Wednesday, June 30, 2004

EFF Patent Busters

The EFF has setup a project to bust up lousy patents which is an idea I fully support. The Patent Office (which as you may recall, is supposed to be doing this) has basically reinvented itself into a money factory akin to a rubber stamp diploma mill. Send whatever obvious idea you want and they will dutifully search through all the other patents. If it's not there -- bam! you're a winner. Consequently, large companies are playing Hungry Hungry Hippos trying to snarf up as many "innovations" as they can. The Patent office institutionally avoids looking at anything other than patents (and some journals) when considering prior art so if it's flipping obvious or has been in products for 20 years, that doesn't hold much water with them. Getting a bad patent invalidated is a huge amount of expense/work (and legally risky) so most people don't bother - they just pay. This usually ends up bankrolling the next patent lawsuit against a bigger fish. I'm glad to see that the EFF is taking a stand and publicizing the issue.

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