This past Tuesday, the US Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent on "a mobile entertainment and communication device."
Reading the patent, you realize it describes the quite common smartphone. It's a patent for a mobile phone with removable storage, an internet connection, a camera and the ability to download audio or video files. The patent holding firm who has the rights to this patent wasted no time at all. At 12:01am Tuesday morning, it filed three separate lawsuits against just about everyone you can think of
, including Apple, Nokia, RIM, Sprint, AT&T, HP, Motorola, Helio, HTC, Sony Ericsson, UTStarcomm, Samsung and a bunch of others. Amusingly, the company actually first filed the lawsuits on Monday, but realized it was jumping the gun and pulled them, only to refile just past the stroke of midnight.
As the link above explains, the patent itself is based on a bunch of continuation filings
, which are commonly used by patent holders who want broad patents to cover the latest technologies well after they've already come about in the market. It would seem like the concept itself, merely combining a bunch of things that people were already talking about, should never have been granted based on the Supreme Court's recent KSR ruling
that merely combining existing concepts doesn't deserve a patent. Also, as noted in the comments to the link above, it would appear that there's a fair amount of prior art
. In fact, Apple even sent over some prior art concerning the patent just before it was originally supposed to be issued last summer -- but somehow patent holder's lawyers talked their way around it. In the meantime, it looks like we've got yet another case of an overly broad and obvious patent being used against a huge number of firms. I'm sure that's exactly what Thomas Jefferson expected when he created our patent system.