[LINK] EFF: 'Jury Invalidates One of EFF's 'Most Wanted' Patents'

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Wed Aug 25 12:10:22 AEST 2010

Jury Invalidates One of EFF's 'Most Wanted' Patents
News Update by Julie Samuels
AUGUST 23RD, 2010

Good news in the fight against bad software patents: a jury in the 
Eastern District of Texas recently found the Firepond/Polaris patent 
(U.S. Patent No. 6,411,947) invalid. This patent was on EFF's "Most 
Wanted" list, targeted because it claimed nothing more than a system 
using natural language processing to respond to customers' online 
inquires by email.

EFF was not involved in this case, in which Bright Response, LLC - 
the technical owner of the patent - sued Google, Inc., Yahoo!, Inc. 
and eight other companies, alleging that Google's AdWords and 
Yahoo!'s Sponsored Search infringes the Firepond/Polaris patent.
The jury found three of the patent's claims invalid based on the 
public use bar, obviousness, and for lacking written description. The 
jury also found that neither Google nor Yahoo! infringed those 
claims. Finally, the jury found the entire patent invalid due to 
improper inventorship.

In addition to the jury's findings, the Patent and Trademark Office 
is nearing completion of a reexamination of the patent, instituted by 
Google, that narrows the scope of that patent's claims.

"This is a great outcome and good news for people and developers who 
create new products related to customer service or email," said 
Patrick King, one of the attorneys assisting EFF on this matter.

Because the court has not yet entered a final judgment, Bright 
Response could still, in theory, attempt to prohibit others from 
using the basic natural language processing technology in its patent. 
EFF is on the lookout for this threatening behavior, so please make 
sure to let us know if you hear of any. EFF will continue to monitor 
this case - and the corresponding reexam - and will take action as 
necessary to fight any additional efforts to use the Firepond/Polaris 
patent to quash competition and hurt innovation.

"We are still waiting for the court case to finish up and to see if 
Bright Responses will appeal the decision. If any of the patent is 
still alive after that, we will do whatever we can to invalidate it, 
and allow competitors to use this simple technology, which was well 
known prior to the patent filing," said Gina M. Steele, another 
attorney assisting EFF with this matter.

The Firepond/Polaris patent was one of the ten original Top Ten 
Patents targeted by EFF's Patent Busting Project, which combats the 
chilling effects of bad patents on the public and consumer interests. 
So far nine patents targeted by EFF have been busted, invalidated, 
narrowed, or had a reexamination granted by the Patent Office.

Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                    Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre      Uni of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

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