PermaLink US Patent Office Needs Revamp09/19/2009 05:56 PM
You'd think that after the Unisys LZW/GIF mess (where a company used a badly protected/publicized patent to blackmail other companies for blood money), the USPTO would have made changes in how they issue patents or the requirements to keep a patent invalid...

Recently RIM (the makers of the ubiquitous Blackberry) paid blood money to Visto (a maker of PDA/phone messaging software from the UK); it's a shame because I liked Visto's support of multiple platforms and they could easily have patented specifics of their syncing process on those other platforms instead. Once a patent is granted in the US, it's easier to get an International patent, which then makes it easy to litigate (aka "extort") in multiple countries at once, which starts sucking a huge amount of time and money from the target company so it's sometimes easier to just settle (aka "pay blood money"). You can see why there's a whole industry of companies named NPE's (aka "extortionists") who make their living buying and litigating patents :-P

In the UK, it gets even more convoluted because even if a patent claim is rejected, the claimant can refile the patent into more distinct patents, after the fact. This is a patently stupid idea in the UK court system...it's giving free reign to these other companies to say basically "I didn't mean to write the patent that way, but I meant it this specific way" after they have seen how other companies kill off their obviously badly written patent. This is what happened in the RIM/Visto case in the UK. The original patent was invalidated using Lotus Notes as prior art because Notes had replication before anyone else. This was then refiled as divisional patents EP1722321 B1 (basically "when to sync 3rd party email"), EP1783675 B1 (basically "storing email on a globally accessible server"), and EP1785927 B1 (basically "syncing with ISP email"). All of these were already covered by Lotus Notes and 3rd party products (including 3rd party open source ones from the Linux world) as prior art; Lotus Notes was even mentioned by the US Patent Office the original patent was filed under, but Visto pushed through with it anyways. These divisional patents would have gone to trial last week and probably been thrown out but RIM decided to pay the blood money instead...but at least this ends the pain for now...until the next NPE comes along. It's amazing how Lotus Notes is not archaic technology as IBM's Steve Mills claimed...it showed up in different wrappers from different companies ;-)

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Full-stack developer (consultant) working with .Net, Java, Android, Javascript (jQuery, Meteor.js, AngularJS), Lotus Domino