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. icon
    harbingerofdoom (profile), 10 Feb 2012 @ 6:24pm

    while i know it bucks the trends, i kind of have to begrudgingly give this one to the trolls & morons... and heres why:

    in 1994, consumer users base vs. educational/governmental user bases were ~2:1. around 1994 the financial institutions were just then getting an online presence. w3c was founded in 1994... hell, time even had a front cover called "the strange new world of the internet".

    the point in all that is that it was a very new concept. and while yes, it would have been great to say that every facet of the government would have already had access to the interet, this *IS* the federal US government we are talking about here. the government moves at a pace that makes snails look pretty damn zippy. besides, it was NEW. very very NEW. the internet has been around long enough by now and how many times do we see politicians sticking their foot in their collective mouths and their general complete lack of understanding of something thats been a fundamental of the majority of people for the last 10 years?

    i dont like a single bit of it... but in this case i understand it and when set in its proper context, its not as bad as it sounds.

    and dear trolls (you know who you are) please diaf... kthxbye

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