Company With Checkered Past Tries To Claim Patent On Cell Phone Buttons

from the back-to-the-drawing-board dept

You might remember a company called Hop-On, which claimed several years ago that it had developed the first "disposable" cell phone. While the company was able to attract a lot of media attention, the phones it was showing off turned out to be nothing more than repackaged Nokia phones. A few years later, Hop-On claimed to really come out with the disposable phones, but they made no impact on the market whatsoever. In the meantime, the company's CEO got indicted for fraud related to a previous company, and was eventually convicted. Last month, he managed to avoid jail time for that crime, and went back to the helm at Hop-On, just in time for the company to announce it's been awarded a patent covering "a MP3 Phone with speakers on the side, in addition to front and side buttons to activate its camera/video features." The CEO adds that he's looking forward to raking in the cash from operators, retailers and handset vendors, since millions of phones meeting this description have been sold in the US. However, the company was awarded a design patent, not a utility patent, so his assertion of being in the money may be just a little bit premature since design patents cover only the ornamental characteristics of the object. Furthermore, design patents aren't especially broad, since they cover one single design of an object. They also must be original -- so the very fact that millions of supposedly infringing handsets were sold before the patent was awarded (since design patent applications aren't published until the patent is awarded) might undermine the company's claim just a little bit.
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