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Patent News Roundup: Looking Worse Than Better

“Other than Bill Gates, I don’t know of any high tech CEO that sits down to review the company’s IP portfolio.”

--Marshall Phelps



Stop Feeding the USPTO



We carry on arguing that the patent system is dysfunctional because the entry barriers are far too low. What does the government do? Adds even more money to the USPTO's budget.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has received a budget increase of about 9 percent for the government's 2008 fiscal year, prompting praise from some tech groups.


So, research funding is down, almost all budgets are down whilst courts are claimed to be overburdened by lawsuits. Should more funding be allocated to researchers rather than patents that spur litigation, where only lawyers win? An already-overwhelmed patent office gets even more resources to accept software patent applications. Is this a move forward or a move backwards?

Stop Feeding the Trolls



Citing Patent TrollTracker, TechDirt writes about another lawsuit over the classic game of Solitaire (over the network). Does chess (over the network) have a patent as well?

However, perhaps the most interesting is the third case discussed by the Troll Tracker. It involves the somewhat infamous patents of Sheldon Goldberg, which got plenty of attention back in 2004 when he started claiming that computer solitaire was covered by his patents. The two key patents are for a network gaming system and a method for playing games on a network.


Start Feeding the EFF Instead



Some more junk patents have fallen victim to the EFF's patent busting efforts. Here are some of the details.

In another step forward for EFF's Patent Busting Project, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) last week issued an official rejection of all sixteen claims of the Test.com Internet test-taking method patent. The PTO granted re-examination last year after EFF submitted a petition that included several examples of prior art from a company called IntraLearn that had not previously been part of the PTO record. In light of that prior art, the PTO has now found that all sixteen of Test.com's claims obvious and non-patentable.


Groklaw seems to be making an effort to squash an Apple patent which we mentioned last week. It has "prior art" written all over it.

We have another request to pick your brains regarding prior art. I guess I should set up a new subcategory just for prior art searching. It looks like we'll be doing more and more of it. This time, the request is regarding the new patent application that Apple announced for wifi purchases over an iPhone. Journalist John Oram believes he's found someone who has some prior art. Can you please take a look and if you know of other examples, comment on them here?


Orwellian Patents



Microsoft carries on making patents for Orwellian things. We have seen many of them in recent months. That's the company that used to warn about the dangers of patents before it became large and dominant.

Is this patent a harbinger of a dystopian future where computer users' biorhythms will be monitored to increase efficiency? Unlikely. The idea, which was birthed at Microsoft Research, is simply a more advanced version of user focus group testing that Microsoft (and most other software companies) have been doing for years now. Still, if your employer asks you to patch on a pair of electrodes before sitting down to work in the morning, my advice is to find another company to work for.


It's All About Disputes



The IBM-Asustek case, which was first mentioned last month, makes it back into the headlines.

The trade agency said in a statement that the case would be referred to an administrative law judge, who will hold a hearing and make an initial determination. That decision is subject to review by the ITC commissioners.


Will we be seeing more disputes and paperwork rather than actual development work? It sure looks like it because patent dispute are rising sharply in terms of frequency and severity.

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