03.09.08

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Everything Under the Sun is Patentable, Provided It Is Digitised

Posted in Interoperability, Patents at 1:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A wolf in sheep’s clothing…

A degree of cynicism is needed here. It really seems as though the patent system will become hopeless unless someone intervenes. As we recently learned from Amazon, it may be true that patent applications can be warped to exploit loopholes in the USPTO. Consider this:

…the possibility of a major shift in patent law and the possible end of business method or software patents (or both). While the excitement is understandable, in this case I think it’s misplaced.

[...]

Using that distinction, even if the Federal Circuit (contrary to statute) completely eliminates protection for process patents, clever attorneys can still get their “business method” patents past the 101 hurdle by casting them in the form of machines that manipulate data. Indeed, even Amazon’s notorious “1-Click” patent includes claims directed to machines, rather than being limited to process claims.

Watch the comment from zoobab:

Data processing with a pen and paper is not patentable.

Why do you argue that Data processing with a calculator is patentable?

To give another example from Friday’s news, watch how portable consoles become patentable when re-posed as phones.

Sony has long denied rumours that it’s working on a PlayStation Portable (PSP) phone, but the company has lots of explaining to do now that a new Sony Ericsson patent application has come to light detailing just such a device.

This brings back memories of Amazon’s patent on “recommendation based on sales history”, which is the digital equivalent of a librarian recommending a book based on one’s reading list and other books that were liked.

How about patenting the passing of a football to the nearest player (yes, there is a patent on this) or patents that relate to driving of a car? When it comes to the digital/electronic world, such things become patentable.

Back in 2005 I wrote a Designer’s Notebook column called “The End of Copyright,” warning that copyright, as a property concept, is probably on its way out. It’s a “right” that was invented out of nowhere after the invention of the printing press, and it will probably fade away some time in the next hundred years or so.

[...]

For example, the Namco patent on load-time mini-games (US Patent Number 5,718,632), as originally used in the PlayStation 1 version of Ridge Racer, contains 16 claims, many of which are almost identical to one another. Each claim is a description of what was invented. The terms in this description are called the limitations of the claim — that is, the boundaries of what is claimed.

Read on for further details. Also recall our past short discussions about game patents. These are basically software patents that have gone too far.

How about an electronic equivalent which is similar to gift cards?

A Utah County couple is alleging that Starbucks and Apple violated a patent for shopping cards that allow a consumer to purchase items such as music albums or movies at a store then download them at home.

What will be next? A patent on the ‘electronic book’, followed by claims that all Web browsers — and by association all computer users — infringe on this patent? Yes, we said at the start that a cynical tone is to be expected.

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