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Patent Office, Perhaps Forgetting What Year It Is, Locks Down Mobile App Development Platforms

from the is-anyone-at-the-uspto-awake? dept

I'm spending today at a conference at Santa Clara University's Law school on Solutions to the Software Patent Problem. It seems only fitting that as this is happening, I've been alerted to a completely ridiculous new patent: Appsbar has put out a press release gleefully announcing that it's been granted a patent on offering a "create your own mobile app" development platform. Stunningly, the patent in question, 8,261,231, was just applied for in February of this year. I'm at a loss as to how a competent patent examiner could possibly think that a mobile app development platform is somehow new or non-obvious in this day and age.

Hell there are entire lists of similar platforms, and those lists appear to have been created before this patent was applied for. What is the USPTO doing over there?

Patent system defenders will immediately jump in to say that a patent is really all about its claims, but go take a look at those ridiculously broad claims. Claim number 1 is the main claim here, and what it describes is nothing special at all. It's just a simple web-based platform for developing mobile apps that can run on a variety of mobile platforms.

That's not new. Companies, like the now apparently defunct Whoop were doing exactly that years ago. Just the very concept of a simple platform for app development (even cross-platform app development) isn't even close to new. Such things have been around for ages. How can someone honestly think that this is "new" and not "obvious."

And yet Appsbar (which at least does offer a product) now not only holds this patent, but the press release was put out as way of announcing its plans to enforce the patent vigorously:
“We are proud that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recognizes the innovative and proprietary set of features offered by Appsbar and we plan on strictly enforcing our patent with other companies that currently provide similar types of services,” said Scott Hirsch, founder and CEO, Appsbar. “Until Appsbar, novice tech users, small businesses, general consumers and more had to rely on an entire internal design and software team or hire a costly agency for the design, creation and publication of apps.”
First off, the second half of that quote? Not true. I remember a few years ago we developed a Techdirt app using one of these platforms. It took all of about 10 minutes of playing around on some website. As for the first half, the fact that even they admit that there are a bunch of other companies already in this space basically shows that this patent is covering an old idea that is quite obvious at this point.

So if we're looking at how to fix the patent problem, can we at least start with this simple concept: stop approving completely ridiculous patents like this one.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 9:45am

    You expected any less from a spammer?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Hirsch

    But but but its got HTML5 so its TOTALLY NEW!
    *notices he can see his breath*
    ...i...i...i..i...can...see....douchebags....

    vanity domain all focused on how awesome he is...

    I'm guessing he just kept smiling and the examiner approved it to make him go away.

     

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  2.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 9:45am

    "It's just a simple web-based platform for developing mobile apps that can run on a variety of mobile platforms."

    Kinda like the Google App Inventor? I have E-Mails from the support forum older than this patent.

     

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  3.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 9:54am

    Re:

    I think we have a winner! That guy appears to be waving every "scumbag" warning flag possible in the online world.

     

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  4.  
    icon
    JWW (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 9:54am

    Developers

    Well, since Appsbar takes this stance, I think that developers should shun their product like it is infected with plague (which it kind of is).

    also

    I have had it with these $#%#$%#@ patents on %$#%@#$ software!!

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 9:55am

    Re:

    "...i...i...i..i...can...see....douchebags...."

    You mean there's an app for that?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Lord Binky, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:00am

    If anyone really knew what was going on at the USPTO...

    There are just hamsters running in wheels that power a series of rubber stamps to 'process' all applications.

    It really is just a matter of whether your application lands on the denied or accepted conveyor belt.

     

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  7.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:01am

    i've finally figured out what the 'new age' is...

    stone age
    bronze age
    iron age
    silicon age
    and now, we are in the
    bullshit age

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

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  8.  
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    Karl (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:01am

    Re:

    Kinda like the Google App Inventor?

    I'm betting that's going to be their first target. And, yeah, it's been around for years. I'm even mentoring a class that uses it to teach IT concepts.

    I almost hope they do sue Google, because they'd certainly be able to prove prior art, and would likely get the patent invalidated.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:06am

    What is the USPTO doing over there?
    I'd guess they're doing lines of cocaine.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:08am

    Doesn't the prior art not matter anymore, thanks to the idiotic decision to switch to a 'first to file' patent system?

    Either way, it's really stupid.

