[LINK] EFF Patent Busting Project

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Tue May 12 17:42:56 AEST 2009

Patent Busting Project


An EFF Initiative To Protect Innovation and Free Expression 

I. The Problem 

Every year numerous illegitimate patent applications make their way 
through the United States patent examination process without adequate 
review. The problem is particularly acute in the software and Internet 
fields where the history of prior inventions (often called 'prior art') 
is widely distributed and poorly documented. 

One result, we have seen patents asserted on such simple technologies as: 

(Nb: Live links for patents at the above website)

One-click online shopping (U.S. Patent No. 5,960,411.) 
Online shopping carts (U.S. Patent No. 5,715,314.) 
The hyperlink (U.S. Patent No. 4,873,662.) 
Video streaming (U.S. Patent No. 5,132,992.) 
Internationalizing domain names (U.S. Patent No. 6,182,148.) 
Pop-up windows (U.S. Patent No. 6,389,458.) 
Targeted banner ads (U.S. Patent No. 6,026,368.) 
Paying with a credit card online (U.S. Patent No. 6,289,319.) 
Framed browsing; (U.S. Patent Nos. 5,933,841 & 6,442,574.) and 
Affiliate linking (U.S. Patent No. 6,029,141.) 

II. The Harm 

The harm these patents cause the public is profound. 

Unlike most technologies, software and the Internet have attracted a vast 
number of small business, non-profit, and individual users – each of whom 
has adopted and built upon these resources as part of their daily 
interaction with computers and the online world. From open source 
programming to online journaling to political campaigning, the average 
citizen is using new technology online and on her desktop as often as any 
traditional company. 

With this increased visibility, however, comes increased vulnerability. 
Previously, patent holders had only targeted competing companies. These 
companies have established legal departments and outside counsel and are 
thus able to defend against illegitimate patent threats. Now some patent 
holders have begun to set their sights on the new class of technology 
users–small organizations and individuals who cannot afford to retain 
lawyers. Faced with million-dollar legal demands, they have no choice but 
to capitulate and pay license fees – fees that often fund more threat 
letters and lawsuits. And because these patents have become cheaper and 
easier to obtain, the patentee’s costs can be spread out quickly amongst 
the many new defendants. Our patent system has historically relied on the 
resources of major corporate players to defeat bad patents; now it leaves 
these new defendants with few if any options to defend themselves. 

Illegitimate patents can also threaten free expression. More and more 
people are using software and Internet technology to express themselves 
online. Website and blogging tools are increasingly popular. Video and 
audio streaming technology is ubiquitous. E-mail and Instant Messaging 
have reached users of all ages. Yet because patents can be anywhere and 
everywhere in these technologies, the average user has no way of knowing 
whether his or her tools are subject to legal threats. Patent owners who 
claim control over these means of community discourse can threaten anyone 
who uses them, even for personal non-commercial purposes. We lose much if 
we allow overreaching patent claims to reduce the tremendous benefits 
that software and technology bring to freedom of expression. 

III. The Project 

So how do we confront these problems? Both the Federal Trade Commission 
and National Academy of Sciences have issued a series of recommendations 
for reforming the patent system, each of which provide a useful start. 
However, there is no guarantee that these reforms will be adopted or that 
they will be considered on any specific timeline. To help fill this gap, 
EFF is launching a Patent Busting Project to take on illegitimate patents 
that suppress non-commercial and small business innovation or limit free 
expression online. The Project has two components: 

A. Documenting the Damage 

In the coming months, EFF plans to launch various technical efforts to 
document the harm that these patents are causing to the public interest. 
The efforts will include: 

(1) Identifying the worst offending patents;
(2) Documenting the prior art that shows their invalidity; and
(3) Chronicling the negative impact they have had on online publishers 
and innovators. 

EFF plans to explore numerous approaches to achieving these goals, 
including inviting contributions from the public; building on the 
successful information-gathering and public education of the Chilling 
Effects Clearinghouse; and collaborating with organizations such as the 
Internet Archive, the Public Patent Foundation, and various technology 
law school clinics around the country. 

B. Challenging The Patents 

Once it has identified some of the worst offenders, EFF will begin filing 
challenges to each in the form of a “re-examination request” to the U.S. 
Patent and Trademark Office. These requests create a forum to 
affirmatively invalidate patents rather than forcing technology users to 
await the threat of suit. Under this procedure, EFF can choose 
particularly egregious patents, submit the prior art it has collected, 
and argue that the patent should be revoked. EFF will collaborate with 
members of the software and Internet communities as well as legal clinics 
and pro bono cooperating attorneys to help in these efforts. (end quote)


On this, note also: http://openinventionnetwork.com/linux911contact.php

OIN is actively seeking to address problems that arise from patent trolls
& industrial companies whose business models & behaviors are antagonistic
to Linux and true innovation. If your company is being victimized by any
entity seeking to assert its patent portfolio against Linux, please
contact us so that we can aid you in your battle with these dark forces.



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