Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Clueless USPTO Continues its Absurd Practices and the Legal Community Stands Idly By

This past Valentine's Day
(see Information Week via Aviran's Place in his posting on "U.S. Grants Patent For AJAX")
the USPTO issued Patent No. 7,000,180 for "Methods, systems, and processes for the design and creation of rich-media applications via the internet".

The Abstract of that patent reads as follows:

"Rich-media applications are designed and created via the Internet. A host computer system, containing processes for creating rich-media applications, is accessed from a remote user computer system via an Internet connection. User account information and rich-media component specifications are uploaded via the established Internet connection for a specific user account. Rich-media applications are created, deleted, or modified in a user account via the established Internet connection. Rich-media components are added to, modified in, or deleted from scenes of a rich-media application based on information contained in user requests. After creation, the rich-media application is viewed or saved on the host computer system, or downloaded to the user computer system via the established Internet connection. In addition, the host process monitors the available computer and network resources and determines the particular component, scene, and application versions, if multiple versions exist, that most closely match the available resources."

When one reads the extent of the patent claim, the only conclusion that one can reach about the United States Patent Office (USPTO) for granting this ridiculously broad patent is that the USPTO must be staffed in part by absolute incompetents. To these we can add the mass of backward Congressional legislators who are unable to draft modern and sensible patent legislation suitable for the internet age. Lastly, we find an ineffectual legal community which spends inordinate amounts of its time playing politician and e.g. browbeating Supreme Court nominees or the President of the United States, rather than directing their professional attention to urgent matters of law, which should be their job.

Our comment to all concerned is: WAKE UP!

Is it really possible that the clueless people at the USPTO, legislators in Congress and the legal community as a whole can be so stupid as to allow these kinds of patents to be granted as a matter of prevailing law? It is simply unbelievable. We do not understand it. Eolas, NTP and now the similarly obscure Balthaser Online, Inc.

Based on the Eolas and NTP patent cases as well as this newly granted patent, we think that the U.S. Patent Laws should be renamed "Scam Enablement Laws".

AJAX and the use of rich media on the internet are technologies which have slowly developed over time through the work of thousands of people around the world. An internet-based patent for any such technology is a contradiction in terms. It is the global state of the art in the internet community which drives innovation and not individuals "inventing things" for that community. The latter puts the cart before the horse. All major internet innovations such as rich media are obvious to any professional in the field - there is nothing "inventive" about them on the part of any so-called patent inventors - what a scam. Rather, the trick is to implement clearly obvious "next step developments" by writing code that is workable and can be commercially exploited, which is a completely different matter.

Writing workable code is in turn dependent on the state of the art of computer technology. We can think of many new applications that we would like to see enabled on our computer screen, but no home computer or graphic card thus far has the ability to implement them because of speed and memory limitations. For example, we want all of our interfaces to be instant 3-D WYSIWYG applications, without any noticeable intervening programs. AJAX is heading in that direction, but "invention" is limited by the state of the art of hardware. Indeed, our Windows installation freezes regularly simply because we push it to the limits. Innovation is thus greatly dependent on hardware improvements. The richer the text, the greater the burden on resources. Innovation on the internet is inextricably intertwined with developments in all of the ancillary industries.

Many patents being granted today can be compared to a Neolithic man who claims to have invented the automobile, but was only hindered to produce it because of the lack of invention in his day of steel and the wheel, not to mention combustible fuel motors and glass.

That some company now claims to be the patent owner for rich media applications on the internet is beyond the pale. It is a modern Alice in Wonderland tale, more Kafkaesque than Kafka.

Worse, it is an anathema to the human spirit. All of that idle chatter everywhere about God and religion, caricatures of prophets, evolution and creation, intelligent design, and what not. No field of human activity proves better our humble primate origins than the state of patents and patent law in the United States. We are right in the middle of a global crowd of baboons, and the baboons are us.
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China Blog and Comparative Law Blog

Jacco Bomhoff, a junior research-fellow at Leiden University Faculty of Law in the Netherlands, has a Comparative Law Blog on "comparative law and judicial decision making" which has a large amount of material on international and EU law.

We extend a hat tip here for his reference to the China Law Blog by Dan Harris, Steve Dickinson of Harris & Moure.

We have blogrolled both blawgs.

Crossposted to EU Pundit.

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