Announcing Software Patent of the Week

by on June 16, 2006 · 16 comments

As regular readers of TLF know, I’m not a big fan of software patents. The more I learn about them, the more I’m amazed at the sheer scope of the problem. Every month, thousands of new software patents are issued. And at any given time there are dozens of software patent lawsuits before the courts. A few of them get big headlines, but most of them are never reported outside of the tech press.

So I’ve decided to do my small part to publicize the scope of the problem: every week, on Friday, I’m going to feature and analyze a software patent. In most cases, they’ll be software patents that are the subject of current litigation. My purpose for each weeks post will be to answer the questions: is this an obvious patent? And do patents like this promote innovation?

There’s enough software patent litigation out there that I don’t expect it to be that difficult to find a new case to highlight each week. But it would be a lot easier with help. So if you know of an example of an interesting software patent case–good or bad–shoot me an email at tlee -at- showmeinstitute.org and let me know about it.

In the future, this post will also serve as an index to the Software Patent of the Week series. Each week, I’ll add the latest software patent to this list, so that people can easily find the whole series.


June 6: Net2Phone sues Skype for violating its patent on peer-to-peer networking.
June 7: Creative sues Apple over its iPod Interface.
June 9: Nintendo patents in-game instant messaging.
June 16: Skyline sues Google for using an obvious data structure in Google Earth.
June 23: Guatemalan guy sues Microsoft for having the wrong features in its database software.
July 7: Firestar Software patents linking databases to objects, sues Red Hat.
July 14: Finjan Software patents the enforcement of security policies for applets.
July 21: Telephia attempts to monopolize mobile metrics.
July 28: Friendster patents its entire website.
August 5: Finisar patents an obvious design for “on demand” satellite video.
August 12: Cordance sues Amazon over its novel-length patent.
August 17: A friend of mine tells the story of the bogus patent he got while he worked at IBM.
August 24: “Z4 Technologies” sues Microsoft over its Windows copy protection scheme.
September 2: Apple settles a lawsuit with the guy who patented the play button.
September 8: i2 Technologies sues SAP over its patent on project management software.
September 16: Microsoft gets sued for by the holder of a silly “group messaging” patent.
September 21: The secret of Burst.com’s “secret sauce” is that there is no secret.
September 28: Vonage runs afoul of a patent on glorified answering machines.
October 6: A firm patents selling bonds online.
October 12: Arbitron tries to use the patent system to monopolize its market.
October 19: Broadcom charges Qualcomm with infringing its swiss-army-knife patent.
October 27: IBM goes patent trolling against Amazon.
November 2: SGI loses in the marketplace, hopes to do better in court.
November 10: NTP’s continues its blackmail campaign against Palm.
November 19: Caritas fails to extort money from Comcast over VoIP.
November 30: Blackboard patents swiss-army educational software.

  • http://lippard.blogspot.com/ Jim Lippard

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Patent-Busting Project is a good resource.

    The one that has recently got my attention is C2 Global (formerly Acceris’s) VOIP patent, as per this very recent lawsuit filing.

  • http://lippard.blogspot.com/ Jim Lippard

    Kevin Carson’s blog has an interesting post about non-software patents stifling innovation. Key quote:

    The fuel efficiency of steam engines is not thought to have changed at all during the period of Watt’s patent; while between 1810 and 1835 it is estimated to have increased by a factor of five. After the expiration of Watt’s patents in 1800, not only was there an explosion in the production of engines, but steam power finally came into its own as the driving force of the industrial revolution. In the next 30 years steam engines were modified and improved, and such crucial innovations as the steam train, the steamboat and the steam jenny all came into wide usage. The key innovation was the high-pressure steam engine — development of which had been blocked by Watt by strategically using his 1775 patent.

  • http://lippard.blogspot.com/ Jim Lippard

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Patent-Busting Project is a good resource.

    The one that has recently got my attention is C2 Global (formerly Acceris’s) VOIP patent, as per this very recent lawsuit filing.

  • http://lippard.blogspot.com/ Jim Lippard

    Kevin Carson’s blog has an interesting post about non-software patents stifling innovation. Key quote:

    The fuel efficiency of steam engines is not thought to have changed at all during the period of Watt’s patent; while between 1810 and 1835 it is estimated to have increased by a factor of five. After the expiration of Watt’s patents in 1800, not only was there an explosion in the production of engines, but steam power finally came into its own as the driving force of the industrial revolution. In the next 30 years steam engines were modified and improved, and such crucial innovations as the steam train, the steamboat and the steam jenny all came into wide usage. The key innovation was the high-pressure steam engine — development of which had been blocked by Watt by strategically using his 1775 patent.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim

    Interesting. I’ve corresponded with Levine and I think his arguments are provocative, if not always persuasive.

    The merits of patents in general is an issue I just don’t feel qualified to have a definite opinion on. I think that software patents have several characteristics that make them especially bad, so I’d rather focus on highlighting those flaws and leave the broader issue of patent reform to others who know the issue better than me.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim

    Interesting. I’ve corresponded with Levine and I think his arguments are provocative, if not always persuasive.

    The merits of patents in general is an issue I just don’t feel qualified to have a definite opinion on. I think that software patents have several characteristics that make them especially bad, so I’d rather focus on highlighting those flaws and leave the broader issue of patent reform to others who know the issue better than me.

  • http://www.aventre.nu Paul Leopardi

    One patent you may want to look at is United States Patent 6,859,816 Makino, et al.
    February 22, 2005, (assignee: Sony Corporation), filed January 25, 2001. This
    seems to be a patent for a case of the Fast Fourier Transform. It looks to me to be
    invalid on the grounds of one or more of: (a) patent describes a pure algorithm, not an artifact or technical mechanism, or (b) prior art, eg. FFTW, or (c) obviousness. See, eg. FFTW release notes for possible prior art.

  • http://www.aventre.nu Paul Leopardi

    One patent you may want to look at is United States Patent 6,859,816 Makino, et al.
    February 22, 2005, (assignee: Sony Corporation), filed January 25, 2001. This
    seems to be a patent for a case of the Fast Fourier Transform. It looks to me to be
    invalid on the grounds of one or more of: (a) patent describes a pure algorithm, not an artifact or technical mechanism, or (b) prior art, eg. FFTW, or (c) obviousness. See, eg. FFTW release notes for possible prior art.

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