagine you think every patented invention is obvious. You seem to saying that "everything that's possible will happen eventually, so everything is obvious." So much for innovation...

    You and I have had this discussion before, so I'm not sure why you choose to distort and exaggerate my position.

    I do believe that if the patent system is to promote innovation, then it should not be giving out patents for innovation that would occur naturally without that incentive, yes.

    And what do you mean by "so much for innovation"? As we've shown countless times with dozens of studies, without patents there is just as much, if not more, innovation. Do you really want to argue without patents there is no innovation?

    Really?

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Willton, May 20th, 2010 @ 8:00am

    Re: Re:

    I do believe that if the patent system is to promote innovation, then it should not be giving out patents for innovation that would occur naturally without that incentive, yes.

    You could say that about any and every invention that was ever patented. The internal combustion engine? Someone was eventually going to make it, so it's obvious. The making of H-DAC inhibitors like omeprazole? Clearly some scientists were eventually going to make it, so it's obvious. The field-effect transistor? If Lilienfeld didn't make it, someone eventually would have, so that's obvious too.

    The problem is that you presume to know what would have occurred naturally back in the day without any hard evidence to prove your point. And despite your lack of hard evidence, you think patent examiners should deny patent applications on some abstract notion of what would have naturally occurred and what would not. You'll have to excuse me if I think that's being arbitrary and capricious.

    And what do you mean by "so much for innovation"? As we've shown countless times with dozens of studies, without patents there is just as much, if not more, innovation. Do you really want to argue without patents there is no innovation?

    No, I'm arguing that if we were to take your stance to its logical conclusion, then no innovation would happen because it all would have eventually happened. Your stance would disincentivize innovation because it would make getting a patent too difficult to warrant expending resources therefor.

    I will not claim that innovation would not happen without patents. But I will claim that the patent system does incentivize innovation.

    And by the way, your studies are bunk.

     

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  14.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 20th, 2010 @ 9:40am

    Re: Re: Re:

    And by the way, your studies are bunk.

    This is hilarious. We've talked about nearly 3 dozen studies, most of which are looks at actual historical data and evidence.

    And you are the one who always comes here demanding that we make no assertion without backing it up with highly detailed support. Yet, 3 dozen highly detailed studies, most of which rely on actual historical data are "bunk" because Wilton says so?

    I give up. You are not worth reasoning with.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Willton, May 20th, 2010 @ 11:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    This is hilarious. We've talked about nearly 3 dozen studies, most of which are looks at actual historical data and evidence.

    And you are the one who always comes here demanding that we make no assertion without backing it up with highly detailed support. Yet, 3 dozen highly detailed studies, most of which rely on actual historical data are "bunk" because Wilton says so?


    The historical data such studies cite is from societies that do not compare to the United States. You cite India and Italy's pharmaceutical industries as support for lack of patents, but you fail to realize that neither industry was involved in creating new drugs.

    Further, the studies you cite that state conclusions are typically flawed. You cite studies that confuse correlation with causation. You cite studies that take a small amount of evidence and extrapolate it to the universe. And upon all of this, you make sweeping generalizations about whether patents are good policy or not. Color me unimpressed with your studies.

     

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  16.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 20th, 2010 @ 11:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The historical data such studies cite is from societies that do not compare to the United States. You cite India and Italy's pharmaceutical industries as support for lack of patents, but you fail to realize that neither industry was involved in creating new drugs.

    Hmm. I find this funny. Without discussing a single specific study, you are claiming all 3 dozen plus studies we've mentioned are bunk.

    And you don't provide a single bit of evidence to prove that, nor do you provide a study to prove you are right.

    And yet you demand that when I point out that something is obvious, despite having worked in a space before a patent was filed, that my own personal opinion is of no merit.

    You are a hypocrite Wilton.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Willton, May 20th, 2010 @ 12:18pm

    And yet you demand that when I point out that something is obvious, despite having worked in a space before a patent was filed, that my own personal opinion is of no merit.

    Last I checked, your own personal opinion cannot be submitted as prior art.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), May 20th, 2010 @ 1:40pm

    Re:

    Last I checked, your own personal opinion cannot be submitted as prior art.

    But, oddly, yours is proof over more than 3 dozen studies. Fascinating world you live in.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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