     

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

  11.  
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    Titania Bonham-Smythe (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:09am

    The sole purpose of the USPTO is to stifle progress.

     

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  12.  
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    Mike Martinet (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:09am

    Whew

    That was close.

    I was thinking of buying a smart phone. Looks like that's the end of that silliness.

     

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  13.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:11am

    I made some prior art

    I wrote an app to do this on the Apple Newton, approximately three internet eons ago. This can be added to the list of prior art. It appears to be functionally identical to this patent in all respects except that it wasn't connected to the internet.

    Oh, I forgot, if it's on the internet it is by definition innovative. My bad.

     

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  14.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:12am

    Re: Re:

    *fires up appsbar*

    There is now.

     

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  15. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:14am

    As goes the nation, so goes UPSTO!

    First, expecting a "competent" gov't employee is to admit abject ignorance in the whole area. I suspect Mike is only acquainted with gov't employees who are his Ivy League pals and posing as top-level experts.

    But more broadly, you clowns who don't hold yourself to any standards especially in morality, who feel entitled to take what clearly doesn't belong to you, who brag about your vices of obsessive interest in sports, drug and alcohol use, you STILL have the childish faith of expecting others to meet standards! But they're just like YOU, putting in time and waiting for retirement so "work" won't interrupt watching TV. You can't expect matters to improve when you jeer at upholding moral standards. -- In short, as John Galt says in "Atlas Shrugged": Brothers, you asked for it!

    Yes, it's wandering a bit. Still more relevant than Mike's blather about yet another trivial silliness.





    All hail Mike "Streisand Effect" Masnick!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect
    To properly honor Mike, I propose "Masnick Defect" as term for out-of-bounds self-aggrandizement such as years of trying to turn a single quip into fame.

     

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

  16.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:14am

    Re:

    According to the explanations I've read, the "first to file" change does not make prior art meaningless. Or at least not any more meaningless than it already appears to be.

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:23am

    Re: I made some prior art

    You missed that targeting a mobile device somehow makes it innovative.

     

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

  18.  
    icon
    Keii (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:25am

    Re: As goes the nation, so goes UPSTO!

    And over here we have a living example of the Infinite Monkey Theorem. While he has yet to produce anything meaningful, we expect that given enough time he will write a Shakespearean novel.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:26am

    Re:

    Hey, you're the bully that keeps beating up gato and stealing his silver points.

    You bastard

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:28am

    Re: Developers

    They speak english in %$#%@#$?

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:31am

    Re: As goes the nation, so goes UPSTO!

    Oh, now even you recognize your own incoherence. Progress!

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:36am

    Re: Re: As goes the nation, so goes UPSTO!

    A Glenn Beckian conspiracy-laden diatribe is far more likely.

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:36am

    Re: I made some prior art

    Yeah. My brother and I used Klik & Play and The Games Factory way back in the day.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:37am

    America you don't have a patent office, you a licensing agency for extortionists , with the secondary objective of providing employment for lawyers.

     

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

  25.  
    icon
    Baldaur Regis (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:39am

    Re: Re: As goes the nation, so goes UPSTO!

    This is _blue_steamer we're talking about. The best - or worst - we can hope for would be a coloring book version of The Tempest.

     

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

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:40am

    Re:

    Prior art still matters. You don't get a patent on something everyone is doing just because you decided to file for it. 'First to file' is about sorting out which of two independent inventions would take precedence that would each on their own pass a prior art test. Prior art still determines patent-ability. Furthermore the prior art might also be patented. Normally the first place to start looking for prior art is earlier patents that aren't explicitly mentioned in the named patent as sources.

     

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

  27.  
    icon
    Anonymoose Custard (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:42am

    We need to challenge it

    We ought to set up some kind of public fund that goes into researching prior art and filing challenges with the patent office to have the patents overturned as they are approved.

    If we can get upwards of 70% of patents thrown out or rewritten within the first year, surely it will affect the change the patent office so desperately needs in the short term, so we can work toward reform (and perhaps abolition) in the long term.

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    Jay, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:56am

    Dude ... what the hell are you saying....
    You're implying that the USPTO should do actual RESEARCH before rubberstamping a patent ?
    Like ... WORK!?

     

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

  29.  
    icon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 11:03am

    Re:

    Is their office next to the SEC offices?

