Obscure Patents: These are SO much better than software
|Written by Gene Quinn
Patent Attorney & Founder of IPWatchdog
Zies, Widerman & Malek
Follow Gene on Twitter @IPWatchdog
Posted: Nov 29, 2009 @ 7:51 am
It should come as no surprise, but I think software and business methods should be patentable, assuming of course that they are new and non-obvious. There is simply no justifiable reason to carve out an exception for software or business methods, and I am getting more than just a little sick and tired of the whining and complaining from the anti-software patent crowd. If you listen to what they say it is extremely pathetic, and oh so revealing. The primary argument is that software patents inhibit innovation, which is pure fiction of course. This devolves quickly into the substance of what they believe; namely that software should be free, which really means you create it and I steal it. They whine and complain that it is unrealistic and unfair for them to have to search patents before they start writing code, as if that is any kind of justification. Being lazy and then having the audacity to complain is nothing short of nutty. Yes, they complain that they shouldn’t have to engage in the same business practices as every other business because they are special and software should be free. You can see the circular, self-serving and ridiculous logic. They think they are different, which is certainly true just not for the reasons they think. They are so myopic that they actually believe business realities shouldn’t apply to them, only others should be required to do patent searches and respect patents. Anyone with teenagers is likely familiar with such self serving logic and the faux victim approach to life.
In any event, while it is always fun and at least somewhat therapeutic to beat up on the anti-software patent crowd, that is not the purpose, or at least main purpose, for me writing today. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at a few recently granted patents and see some of the far more important inventions that are worthy of obtaining patent protection. Before I go any further allow me to point out that I am not trying to beat up on the Patent Office here, but rather to illustrate the complete and total reckless stupidity that is gripping the debate relating to whether we should allow software patents and business method patents. The Patent Office issues patents (again, hurray!) and they are not and should not engage in picking what subjectively warrants protection, KSR v. Teleflex and the Supreme Court notwithstanding. But the debate regarding whether we should completely and totally cripple our economy and essentially decide that anything that causes a computer to operate should be free for a bunch of lazy individuals to copy is nonsensical. As if such juvenile complainers who refuse to operate in a business appropriate manner would ever invent anything anyway! For crying out loud even Red Hat and many other new-age open source companies are pursuing a responsible patent strategy! But, once again, I digress. I just can’t help myself.
Without further ado, here are some interesting recently granted patents, which must be far more important than software because no one is suggesting these inventions be determined to be unpatentable subject matter.
Reversible sweatshirt with secure pocket
US Patent No. 7,620,998
Issued November 24, 2009
Just what the world needs! Another patented reversible sweatshirt! This patent seems to have a number of typographical errors, which is not the point but an unfortunate reality. In any event, this invention allows the wearer to select which side of the reversible sweatshirt to wear. How magnificent! This is much better than software that could be used to cause a computer, or cell phone, to do any number of extraordinary things that make tasks doable in a relevant time frame. Really, who needs software when you can do it by hand using pencil and paper, right? The fact that even simple tasks could take you a lifetime to accomplish with pencil and paper and only seconds to accomplish using software is of absolutely no importance. Particularly not when you are wearing a patented reversible sweatshirt!
Headgear for attaching a toy
US Patent No. 7,621,000
Issued November 24, 2009
This is just what I always wanted! A baseball hat capable of securing a matchbox car! Now life is complete! So much better than a method of engaging in complex financial transactions, identifying patterns in enormous amounts of data that would take an individual several lifetimes to process or even a method to save money on your taxes. Much better than a tax saving invention indeed, and we all know how Justice Ginsberg hates those tax saving methods, right! I mean during the Bilski oral argument she kept bringing that up. Maybe she is just doesn’t have enough money to benefit from competent tax planning advice, or maybe she is worried about how Congress and the President will pay for a ridiculously ambitious agenda when people could actually save money on taxes. I can hear the slogan now, 15 minutes and a universally evil business method on tax saving methods could save you 15% or more on your payment to Uncle Sam. Who would want to save money on car insurance, or on taxes for that matter when you could spend your time worrying about which matchbox car you will affix to your head gear!
Casket with natural materials from a location having sentimental connection to a deceased
US Patent No. 7,621,027
Issued November 24, 2009
This is straight from the you have to be kidding me department! No need to look anywhere other than the claims for the humor, irony or depressing sadness depending on how you want to view it. Claim 1 defines the invention:
A casket liner for placement inside a casket, comprising: soil obtained from a specific location and selected to express a connection between a deceased and said specific location; and a substantially planar platform adapted to be at least partially covered by said soil and operative to be used in a burial process, wherein said soil is permanently adhered to one or more portions of the surface of said platform thus exposing said soil for contact with the deceased.
I well understand why there are so many patents on caskets and urns. Many people would like to spare no expense on their loved ones, and memorabilia compartments are a favorite patentable feature for these types of devices. But if the next generation casket is patentable subject matter shouldn’t something as useful as software or relevant to business as a method of accomplishing a task better, faster and more accurate also be patentable subject matter?
Method of washing laundry in drum washing machine
US Patent No. 7,621,013
Issued November 24, 2009
This invention, which is a washing machine, should drive home the slippery slope we face. If you look at Claim 1 it is clear that this is not really a patent to a washing machine after all, but rather a method of doing business. You see the claim covers a method of washing laundry in a drum washing machine and includes steps of supplying water, washing laundry, injecting steam into the tub, rotating the drum and then stopping the steam generation. Claim 1 does not cover a device, but rather a method, and it should be clear that this method could be employed by individuals or by a commercial laundry service or dry cleaner. So exactly where do we draw the line with respect to business methods? If we eliminate anything that can be used in business that pretty much eliminates most methods, and perhaps most inventions too! After all, isn’t the casket with soil platform just a method for getting devastated family members to part with money at a time when they are least capable of making rational decisions?
About the Author
Gene Quinn is a US Patent Attorney, law professor and the founder of IPWatchdog.com. He is also a principal lecturer in the top patent bar review course in the nation, which helps aspiring patent attorneys and patent agents prepare themselves to pass the patent bar exam. Gene started the widely popular intellectual property website IPWatchdog.com in 1999, and since that time the site has had many millions of unique visitors. Gene has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the LA Times, USA Today, CNN Money, NPR and various other newspapers and magazines worldwide. He represents individuals, small businesses and start-up corporations. As an electrical engineer with a computer engineering focus his specialty is electronic and computer devices, Internet applications, software and business methods.