One Reason Why The USPTO Granted Ridiculously Stupid Internet Patents: Patent Examiners Were Banned From Using The Internet

from the wtf dept

We already reported on the surprising but good news ruling out of East Texas, that Eolas' crazy patents were judged invalid by the jury. However, Alex Howard's writeup about the ruling includes a crazy tidbit that came out during the short trial that deserves separate attention:
One interesting detail that emerged in the case was that the U.S. Patent Office didn't have access to the Internet in 1994 and was apparently forbidden from going on the Internet in 1997, which would make research into prior art in cyberspace somewhat of a challenge.
I'm not sure I'd use "interesting" as the adjective there. More like insane. I mean, it's pretty well-known that many patent examiners focused solely on other patents or journal articles as the key sources of prior art, rather than what was actually happening in the field, but being forbidden from going online is just crazy. Luckily for the internet, this was still a time period when most tech companies believed that software wasn't patentable -- something that changed the following year when the ridiculous State Street ruling opened the floodgates. While certainly some really bad patents (like Eolas') made it through, just think how much worse things would have been if there were as many internet/software patent filings from 1990 to 1998 as there were after 98.

Filed Under: internet, patents, uspto
Companies: eolas, google, yahoo


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2012 @ 5:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    prior to the 1990's you could FTP and telnet to sites and download software and files and things of interest.

    But nothing "on the net" has EVER been 'leading edge' technology, or new inventions..

    prior to that, you were into the days of BBS's that you could log into with your trusty 300 baud modem and again down load SIMPLE games, and simple applications.

    The beginning of the internet was not from leading edge technology, is was created from 'hand me downs' from the corporate world. Everyone got their modems second hand from companies who were upgrading, it was business, banking and corporate in general that build the internet as we know it by making their surplus modems and second hand computers available to the general public.

    The internet was an interesting and fun place before the "WEB" and "browsers" came about..

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