[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
[FYI] (Fwd) FC: Has the U.S. Patent Office really reformed?
- To: email@example.com
- Subject: [FYI] (Fwd) FC: Has the U.S. Patent Office really reformed?
- From: "Axel H Horns" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2001 23:25:45 +0100
- Comment: This message comes from the debate mailing list.
- Organization: NONE
- Sender: email@example.com
------- Forwarded message follows -------
Date sent: Wed, 21 Mar 2001 15:14:49 -0500
From: Declan McCullagh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: FC: Has the U.S. Patent Office really reformed?
Send reply to: email@example.com
Has the U.S. Patent Office Really Reformed?
posted by vergil on Wednesday March 21, @12:50PM
from the extraordinary-claim-needs-extraordinary-proof dept.
According to a brief article in today's Wall Street Journal
entitled "Fewer Patents on Methods Get Clearance," the
U.S. PTO "has drastically reduced the pace of issuing controversial
business-method patents, by setting up bureaucratic roadblocks that
have angered some information-technology investors." Is this claim
significant? Has the U.S. government truly reformed its habit of
granting patents to business methods? I think the answer's "No" for
What exactly is a "Business Method Patent?"
Most tech-savvy folks -- particularly journalists -- use the phrase
"business method patent" as a blanket perjorative applying to
patents on Internet processes, software and methods of doing
business. The terms "business method patent," "software patent" and
"web patent" are used interchangably in the vernacular to refer to
the recent flood of perceived broad and obvious patents having
something to do with the Internet.
However, when a representative of the U.S. PTO says "business
method patent", he's referring to a specific classification of
patents - Class 705 "Data processing: Financial, Business Practice,
Management, or Cost/Price Determination." The drastic reduction in
business method patents mentioned in the WSJ article almost
certainly refers to Class 705 issuances exclusively.
The two most frequently mentioned examples of allegedly obvious
business method patents (Priceline's name-your-price patent and
Amazon's one-click patent) are members of Class 705. Yet most of
the Internet-related patents lambasted daily in the press and
discussion forums like Slashdot are not Class 705 -- British
Telecom's "Hyperlink Patent" falls under Class 711, Microsoft's
patent on style sheets is designated Class 707, and Apple's
"Multiple Theme Engine" patent is Class 345.
The U.S. PTO has made some progress in applying greater scrutiny to
the torrent of business method patents. A new, comprehensive
website has been set up, and a "Business Methods Patent Initiative"
launched. Unfortunately, these measures -- including second review
and expanded mandatory searches -- are limited to Class 705 patent
applications. I've seen little evidence that the U.S. PTO's newly
implemented "bureaucratic roadblocks" have weeded out potentially
broad, non-novel and obvious patent applications that fall under
classifications other than 705. One such example may be Microsoft's
recently granted (Jan. 16, 2001) patent 6,175,833 that seems to
claim the venerable concept of running automatic web-polls.
Exporting American "Innovation" Abroad
While the U.S. PTO struggles to reform its examining procedures,
and members of Congress propose potential solutions (such as the
Business Method Patent Improvements Act of 2000), at least one
other branch of the U.S. government -- the Office of the U.S. Trade
Representative -- appears to have been laboring to ensure that
other nations adopt the controversial American practice of granting
patents to business methods. (USTR is the federal agency charged
with negotiating and enforcing America's trade positions with other
For instance, consider the following excerpt from a October 24,
2000 Memorandum of Understanding "on Issues Related to the
Protection of Intellectual Property Rights Under the Agreement
Between the United States and Jordan on the Establishment of a Free
"5. Jordan shall take all steps necessary to clarify that the
exclusion from patent protection of 'mathematical methods' in
Article 4(B) of Jordan's Patent Law does not include such 'methods'
as business methods or computer-related inventions."
U.S. government representatives took a similar negotiating position
in a March 2, 2001 "expert level" meeting between "United States
and Japanese government officials." According to a fact sheet on
the USTR website:
"The United States urged the Japanese Government to take a number
of measures in this area, including ... clarifying its laws to
ensure that the personal use exception for copying is not abused in
the digital environment; and protecting business method patents."
--- POLITECH -- Declan McCullagh's politics and technology mailing
list You may redistribute this message freely if it remains intact. To
subscribe, visit http://www.politechbot.com/info/subscribe.html This
message is archived at http://www.politechbot.com/
------- End of forwarded message -------