by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
internet, patents, paul allen, re-exam, uspto

People Concerned About Paul Allen's Ridiculous Patent Claims Gets USPTO To Begin Re-Exams Of His Patents

from the about-time dept

Last year, we covered Paul Allen's ridiculous patent lawsuit against a ton of tech companies. He claimed that all of these companies violated four incredibly broad patents he held:
  • 6,263,507: "Browser for use in navigating a body of information, with particular application to browsing information represented by audio data."
  • 6,034,652 & 6,788,314 (really the same patent, involving continuations): "Attention manager for occupying the peripheral attention of a person in the vicinity of a display device"
  • 6,757,682: "Alerting users to items of current interest"
The details looked really silly, and the broad daylight continues to make them look silly. A bunch of folks who were concerned about this lawsuit (including various other developers and individuals) have chipped in -- and some of these completely volunteer efforts have prompted the USPTO to begin investigating the validity of these patents in the first place.

Of course, if the USPTO were doing its job properly, it wouldn't be approving so many bogus patents that just come back to haunt actual innovators.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2011 @ 11:59pm

    Re: Re: Perfectly Simple Fix

    There are very few "legitimate" patents. Patents are supposed to be to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts". To do that they have to get used. In other words, the patent has to contribute to progress. That is, it needs to be useful to engineers at the product design stage. That is just not happening, therefore patents are useless for their Constitutionally intended purpose.

    Why is it not happening? (1) The pernicious "willful infringement" doctrine means that in any sensibly-run company engineers are absolutely forbidden to read patents, other than their own. (2) The strange engineer-hostile language used in patents, means that engineers do not understand a patent, even if they do read it. (3) Engineers are busy, they do not have time to read patents. Re-invention is quicker. Reading a textbook gives an engineer more useful information in a shorter time. (4) Patents are poorly organized, it is almost impossible to find a relevant one to address some particular engineering problem.

    So the number of actual legitimate patents is vanishingly tiny. So the benefit of the patent system is vanishingly tiny, but the cost is huge and getting even larger. If something costs more than its benefit, then stop doing it.

    Reforming the system by eliminating infringement will greatly cut the cost by stopping a vast amount of unnecessary litigation and the useless creation of defensive patents. With no threat of infringement, then junk patents can be safely ignored. If there are any useful patents left, then they might produce an actual benefit by being used. However, there is still no certainty that benefits would exceed costs. We can but try it.

    What about the honest inventors living off their licensing fees, you may ask. That is an extinct species, as far as science has been able to determine. There is no economic loss from disadvantaging an extinct species.

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