     

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

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 11:07am

    Re: As goes the nation, so goes UPSTO!

    What...what the fuck am I reading?

     

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

  31.  
    icon
    Baldaur Regis (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 11:08am

    Re: We need to challenge it

     

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

  32.  
    icon
    ChrisB (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 11:24am

    Re: Re:

    Google sold App Inventor to MIT in Dec 2011 (before this stupid patent was even applied for). I've made several apps with it, and it is great for simple apps and games.

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Shmerl, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 11:33am

    What a greedy morons. Will anyone come and give them a hard slap?

     

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

  34.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 11:36am

    Well, there goes my blind faith in the system...

    So I'm curious, is there any way to curb stomp this abuse of the system that won't require one of their soon to be victims being dragged into court and having to pay out the nose to have this patent invalidated, or is this pretty much a license to extort companies until that happens?

    Also, this seems like the perfect example to point to the next time some moronic politician tries to equate 'number of patents granted' with 'innovation taking place'.

     

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

  35.  
    icon
    Thomas (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 11:41am

    Just wondering

    if patent examiners get any "gifts" to approve patents? considering that you can bribe virtually anyone in the government, including the SCOTUS, why not patent examiners as well?

     

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

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 11:51am

    Re: As goes the nation, so goes UPSTO!

    i liek the avergae_joe's gimmick better

     

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

  37.  
    icon
    saulgoode (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 12:04pm

    Stunningly, the patent in question, 8,261,231, was just applied for in February of this year.


    we plan on strictly enforcing our patent with other companies that currently provide similar types of services.
    If a company is currently providing such services, they most likely were doing it before this patent application was made (and they sure as hell didn't "steal the idea").

     

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

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 12:08pm

    Re:

    r/you a/you have a/

     

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

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 12:09pm

    Re: As goes the nation, so goes UPSTO!

    So you pretty much treat government individuals as incompetent... but laud them when they lengthen copyright?

    wtf, out_of_the_ass?

     

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

  40.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 12:15pm

    Re: Re: I made some prior art

    The Newton was a mobile device.

     

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

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 12:20pm

    Re:

    Is that quote sufficient grounds for a criminal investigation for the crime of extortion? It make it look like Appsbar have deliberately applied for a patent written to cover existing systems.

     

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

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 12:49pm

    Re: As goes the nation, so goes UPSTO!

    I'd like to acknowledge that OOTB is a broken record (remember those?), but he'll claim that someone has a patent for broken records and that we're making a mockery of his claim.

     

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

  43.  
    identicon
    New Mexico Mark, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 1:02pm

    Re: Developers

    Shun their product? What a silly idea. Patent trolls don't build business models based on real creativity or sales -- or whether anyone really uses their product. In this case they'll sit on what they have and sue everyone else in the world making products that are ten times better. If they force anyone to buy or license "their" idea because the better alternatives go away, that's just gravy.

    Thats how patents encourage innovation doncha know.

     

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

  44.  
    identicon
    Eponymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 3:53pm

    Can I get a patent?

    Obviously (actually non-obviously, wink-wink) someone should patent the process of validating an obvious and/or idiotic function(s) for a patent, and thus every further ridiculously approved patent is to be sued for infringement...

     

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

  45.  
    identicon
    ldne, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 5:48pm

    Re:

    No, because you still have to prove non-obviousness and something that was already invented and well established elsewhere is quite obvious.

     

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

  46.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 9:09pm

    “We are proud that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recognizes the innovative and proprietary set of features offered by Appsbar and we plan on strictly enforcing our patent with other companies that currently provide similar types of services,”>/i>

    This statement right there is another reason why any multinational company with any sense will stop all manufacturing or usage of there products in the USA and go elsewhere where these dumb patents are actually NOT allowed! Remember guys patents that are granted in the USA are ONLY for the USA and nowhere else. No worldwide patent registration thankfully.

    In a marketing/sales sense you might feel a bit of a loss from not supplying to the USA through pure distribution methods (though others could work) but in the strategic long term life of any robust technological company (Samsung for instance) the strategic value of not having to worry about some dumb idiotic granting of obviousness in a patent within the USA will not effect the other 95% of the planet you can potentially sell to.

