by Mike Masnick
Thu, Nov 1st 2007 10:32am
The practice of filing for continuations, or modifications, on patent applications can make sense in some cases, but it's widely abused by people who file a broad, overly vague patent on a hot area, and then continually update it as they see where the market is heading. Then, by the time they finally get a patent it covers a lot of the actual innovation (usually done by others) after the patent was filed and which had little to do with the original patent. Earlier this year, the US Patent Office, recognizing this problem (years too late) decided to start limiting continuation filings and announced that the change would go into effect November 1st. Not surprisingly, supporters of stronger patent laws were aghast and filed a lawsuit to stop the changes from going into effect. A judge has now blocked the USPTO from implementing the new rules. This isn't a permanent block on the rules -- it's just an injunction while the court decides whether or not the rules make sense. Obviously, those who are fans of monopoly-based business models want to be able to continually modify patents, but the fact that it's been abused so often means that limits on such things makes a lot of sense -- so much sense it's almost surprising the Patent Office supported it. Now we'll see if they're ever allowed to actually implement those rules.
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