Oprah Sued For Patent Infringement Over Her Book Club

from the just-as-Thomas-Jefferson-intended dept

Joe Mullin is back to let us know about the latest patent insanity, starting with a post about a whole bunch of patent infringement lawsuits based on patents held by Scott Harris. You may recall Harris because he was a lawyer for a big law firm, but was quietly filing patents on the side, and then apparently working out deals whereby other companies licensed those patents to be used in infringement lawsuits against big companies -- including companies represented by the very same firm Harris worked for. Not surprisingly, he lost his job and was sued. A few months back, the lawsuit was settled and Harris's patents have, miraculously, been showing up in a bunch of recent patent lawsuits.

But the real stunner in the latest set of lawsuits is that one of the patents is being used to sue Oprah. Yes, that Oprah. Apparently, Harris is claiming that his patent on enhancing the touch and feel of the internet is violated by Oprah's book club. Yes. Her book club. Violates a patent (according to the patent holder). Now, my critics will be the first to point out that I'm no patent attorney, but reading over the patent, it certainly appears to be a patent on displaying a book online. How is that possibly patentable material? Wouldn't it be great if this got Oprah looking into the ridiculous state of the patent system in the US these days, and how it's often being used in such bogus ways? While it probably won't happen, it certainly could help dispel the old myths of the patent system as promoting innovation and finally get the issue in front of the public in a way that they would realize just how damaging the system has become and how widely it's abused.

Filed Under: book club, oprah winfrey, patents, scott harris


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  1. identicon
    Xanthir, FCD, 8 Jan 2009 @ 8:08am

    Re: In the street like a dog

    [...] even an idiot can see that this is ridiculous. Then again, I also said that about McDonald's coffee and several other disgustingly idiotic suits.

    I have a compulsion to respond to this. It's a sickness, really.

    The McDonald's suit was COMPLETELY VALID. That McDonald's was heating their coffee substantially hotter than safety regulations allow, and they'd been cited on it before, so there's no possibility of ignorance. Had their coffee been at the highest allowed temperature, the lady would have received a mild scalding. Painful and a bit embarrassing, but a reasonable penalty for doing something as stupid as opening your coffee in your lap while you're driving.

    However, because their coffee was much hotter than the highest allowed safe temperature, the woman suffered third-degree burns to her calves and genitals. Those are the bad kind, people, the kind where skin *dies* and you have to get grafts. Skin grafts to her genitals. That was enormously painful and produced a huge hospital bill.

    Had McDonald's been following safety regulations, there wouldn't have been an issue. Had she still sued, we all could have safely laughed at her. But that's not how it went down. McDonald's knowingly heated their coffee to excessive temperatures (so that it would still be hot when customers arrived at their office) with full knowledge that they were violating safety regulations, and a woman was severely injured as a direct result.

    The lawsuit was valid. Tell your friends.

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