Take sure there is a US patent on each idea and each action you will have a day.
Introduced originally to protect innovation, the U.S. system has evolved to the point where firms are founded only to tax the companies that innovate through portfolios of "patents" that they buy and have no other activities. According to statistics, 60% of the trials from these "patent trolls" and represent in the USA a cost of $ 30 billion for businesses.
But the most absurd is that many software patents filed by even the best-known companies are obvious ideas that anybody would have had and for which they claim hundreds of millions of dollars when used by others.
According to a study by the Boston University, legal fee because patents was US$ 29 billion in 2011 (in USA).
Microsoft: Patent on page flip
Here is a summary of the patent filed by Microsoft : how a page is turned on a computer or mobile phone. Even if I have already seen such graphical effect on personal computers as older as the Apple II.
One or more pages are displayed on a touch display. A page-turning gesture directed to a displayed page is recognized. Responsive to such recognition, a virtual page turn is displayed on the touch display. The virtual page turn actively follows the page-turning gesture. The virtual page turn curls a lifted portion of the page to progressively reveal a back side of the page while progressively revealing a front side of a subsequent page...
- The patent 20100175018 on July 8, 2010 on Virtual Page Turn. A similar patent, D670,713 was already granted to Apple on November 13, 2012.
- Video of BeOS. Anteriority of the representation of a page turning.
- Patent of modularity. They have invented modularity but not russian dolls for now (more to come). Patent.
BT: A patent on hyperlink
British Telecom said it has filed a patent in 1976 on links in a page and that the patent was granted in 1986.
Following what it has sued the company Prodigy Internet December 13, 2000.
We have a duty to our shareholders to exploit intellectual property just as any other company does.
But the patent makes no mention of the mouse and only speaks of keyboard to activate the link. In addition, a prototype of hypertext system had been previously created in 1968 by a researcher at Stanford (see documents).
Apple: All mobile applications belong them
In a patent dated 29 July 2010, Apple assumes authorship of the use of any travel service from a mobile.
To illustrate this application it gives a diagram taken from a screenshot of a third-party application on the AppStore since 2008!
On the left a screenshot of the Where To application, on the right the diagram in the patent from Apple. The issue of prior art is not of concern for the Cuppertino firm.
Apple does not patent Where To but the service on which relies this application created by another company.
- The patent 20100190510 on July 29, 2010. Travel on a mobile.
- The patent 20100191551 on July 29, 2010. Hotel reservations on a mobile.
- Patent on a virtual keyboard.
- Patent on the rotation of the image. As shown in the picture to the right, the fact that an image goes from portrait to landscape mode would be an invention of Apple, when directed by thumbs. Look like they want to patent moves of the thumbs.
Paul Allen: Patent on Web sites
The Microsoft co-founder had a trial at all the major players of the Web, except... Microsoft.
The targets: Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, AOL, Youtube.
- Browser for use in navigating a body of information.
- Use of website (...) to categorize, compare and display segments of a body of information.
- Alerting users to items of current interest.
These patents are accompanied by ridiculous graphs to show the flow of information.
That is as to designate the entire web (except Microsoft) as infringing patents of Paul Allen!
- The complaint of Paul Allen (PDF).
- Patent 6757682.
- Update December 29, 2010: The complaint has been dismissed on December 11 because it was too vague and a new one whas submitted on December 28. Source.
Facebook: Patent on the number of clicks
Facebook obtained the patent 7,788,260 filed in 2004 on an "invention": to classify the results of a search engine based on the number of clicks!
Ranking search results based on the frequency of clicks on the search results by members of a social network who are within a predetermined degree of separation.
Brilliant invention which was also part of the Google algorithm for years.
Patent on a stick as "Animal Toy", toast and other jokes.
To see how far we can go with the U.S. patent system, Ross Long applied for a patent on a simple wooden stick, cutted from a branch.
The stick is now patented.
