Thursday 14 January 2016

The 4 worst patents of 2015


Depressing Year for Patent Law

This had been a depressing year for patent law, which had lost sight of its constitutional anchorages as a limited and balanced source of motivations for innovators. Although Congress, the courts as well as the Patent and Trademark Office individually made their own respective efforts to rein in a system widely considered as out of control and eventually nobody had made much headway. For instance, over 200 new patent lawsuits had been filed on a day in November, as plaintiffs had rushed to beat a change in federal procedure which needed added specific claims.

Several were from companies which tend to buy up patents of doubtful quality and utilise them to extract troublesome settlements from actual innovators. A polite name for such types of companies is `non-practising entities’, though most of us are aware of them as patent trolls.

According to the Consumer Technology Association, they have exhausted over $150 billion from the U.S economy at an accelerating pace. Besides this, there also seems to be a mismatch between expanding patent coverage and the quickening pace of disruptive change that has become one of the biggest sources of risk to the innovation economy.

An attorney with the Electronic Frontier foundation, Daniel Nazer has highlighted the worst patents across this year. He holds the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents and had little problem coming up with these four rejected from a monthly `Stupid Patent of the Month’ post, that he writes for the EFF site. Each of them tends to focuson a different crisis in the badly misaligned patent system.

1. Changing the quantity of goods on order

The patent office had approved US Patent No, 9,013,334, in April that covered `notification systems which handle changes in the quantity of items that are delivered or picked by a customer. The inventor of this invention is not an entrepreneur but a patent lawyer clearly gaming the system. In 2003, the holder had filed a provisional claim which he had used to shoehorn around 20 patents, most of which were vague, broad and abstract. As single claims are challenged, the lawyer tends to simply add new ones to the earlier filing which according to Nazer are largely indistinguishable. Thereafter the company tends to sue a new set of defendants, in quest of settlements of about $50,000 which is too small in mitigating the cost of fighting a winning battle in court.

2. Firewalls that cannot be configured

A stupid patent wisely abandoned by its own inventorcould be the cause of chaos. The patent office had granted the application for an Internet firewall, in 2000 which was already a standard feature due to the inventor repeatedly insisting that it was something else, a firewall for users too dumb for using a firewall. After the holder had permitted the patent to expire in 2012, it had been purchased by a newly formed patent troll, Wetro Lan, LLC. which filed a suit against providers both large and small of Internet security technology and most of it was totally unrelated to the patent.

In the first place, it should have not been granted and could be too expensive for individual defendants to combat. The new holder could only claim for the damages by going back six years prior to the patent’s expiry though it is endlessly in internet years. Wetro Lan states that EFF `had sued everyone who tends to sell product linked with network security from Avaya to ZyXEL’.

3. Connecting something/anything to the Internet

A garbage patent of 2006 has been used to threaten anyone involved in the Internet of Things, which is a new discussion of application with the potential of linking daily items to the cloud. The patent that EFF considers was `spectacularly mundane’ even in 2006, seemed to be mainly nonsense. It defines a system of adapting products comprising of solids and fluid, by enabling the user to enter `preferences’, linking a drink mixer to the Internet, in other words.

EFF had noted that `theapplication had not disclosed any new networking technology or any new beverage making technology. However, the over-taxed patent office had granted it and now the trolling company holding the patent, Rothschild Connected Devices Innovation, LLC has been suing all who tend to connect something to the Internet, inclusive of ADT (security), Rain Bird (irrigation and OnStar (cars).

4. Using electronics to control sex toy

In early 1980s, Howard Stern, a radio personality had demonstrated computer based sexual stimulants, a category known now as `teledildonics’. However, in 1998, that did not stop the patent office in granting anoutrageously broad application from Tzu Technologies, LLC for a patent on a method of `Interactive Virtual Control of Sexual Aids Using Digital Computer Networks’.The language of the claim as usual is garbed in scientific sounding terminology in order to conceal its certainty. Nevertheless, as written and approved, the input device could be nothing more than a microphone and the `stimulation device could be just a stereo speaker.

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