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 @ 9:08pm

    Re: Re:

    The holding in the case was that there was not, and never had been, a categorical rejection of "business methods" under the Patent Act of 1952 (which was a codification of prior atatutory and common law) from the class of subject matter embraced with the scope of 35 USC 101.

    As Judge Rich, writing for the entire panel, aptly noted, prior cases had never directly confronted the issue presented in this case because those case holdings were based upon other sections of the patent law, namely, Sections 102, 103 and 112.

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