- 6360393 Launching a stick for his dog. Patent on stick as a toy for a dog, with image. March 26, 2002. The link to USPTO is on the page.
- 6080436 Patent on the toast. Untitled, "how to refresh bread".
- 4022227 Patent on haircut.
- 3216423 Apparatus for faciliting birth by centrifugal force.
- Snowman. Attributed to Angela Holiday in 2006.
- 6368227: Swinging on a swing would be the invention of Steven Olson in 2000. His father beeing itself lawyer they had no fee to paid, he wanted him, who was 5 years old at the time, to learn how the system is working. But he did not expected the patent to be validated.
- 5443036: Let your cat follow a bright spot. You can train your cat to follow a laser. They join to two for this "invention".
- 5,251,294. The Webvention company claims $ 80,000 to any company using a dropdown menu.
- 5,838,906 on Interactive Web. Eolas firm, in fact a "Patent Troll" because it has no activity other than legal, sued all players of the Web for their pay hundreds of millions of dollars. The trial was held in Texas on Feb. 9 to which take part Google, Yahoo!, Amazon and even Tim Berners-Lee, considered the inventor of the Web. The jury quickly said the Eolas patents were invalid.
Following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bilski, the USPTO had to review the software rules and methods.
A new system supported by large companies including Google has been voted by the Senate in September 2011, the Leahy-Smith Invents America Act.
- This is the first to file a patent and not the first to use who gets the invention.
This solves the case where two people have made the same invention at the same time.
- However, the "prior art" still exists and prevents the filing of a patent. It will also be easier to enforce thanks to post-grant review process.
If the invention is described in a printed publication, or already marketed, it is Prior Art.
The Innovation Act is a new law passed by a large majority at the House of Representatives, Nov. 5, 2013, to fight patent trolls. It will help companies defend themselves by reducing the cost of trial and and by charging the plaintiff all costs if he loses the trial. It requires the complainant to specify exactly which product infringes the patent, which strangely was not mandatory before! It also prohibits the complainant using of shell companies to launch attacks, which should annoy Microsoft.
- Apple sentenced to pay 200 million dollars because of a patent (6 725 427) on a technology it used long before it was patented: Cover Flow.
- EOLAS. Microsoft sentenced to pay 520 million dollars for embedding objects in a Web page. The 5,838,906 patent is easy to bypass thus the interest to wait long before to sue!
The United States Supreme Court was forced to invalidate a patent that referred to the application of laws of nature, after it has been accepted by the USPTO and all other authorities, before crashing in the highest authority in the country, which is still distressing.
The Mayo Clinic has developed a system of clinical trials when Prometheus sued it, claiming that it had rights on how to do these tests, having filed a patent on the method used!
Services againt patents
- Ask Patent. Established jointly by the USPTO and StackExchange this site answers questions and help find Prior Art.
- How to submit prior art to USPTO. To avoid a patent validated before it si too late. The prior art must follow some rules.
- Public Patent Foundation. A not-for-profit organization which fights against underserved patents.
- OPN Pledge. Google allows free use of certain patents provided they you do not pursue first. The interest is to give an advantage to the company that are not do trials. But it is useless against the patent trolls.
Documents and sites of interest
- Patent absurdity. Video.
- Patently Ridiculous Claims. Washington Post.
- Why we need to abolish software patents.
- The cost of patents. Too much money est used to protect itself against litigations, that could be used in innovation.
- Open Invention Network. A pool (including IBM, Novell, RedHat) created to protect Linux by filing patents to counterattack the firms that would sue Linux users.
- App developper Alliance. Pool including Google to fight patent trolls.
- Innovator Patent Agreement. A project against patent trolls from Twitter.
- Swpat. Wiki about software patents.
- Why graphene is not patented. "We will put a hundred patent lawyers on it to write a hundred patents a day, and you will spend the rest of your life suing us.", said a firm.
- When patents attack. About Intellectual Ventures and patents. An answer.
Who is suying who? The patent circus between mobiles makers...