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


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    darryl, 10 Feb 2012 @ 6:09pm

    Anomyous FTP thousands of sites trying to find prior art ??? LOL Pointless

    and what were they supposed to do on the internet, to research a patent application ?

    the internet then, is nothing like the internet today, there were not huge search engines, or promoted technologies, were they expected to FTP as many sites as they can and "ls" their way through their files to find something.

    DO you know how fruitless and timeconsuming that would have been, there were no central databases to access, you certainly could not "just Google it" or BING it as I prefer.

    So for them to do an 'internet search' for something would have been impossible.

    Masnick, the internet has changed quite a bit and is today nothing like it was at those times. Yet is it still improper for the patent office to be made responsible for finding prior art, it is the responsibility of the patent applicant to conduct an appropriate search for prior art.

    Prior art, I might add that is patented in that country !!
    Not just 'any old' prior art, does not count (as you well know masnick)..

    Say someone lodges a patent for a "Cure for cancer", Masnick does a google search for "cure for cancer" gets lots of hits and cries "PRIOR ART" !!!!

    Sorry Masnick, just because something is on the internet does not mean it is right, true, patented or that specific method of doing something.

    Sure there may be many 'cures for cancer', there are !!
    Each one is a specific METHOD of curing cancer, the method is what is patented, not the cure... THE METHOD..

    You do not patent the transistor, you patent the method of achieving the transistor action.

    There is no patent on a car tyre, but there are many patents on the method of constuction of tyres, there is no patent on the 'wheel' but many patents on methods of making wheels.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.