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01.26.08

Signs That USPTO Should RIP: Company/Individual Patents the Mobile Computer

Posted in Intellectual Monopoly, Patents at 9:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Low barriers makes law standards

We kid you not. A patent troll has apparently just been awarded a patent covering something awfully generic. It pretty much describes any ‘smart’ computer that can be moved from one place to another. “Prior art,” you might yell, but go ahead and prove this in court. This results in a lot of wasted time and great distress. As Techdirt puts it, just about everyone is already sued.

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.

If a sign was needed to show that the patent system had gone too far and well off the rails, this is it. It’s just one among many more examples. Even trivial things like XML seem to be getting patented nowadays. Almost everything under the sun is owned by someone and this means that strategic lawsuits can be initiated by almost anyone at any given time. Think about SCO and also think about a recent incident involving IBM and possibly Microsoft too. When things get personal, people use their lawyers, just as this new Murdoch versus Branson story shows.

It appears that Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch are still unable to get along together. After last year’s battle over whether or not to broadcast Sky channels on Virgin Media’s UK cable television network, Rupert is now (at least indirectly) bringing out his IP lawyers in an apparent attempt to threaten Virgin in other ways.

This war of ego certainly does not help the engineers. It certainly will not benefit the customer in any way.

The key point to make here is that when barriers to acceptance are so low, you permit people to sue over just about anything. All that is needed is a catalyst, an excuse. This promotes patent Armageddons. With patent trolls abound, there is no public image to be hurt (unlike SCO, whose sales declined), so guilt and hesitation are simply not there. Trigger-happy, consciousness-free lawyers can inherit the earth.

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