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10.03.18

Eric Swildens Squashes Bogus US Patent, Corporate Media’s Response Gives Room for Thought

Posted in Patents at 4:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Vigilante engineer” is what corporate media has chosen to call him

Vigilante
Reference: Vigilante in Wikipedia

Summary: A technical person who followed the legal process to have a patent invalidated (at personal cost of $6,000) is being belittled by corporate media as “random” and maligned as “vigilante” (knowing the very negative connotations; see above)

THE QUALITY of patents should be celebrated, not condemned, but today’s USPTO measures its performance in terms of quantity (e.g. number of grants), not quality. We have just explained who benefits from such abundance of legally-toothless patents.

“Ars Technica’s coverage went with a headline that called him “Vigilante engineer” (negative connotation, as though he’s armed or something).”Earlier this week there were many news articles like “Engineer spends $6,000 invalidating Waymo’s lidar patents” and “Random engineer spends six grand to block Waymo’s lidar patents” (he is not “random”). To quote the latter:

The 936 patent was key in Waymo’s battle against Uber in a legal battle running since 2016 in which Waymo accused Uber of using allegedly stolen intellectual property. Waymo, owned by Alphabet, ended up prevailing, partly thanks to its 936 patent. In the end, Uber had to pay Waymo $245 million worth of equity to settle the lawsuit.

But now it turns out Uber could have saved a huge chunk of cash since the lone engineer’s actions have resulted in most of the 936 patent being ruled invalid. “As I investigated the 936 patent, it became clear it was invalid due to prior art for multiple reasons,” Swildens said. “I only filed the reexamination because I was absolutely sure the patent was invalid.”

Ars Technica’s coverage went with a headline that called him “Vigilante engineer” (negative connotation, as though he’s armed or something). Sounds like an insult, no? This is from Wall Street-connected media (the parent company), albeit the publisher in this case is technology-centric. CBS was the second (at least) publisher to call him “random” (like “simpleton” or “nobody”); the headline called him that. “Waymo has one of its lidar patents gutted, thanks to a random engineer” (some headlines said patents rather than patent, i.e. plural, meaning that there was no fact-checking by the authors).

A British technology tabloid said in its headline that “Waymo loses shedloads of patents to a lone engineer” (but actually it’s about one single patent and calling him “lone engineer” sounds like “lone wold shooter”). To quote:

A lone engineer has overturned most of a foundational patent covering Waymo’s lidar laser ranging devices.

Eric Swildens managed to get the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to reject all but three of 56 claims in Waymo’s 936 patent.

The USPTO found that some claims replicated technology described in an earlier patent from lidar vendor Velodyne, while another claim was simply “impossible” and “magic.”

What makes this surprising is that Uber spent a fortune losing a court case against Waymo over this patent after a Waymo engineer was inadvertently copied on an email from one of its suppliers to Uber, showing a lidar circuit design that looked almost identical to one shown in the 936 patent.

We decided to take note of this one story primarily to show just how awful press coverage about patents can be. It’s truly inaccurate and it is sometimes an attack on people who dare disrupt multi-billion-dollar corporations and their monopolisation aspirations. Our next post will be a follow-up on this, albeit one that pertains to IBM and Microsoft.

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