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08.06.18

Playing With Words and Buzzwords in a Landscape of Software Patents Rejections

Posted in America, Patents at 2:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Colour letters

Summary: The efforts to get patents on software granted nowadays increasingly rely on synonyms and vague/nebulous buzzwords, such as “AI”; examiners ought to be aware of this because PTAB and courts would almost definitely reject all of these patents

THE limitations in terms of patent scope sometimes seem farcical because both the EPO and USPTO promote loopholes/ways around these limitations. Courts don’t.

“There have been lots of EPO tweets in favour of software patents (disguised by buzzwords like “AI”) since Campinos took over.”Commercials disguised as articles are again being pushed by a site that recently wrote about António Campinos, who says he will continue to pursue patent maximalism, not patent quality. The term "AI" is nowadays being used by the EPO to promote software patents in Europe (without explicitly mentioning the term “software patents”). There have been lots of EPO tweets in favour of software patents (disguised by buzzwords like “AI”) since Campinos took over. Not a good sign at all. The new commercial disguised as an article says:

Dr Susan Keston of HGF tells IPPro about her new promotion, the landscape of software and computer-implementation, and AI patent applications

Well, “AI patent applications” are just software patent applications and “computer-implementation” (with a dash) makes no sense at all unless they’re alluding to “computer-implemented inventions”, a misleading EPO term for “software patents”. Either way, this is part of a trend that we’ve been writing about for over a year. Applicable to Europe and the US alike (with slight variations in the terms used), what we have here is a game of words. Below we focus on the US; we’d rather set aside EPO coverage.

“Why getting patents is smart for domain name companies” was the headline of this article from last week. It’s very bad advice in the post-Alice world because software patents are very weak now. So who’s behind such advice? As usual, it’s the shameless self promoters. To quote: “As a bit of background, I once worked in the intellectual property group of a Fortune 500 company. My job was to license non-patented software technology for commercialization, but I also saw the inner-workings of patent programs.”

“Applicable to Europe and the US alike (with slight variations in the terms used), what we have here is a game of words.”So what we have here is a site about domain names promoting abstract patents in this domain; but the person who wrote the article is no domain expert, just a patent profiteer, as usual.

Also on the subject of domain names, here we have another commercial disguised as an article (same site as above) about someone who “counsels companies in domain name disputes and software litigation.”

This is not necessarily about patents (more likely trademarks), but it mentions PTAB as follows: “He represents clients in false advertising, breach of contract, and defamation cases and has previously been involved in cases before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, and the US Patent and Trademark Office.”

They make a hiring an actual ‘news’ item; this is part of a problem we used to speak of. Sites that claim to provide news about patents are actually stuffed by the world’s law firms (litigation industry) and their PR. This problem extends to the USPTO itself. It now actively promotes the Blockchain hype, leading to articles such as this, which says: “U.S. retail giant Walmart has applied for another patent, which describes the management of smart appliances using blockchain technology, according to an application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office August 2.”

“As we’ve already noted above, more and more companies just call their software “AI”, knowing patents on such software would likely be worthless in courts (but enough to fool examiners).”Well, these are software patents disguised using buzz/hype. “The USPTO has published blockchain-related patent applications coming from six major technological companies,” said another article from last week. Just like in China. Published days ago was a page titled “The 2018 White Paper on China’s Blockchain Industry and the Question of How to Protect Intellectual Property Rights for China’s Game-Changing Technology” (overlap in hype).

As we’ve already noted above, more and more companies just call their software “AI”, knowing patents on such software would likely be worthless in courts (but enough to fool examiners). See last week’s article “Despite Pledging Openness, Companies Rush to Patent AI Tech” and also mind these statistics (“Machine Learning” being a branch of “AI”): “I identified 21 PTAB Decisions Directed to Machine Learning Patent Applications Since 4/1/2018. The PTAB Affirmed Examiners’ 101 Rejections in 16 Cases and Reversed in Only 1 Case. 5 Cases Had No 101 Rejections.”

So the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is wise enough to know — in the context of inter partes reviews (IPRs) — that such patents are abstract and thus bunk. The Federal Circuit would likely agree.

It is quite frankly tiring to see all these buzzwords flooding the media, perhaps in an effort to pass off old ideas as more innovative than they really are. Forbes, we might add/stress again, has become quite a patent propaganda site. Their so-called ‘bloggers’ and writers are patent extremists and some are patent trolls (literally). As a new example of that, see an article titled “Before You Begin The Patenting Process, Read This” (blocked behind a spywall, as usual).

“Greedy patent offices exploit that to simply disregard the law, including precedents from the US Supreme Court and a directive from the European Parliament.”Over the past week we’ve caught up with numerous other patents, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4], which appear to be software patents. It’s hard to tell without looking at the underlying patent texts. We also continue to see companies that brag about new patents. INNOVENTIONS (“Established in 1984,” according to its press release) has nothing to show except a pile of new patents; it wants people to pay for these patents. Here is another example which speaks of “350 granted and pending patents across 15 countries, demonstrating ClearMotion’s IP leadership position across the globe.”

Patents per se are OK, depending on the domain. Software patents, however, are bogus patents (so says the US Supreme Court) and sadly we see the media not only promoting these patents but also mislabeling them, e.g. “AI”. Greedy patent offices exploit that to simply disregard the law, including precedents from the US Supreme Court and a directive from the European Parliament.

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