Latest Pointless Patent: Redirect Page For WiFi Logins

from the you-can't-be-serious dept

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go just one week without hearing about yet another ridiculous patent? These days, that seems to be wishful thinking. The latest, dug up by the always excellent WiFi Networking News is the fact that someone has actually gone and patented the concept of using a redirect to force you to a login page when you connect to a WiFi network. How is this possibly patentable? It seems like an insanely obvious idea – and one that plenty of companies use because it’s obvious – and not because they ripped off someone’s “intellectual property”. The point of the patent system is to encourage innovation. The point of this patent (like so many others we’ve been hearing about recently) is to hold companies hostage for doing something obvious.

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Comments on “Latest Pointless Patent: Redirect Page For WiFi Logins”

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martin g (user link) says:

patents ( pointless )

As a part-time inventor, it took me several years to work out what the patent system is really about.
It’s about making money. The patent offices ( UK US EU etc ) will happilly let you patent just about anything vaguely plausible. The total fees they recieve for a truly ‘worldwide’ patent run into ? hundreds of thousands.
They give no guarantee whatever that the patent is ‘valid’ ( in other words hasn’t bee done before ). If you’re able to find the cash to afford a patent, you’d better have the same again in reserve to front legal bills – because without heany duty legal rep – it’s just a piece of paper . . .
That help to explain things ?
see also

OldYeller says:

Advice needed

Okay, I’m no lawyer, but…

If the USPTO grants a patent like this despite it being obvious and in ignorance of prior art,

and I’m harassed or sued by the holder of this patent, causing me monetary or other harm,

why can’t the USPTO be sued for damages for carrying out its duties in a negligent manner, since I’m materially harmed by that negligence?

If it were possible, and some test cases were won, this would probably be the only incentive to re-think and fix the system. Nothing motivates like having money at risk, and the only viable out for the Govt. would be to develop a review process that’s fast, efficient, and does an acceptable-if-not-perfect job of weeding out bad applications.

Arvind (user link) says:

Re: Advice needed

I’m not an attorney either, but here is what I can tell you. First of all, there is no way to sue the USPTO for “carrying out its duties in a negligent manner.” The patent office does not want to get into the business of patent litigation, which is what ensues because the whole concept of filing a patent for an invention is NOT a perfect science.

The USPTO is really more of an official government backed database of all the inventions anyone cares to file. It is the responsibility of lawyers, clients, and the courts to hash out any problems that may arise because of someone’s patent.

Granted, in an ideal world, the patent office would screen for patents that were frivolous, but in the end it would drive up costs for everyone.

Rick Colosimo (user link) says:

Re: Advice needed

The key phrase in administrative law is “arbitrary & capricious”, meaning that the agency did something in a way so far off base that you couldn’t even construct a rational explanation if you tried. This is a tough standard to meet.

PTO example: Well, Judge, we don’t have enough people or enough skilled people, so we’re doing the best we can. We try to spend some time on each application, but we can’t investigate them thoroughly without more money. And, we can’t raise fees to cover those expenses because then small inventors wouldn’t be able to get patents, and that’s un-American.

So, now they’re not being arbitrary (which would be something like granting patents to your friends, or not granting them to people with vowels at the end of their names), and perhaps not even being negligent.

clarence says:

US patent law

The comments seem to cross two separate issues: is the claimed invention “original” and is it “non-obvious” (which are two of the three criteria for patentablility).
Re originality: (1) it is the inventor’s obligation to do a “prior art” search, it is _not_ the USP&TO’s obligation to do research for the inventor; if the inventor has been careless, well, no sympathy. (2) “prior art” is defined as “in the public domain” _and_ “within the US”, so a thorough search is neither difficult nor expensive. If this claimed invention existed prior to the filing date, then the patent holder cannot prevail in a suit for infringement (i.e. the patent can be readily challenged).
Re “non-obviousness”: since that is rather subjective, courts have a simple rule of thumb: is it profitable? If so, it’s hard to argue “it’s obvious and profitable _but_ noone did it before since noone wanted to make money.”
A lot of clever ideas elicit a “well, of course!!” reaction…because they make sense. In this case, it may be that in 1999 (when the application was filed), someone saw an application of wireless technology that noone else thought of at the time…but now (as Wi-Fi has spread) seems so very obvious. That’s called “being creative,” and that is what patents are intended to reward.

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