    So the USA becomes more parochial, closed off, and isolated.. It's happening sadly already and maybe.. just maybe.. this sort of action by the current economic powerhouse of the world (the ITC industry) might make the general populous sit up and take action.. Well its a thought

     

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  47.  
    icon
    Mark Murphy (profile), Nov 17th, 2012 @ 5:16am

    Ask Patents entry

    I have started an Ask Patents "question" to collect relevant prior art, including some cursory analysis of the prior art listed to date in this article and its comments. If anyone knows of possible prior art, please contribute an answer on the Ask Patents entry, so we can aggregate the results. Thanks!

     

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

  48.  
    identicon
    Anon, Nov 17th, 2012 @ 8:10am

    > Stunningly, the patent in question, 8,261,231, was just applied for in February of this year.

    So very very wrong. It was actually applied for in April 2011. Not that reporters bother to actually "learn" anything about that which they are complaining about.

     

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

  49.  
    icon
    Mark Murphy (profile), Nov 17th, 2012 @ 8:38am

    Re:

    The patent was filed for on February 14, 2012. It is a follow-on to a provisional patent that was filed for on April 6, 2011.

     

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

  50.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Nov 17th, 2012 @ 10:02am

    Paid for this service in 2001

    The Year, 2001. Me, Disney's Director of wireless development. I hired out some work to a company called 2Roam, which did exactly what the patent and its claims do.

    They worked with us to mobilize some web properties using their platform to deliver them as Java, Palm, and WAP apps.

    Since then, over 11 years, I've seen about 100 firms that do what this patent claims. Most recently, FeedHenry which was good for enterprises, and a good and affordable platform from bMobilized for small biz and consumers.

     

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

  51.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Nov 17th, 2012 @ 10:03am

    Re:

    Your counter is completely immaterial to the argument.

    I paid for exactly this kind of mobility platform service in 2001.

     

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

  52.  
    identicon
    albert, Nov 17th, 2012 @ 10:05am

    Stupid Patents

    The USPTO problem is _political_, not technical. They're in business to grant patents, as many as possible. The more they grant, the more money they make. Bad patents make _way_ more money. See the USPTOs list of fees. Then you'll understand. Everyone is complaining about 'stupid' patents, and conclude that the examiners are idiots. Follow the money!

    Link: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/qs/ope/fee100512.htm

    Make note of the "Patent Trial And Appeal" section.

     

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

  53.  
    identicon
    Robert Shaver, Nov 17th, 2012 @ 2:07pm

    Appcelerator founded in 2006

    Appbar founded in 2009,From the Appcelerator web site.

    "Appcelerator At a Glance
    Founded in 2006 and based in Mountain View, California, Appcelerator makes Titanium, the leading mobile platform of choice for thousands of companies seizing the mobile opportunity. With more than 50,000 applications deployed on 75 million devices, the award-winning Titanium Platform leverages over 5,000 APIs to create native iOS and Android apps, and HTML5 mobile web apps."

    http://www.appcelerator.com/company

     

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

  54.  
    identicon
    Robert Shaver, Nov 17th, 2012 @ 2:22pm

    Prior Art

    10 Top Mobile Application Development Platforms

    http://www.cio.com/slideshow/detail/60019#slide1

     

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

  55.  
    icon
    Anonymoose Custard (profile), Nov 18th, 2012 @ 2:18pm

    Re: Re: We need to challenge it

    It's not enough. We need to actually challenge the validity of those patents even after they're granted; because all too often, they're still granted without enough review.

     

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

  56.  
    identicon
    Dennis Menace, Dec 5th, 2012 @ 1:19pm

    The Problem With Copyrights And Patents

    The idea of copyrights and patents is to protect the property rights or so called property rights of the owners of these copyrights and patents. At the expense of the consumer. I believe that for the most part their a scam on us. Look everybody don't you get it if you hold a copyright or patent or not' In the end the lawyers and consultants will end up getting most of the money out of this thing anyway. I worked for a small company that got sued over trademark and copyrights. Legally when it comes to copyrights and patents the party using somebody elses patent or copyright must be taken to court by the owner of the patent or copyright to make them cease and desist. Otherwise they can continue to do what their doing. How much do you think thats going to cost you to take them to court.

     

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

  57.  
    identicon
    cruz werner, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 10:21am

    Can anyone explain me? I am looking to get complete discussed information of Santa Clara University's Law school on Solutions to the Software Patent Problem.     

     

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


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