Tuesday, September 6, 2011

All About "bogus & dubious patents"

It's pretty well known that Google does not like what is calls "dubious patents". This recent post by David Drummond, Google Cheif Legal Officer, blames Microsoft, among other companies for attacking the Android licensees with infringement cases wrt bogus patents. So what really are "dubious" or "bogus" patents?

A "good" patent is one which conforms to the N.U.N. test, where

N = Novelty, i.e. it's a new idea or invention.
U = Utility, i.e. it has commercial use.
N = Non-obvious, i.e. it involves innovation and not something quite obvious to the industry.

"Bogus" patents are those that fail in one or more of the above areas. In his paper on "Injunctions, Hold Up & Patent Royalties", Carl Shapiro uses the term "questionable patents" to describe this. He further states 
[These questionable patents were] likely to be invalid or contain overly broad claims. The National Academies of Science (2004) expressed concern that many patents are issued for inventions that should in fact be considered “obvious”...

Bogus patents fail in either novelty (too broad claims that are not inventive) or non-obviousness (inventive, but obvious). There are examples of many patents like this. Take a look at the patent "Method for distributing non real-time media in a non real-time media distribution system, a related system, a related media server and media client" from Alcatel-Lucent. All it seems to claim is sending media from a server to a client based on messages sent between the two! Pretty wide claims, IMHO. Also, here is a Motorola patent (one of the many that Google paid 12 billion for?).

A ridiculously simple patent. The "invention" involves lowering the display resolution when the battery level on the device is low. 

These are examples of how some patents are granted without good analysis of if the claims are obvious or known industry-wide.

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