Now, How Is It That You Accidentally File A Patent On Someone Else's Work?

from the just-wondering dept

Following the news that Microsoft had filed and then retracted a patent application that was clearly on work done by someone else (which they had publicly admitted to before the patent was filed), it seems that a few people are wondering exactly how someone goes about “accidentally” filing patents — and, more to the point, wondering how many of Microsoft’s other 3,808 patent filings from the past two years were also accidents? Of course, it’s quite likely that most other such accidents won’t be noticed until long after Microsoft has been granted the patent. The link above, from W.B. McNamara, also explains how this likely happened, with Microsoft IP “experts” scurrying around to various meetings and copying down whatever they hear that they think might be patentable — a practice that some large companies have taken to using since stockpiling as many patents as possible (no matter how ridiculous they might be) is considered an important business strategy. Many companies also reward employees for patent applications (or granted patents), which would put in place incentives for the folks listed on this particular patent to skip over the part where they tell the patent attorney about how they simply copied the idea from a product that’s been on the market for many years.


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Comments on “Now, How Is It That You Accidentally File A Patent On Someone Else's Work?”

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5 Comments
Cleverboy (user link) says:

I think it can be a mistake...

It’s what the corporate types might call a “happy accident”. Hey, look how our system works without us intending to do it! Imagine all the great ideas we’ve patented with ne’er a second thought! I’m sure this is just a highlight letting us know how things roll for those who have the dough to spend averting “disaster” or promoyinh profit. This is why those decrying Verisign’s guaranteed “WLS” said the big boys would corner every value domain name in the market without a second thought. Microsoft would much rather “accidentally” patent something, than be sued for 375 million dollars and have to prove “prior art”. I’m sure they’re chuckling as they send it to the shredder. “Whoops.”

Lutomes says:

All in good defence

I think its ok to stockpile patents (even on things you don’t invent) as long as you don’t go trigger happy suing people.

Think of it this way, everyone knows at the moment you can patent things you didn’t invent, or that are completely trivial. So the only way to stop that is to patent them first. Even if Microsoft’s patent application is rejected for prior art – then that means nobody else can go and patent it (and the patent office may have let it slip through the system even with prior art).

Microsoft’s patent defense includes the fact it applied for a patent and got rejected.

koz says:

Unjustified speculation

“… which would put in place incentives for the folks listed on this particular patent to skip over the part where they tell the patent attorney about how they simply copied the idea …”

I doubt any company patent schemes which would be sufficient to justify that kind of speculation (usually the reward to the employee is pathetic), and I expect they would all have some defense against it – e.g. making the employee pay back the award – after all it is an obvious thing to anticipate.

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