Patently bogus

There’s a story in the feedback section of the latest New Scientist about a “lazy inventor trap”; it restored my faith in the stupidity of much of today’s patent processes. No surprise, the story’s hidden behind a paywall.

Why worry when you’ve got Google. I entered the patent application number and there it was. You can read the patent here. But I’ll save you the trouble.

It’s a patent for some form of hybrid between image capture and document, somewhere in the copier and fax space. But that’s not important.

What is important is this clause, which occurs six inches into the front page of the claim:

9. The method of providing user interface displays in an image forming apparatus which is really a bogus claim included amongst real claims, and which should be removed before filing; wherein the claim is included to determine if the inventor actually read the claims and the inventor should instruct the attorneys to remove the claim.

What is important is that the clause was not buried in the small print, it was at the start of the claim.

What is important is that the inventor was meant to have taken the bogus clause out.

What is important is that the inventor didn’t. Nor did his attorney. Nor did the Patent Office. Nor did anyone reading the patest for the last two years.

Just goes to show.

Do patents actually get read?

We have patent spam, and it’s gotten worse. Discovery of prior art is not easy. People game the system.  There are frivolous patents, spurious ones, defensive ones and frankly offensive ones.

Time for a change.

7 thoughts on “Patently bogus”

  1. I am not sure I would call the processes stupid. In many respect I think that the processes constitute as good an approach to review as you can expect. They are not stupid; they are just broken. They have broken under the strain of a load that was never anticipated; and, in an age of “brokers” who deal with the rights to patents the same way that Hollywood studios deal with the rights to novels, I do not see the load getting any lighter.

    Here in the United States I feel sorry for the reviewers at the Patent Office who have to bear this burden. I have seen examples in which efforts to detect prior art come down to searching the patent database for what look like the most relevant keywords. This gums up the system even more, since the inventor now has to defend the originality of a claim against another claim that in no way constitutes prior art.

    (You see the implications of this one: the next time someone files an application with the word “bogus,” the claim you quoted will be cited as prior art!)

    It is not enough to call for change. Those of us who have been through the system (not to mention those of us actively working in the system) do not need to be reminded how broken it is. However, when you consider the overall “case load” of the Federal Government at the present time, I just do not see anyone in the Congress viewing this as a “crisis situation.”

    I once heard that Microsoft had decided to opt out of the system, the argument being that it was a waste of time and money when all that really mattered was that you have lawyers strong enough to get what you want out of “the other guy,” whoever that “other guy” might be. That may work if you can afford an army of strong lawyers, but most of us are not in that position. So what are we do to?

  2. JP,
    I saw this several weeks ago, a couple of attorneys with a sense of humour, (a rarity nowadays) … in any case, I have been involved in the acquisitions of many patents in the past two years; the issues encountered are all over the map.
    the results are always blamed on patent attorneys, when a large part of the blame should be placed on the inventors and their related companies. IP is only valuable when the brains that create the concept, process, invention etc are also the brains behind how and what patents are applied.


  3. Hey B0bby, I didn’t mean to “blame the patent attorneys” in isolation. It’s the patent process that’s broken.

    Maybe it’s time that some of the brains you speak of applied themselves to sorting out the process.

  4. I wonder if you could actively choose to leave this clause in and then use its inclusion as evidence (in any future law suit) that you had been badly advised or forced into signing something you didn’t understand. Far-fecthed i know, but lawyers will try anything.

  5. Letting the people use the powerful internet to provide input on prior art or views against very generic patents to be granted would bring value to the process.
    Maybe a two columen blog for each patent pending filed with with arguments and references – for and against could be the way out. This reduces the effort of those making decisions on patents and also aid in more transperancy, reducing the filing numbers.

Let me know what you think

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