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, 11 Feb 2012 @ 6:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It is a leap of faith that just because examiners may not have been able to use the internet at work for conducting searches for prior art is not the same as saying that examiners were not familiar with the internet and the technology upon which it was based.

    Long ago I learned that advancements in technology are examined by the USPTO many years before the technology becomes generally know to the public. For example, the USPTO was dealing with the first working embodiments of transistors and how to make them in the early to mid-40's, and yet they did not come to the fore until many years later as equipment and processes were developed that made their implementation in products feasible.

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