Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
eff, patents, test taking

EFF Busts Yet Another Bogus Patent... But It's Taking A Long Time

from the taking-some-time,-huh? dept

It's been three-and-a-half years since the EFF set up its patent busting project, where it lined up 10 awful patents with the hopes of getting them all rejected on review by the USPTO. The latest news is that the USPTO has now rejected all sixteen claims found in one of those patents, having to do with online test-taking. Yes, claimed that it was the first ever to think of online test taking back in 1999. Not surprisingly, the USPTO approved this patent on the first go-around, and it's only now that the review process has caused the patent to be rejected. Of course, could still respond and appeal, so this process is far from over.

While it's great to see the EFF busting patents, one of the things the EFF has really highlighted here is how incredibly difficult it is to bust bogus patents. We've had patent attorneys tell us that busting patents is easy, yet, here we are three-and-a-half years into the process and the EFF has only been able to get the USPTO to re-examine three of the ten patents. Even on this particular patent, the original re-exam was granted over a year-and-a-half ago, and the rejection has just come down. During all that time, was free to accuse anyone of violating its patent, potentially scaring off many companies (and universities) from being able to offer something as simple and obvious as online testing.

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  • identicon
    Alfred E. Neuman, 4 Jan 2008 @ 5:16am

    How are they funded?

    It was my understanding that the patent office used to be funded, in part, from the patent application fees. Is this still the case? Does anyone think this is a conflict of interest?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Scheffy, 4 Jan 2008 @ 6:53am


    Used to be about 90% of all the fees charged by the patent office go right back into the office, though legislation may have changed that to 100% by now. As I understand it some of the different kinds of application fees (there are many) technically are refundable, but you have to appeal for it. Between being a gov't office and the fact that it takes years to even get your patent looked at, I doubt many people deal with the months/years of red tape to get a couple hundred dollars back.
    The application fees are only part of it though - they get most of their money from "maintenance fees" on existing patents, plus the $700 fee they require to actually issue the patent AFTER they've reviewed the application and deemed the patent acceptable, so yeah, they can make a lot more money passing a bunch of crap patents than rejecting them and only accepting good ones.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Oliver Wendell Jones, 4 Jan 2008 @ 6:59am

    Ah the good old days...

    Ah, 1999... the internet was still "new and fresh" and you could rubber-stamp the words "Online!" or "On The Internet!" on to any existing business model or process and it magically became an all new, patentable, profitable, IPO-offering business...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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