Sprint and Samsung Hit With Patent Stupidity

from the hello-mcfly dept

You don’t have to dig too hard to find examples of patent ridiculousness, but every once in a while one so absurd comes along it deserves mention as another indictment of the stupidity of the patent system. Apparently Sprint and Samsung have been sued for violating two patents filed by an Illinois couple covering clamshell smartphones and mobile phones with a touchscreen interface. The US Patent Office must be about the only people that could see either of these “inventions” as non-obvious, but even more puzzling is that the patents were filed in December 2002 — so there’s plenty of prior art on both of them. Motorola tried — and failed — to assert that it had the patent on clamshell phone designs, and allowing someone else to patent flip smartphones instead is ridiculous. There were also numerous touchscreen phones out by December 2002, such as the original Treo (announced in October 2001) and even the Qualcomm pdQ, announced in September 1998. There’s absolutely no innovation here. All the “inventors” did was find some combinations of existing technology that hadn’t yet been patented — combinations that were so obvious, nobody else had bothered to try to patent them.

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Comments on “Sprint and Samsung Hit With Patent Stupidity”

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David T (user link) says:

No problem for judge on summary judgment

If the patent really is as narrow as you claim, and the prior art is as you claim, then the judge will be able to dispose of this on summary judgment quite easily. Sure, stupid patents get through the system all the time, but that’s why you have to go before a judge AND jury to get them enforced against an infringer.

On summary judgment the judge could find the patant obvious or anticipated by the prior art and rule the whole patent invalid. Or he could find that the patentee defrauded the PTO and rule the patent unenforceable. If neither of those happens and it gets to a jury, the patentee is going to have to claim that they invented the folding cell phone first. Somehow taht seems unlikely since Sprint (et al) can just introduce all the evidence you pointed to.

Of course, it’s possible that the patent is a lot more narrow and during prosectuion of the patent the claims got significantly narrowed to not cover the obvious things.

As for the (unsupported) claim that this patent somehow shows that big business has corrupted the patent office, that makes NO sense — this is a couple in Wheaton, Illinois, not a big business that would even possibly have leverage to corrupt the PTO. If anything, the fact that this patent issued proves that the PTO is not biased toward big business and is instead just over-worked.

PTO link to the original patent (probably works)

dan says:

Nothing will change

Sadly, until a stupid patent directly screws the general public, nothing will be done to reform the patent system.
Violations like this are hidden from people, and the cost of the lawsuit will be divided among the companies product and have only a small impact on the consumer.
The only way I see the ever educate the public on the steaming pile of dung that is the current patent system, is to really make it blow up in their faces.
This is what I suggest: One person patents something realy cool that everybody wants. Another person produces this product and sell millions, it will be in every home. They must do this without the permission of the inventor. Once he product is ubiquitous, the inventor can take suit against the manufacturer. The manufacturer stops producing the item. The public goes insane, because they need their fix.
Other than this, I see no other way for the public to get excited about patent reform. Most people care little for anything that doesn’t jump in front of their face wearing a day-glo orange jumpsuit and a strobe light.

crazy dude says:

Re: Excellent idea ! Just excellent !

So, if I understood you correctly, you want
large manufacturers to be able to take any patented inventions they want and produce them on scale without paying a dime to the original inventors and patent holders ?
Going back in history, yoy want Western Union, for example, to take Bell’s phone patent and produce phones on scale and let Bell himself go broke and live under the bridge ?
Sir, you are not just idiot, you are complete moron !

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Excellent idea ! Just excellent !

So, if I understood you correctly, you want
large manufacturers to be able to take any patented inventions they want and produce them on scale without paying a dime to the original inventors and patent holders ?

No, I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood completely. As should be clear from actually reading the issue, we think that patents on obvious things like this are clearly a *barrier* to innovation.

Imagine if, Bell had patented the concept of the “using a system of dots and dashes to replace letters”, and then sued Western Union for the telegraph, demanding they pay millions or stop using it.

That’s where the problem is.

Dave T says:

Re: Re: Re: Excellent idea ! Just excellent !

Imagine if, Bell had patented the concept of the “using a system of dots and dashes to replace letters”,

That WAS a significant innovation at the time and it replaced a variety of other less-efficient systems (usually runnning 26 wires and lighting up each wire for a letter). That type of innovation WAS novel at the time and although it’s “obvious” today, it was hardly obvious then.

There might be other reasons why it wouldn’t be patentable, but you can’t claim that it was “obvious” to somebody in 1800 that you could use a series of electrical pulses to replicate letters over a distance.

dude says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Read some history books !

Bell had more than enough of this lawsuit crap, when everybody and his brother just showed up to claim telephone invention for himself.
Somehow, it all sorted itself out through the court system, over the years…
You gotta have some belief in the US judicial system. With those morons in the White House today and high-flying corporate thieves this is the only thing to protect all of us (including independent inventors) from abuses of power…

dude says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Read some history books !

What are you suggesting ?
To buy a gun or to hire an assasin to kill somebody who owes you money but doesn’t want to pay ? This is how such disputes are handled in some other countries like Russia, much like in the good old days of Wild Wild West…
Courts have replaced guns and assasins long time ago, which is good for everybody.
I would rather hire a laywer and go to court than shoot anybody myself (even if they really deserve to be shot)
If you are so opposed to resolving matters through the court system why don’t you go to Russia and try to start your bissiness there.
I can warn you right away that you’d better have people with guns protecting you if you start making any serious money…

Just stop bitching about US judicial system:
it’s the best judicial system in the world, or “the best justice your money can buy”…

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