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.

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Companies: appsbar

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Comments on “Patent Office, Perhaps Forgetting What Year It Is, Locks Down Mobile App Development Platforms”

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57 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

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.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: 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.

New Mexico Mark says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

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.

out_of_the_blue says:

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.

Anonymoose Custard (profile) says:

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.

That One Guy (profile) says:

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’.

saulgoode (profile) says:

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”).

G Thompson (profile) says:

?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

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

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.

albert says:

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.

Robert Shaver (profile) says:

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

Dennis Menace (user link) says:

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.

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