Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate


Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

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Claimed Monopolies Over 'Running A Game of Skill Tournament'

How sill can patents get? This silly:

http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/09/13/GameShow.pdf [PDF link]

Thanks to CourtHouseNews.com for reporting this.

Apparently the Game Show Network felt it could just steal another company's property by having a computer match, rank and distribute awards to competing contestants based on their relative skill levels. They obviously need to pay dearly for this moral outrage...

More on the specific patent that the U.S. Patent office deemed worthy enough for a monopoly here:


Supreme Court Agrees To Once Again Tackle The Issue of What Can be Patentable

In what could be interpreted as a tacit admission that their previous ruling in Bilski last year was about as clear as mud, the Supreme Court has decided to take up another case concerning the validity of a patent claim "that covers observed correlations between blood test results and patient health, so that the claim effectively preempts all uses of the naturally occurring correlations, simply because well-known methods used to administer prescription drugs and test blood may involve 'transformations' of body chemistry."

This is another case that will be closely watched.

The full case name: Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc.

Background details of the case here:


More from the Patently-O blog here:


The Next Important Legal Phase In The Gene Patenting Case

Andrew Cohen over at the Atlantic has a good primer on the important argument taking place this week at the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals:
In a closely-watched oral argument Monday at a federal courthouse in Washington, the core questions of the case read like scripts from a college philosophy exam: are isolated human genes and the subsequent comparisons of their sequences patentable? Can one company own a monopoly on such genes without violating the rights of others? They are multi-billion dollar questions, the judicially-sanctioned answers to which will have enormous ramifications for the worlds of medicine, science, law, business, politics and religion.

Even the name of the case at the U.S. Circuit Court for the Federal Circuit -- Association of Molecular Pathology, et al. v United States Patent and Trademark Office, et al -- oozes significance. The appeals court judges have been asked to determine whether seven existing patents covering two genes -- BRCA1 and BRCA2 (a/k/a "Breast Cancer Susceptibility Genes 1 and 2") -- are valid under federal law or, instead, fall under statutory exceptions that preclude from patentability what the law identifies as "products of nature..."

Read the whole thing here:


US Government says genes should not be patented

Yesterday's New York Times writes that the US Government has filed a brief stating that genes should not be eligible for patents. The arguments is that gene are part of nature and that extracting them without altering them does not change anything to their nature, much like when coal is extracted from the earth.

The brief seems to be a negotiated outcome among several federal agencies. The US patent office has not signed it.

Paul Allen Files Patent Lawsuits Against The Entire Web (Except for Microsoft )

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has filed a patent lawsuit that is breathtaking in scope - even by the ridiculous standards of modern patent claims. Defendants include Google, Apple, Yahoo, Netflix, Facebook, AOL, eBay, Youtube, Office Depot, OfficeMax and Staples. He alleges the companies violated patents owned by his now-defunct idea lab Interval Research.

As Wired reports:

The four patents at issue allegedly cover basics of online commerce, including recommending products to a user based on what they are currently looking at, and allowing readers of a news story to see other stories based on the current one. Two other patents relate to showing other information on a web page, such as news updates or stock quotes.

Obviously, the less-than-clarifying Bilski decision from the Supreme Court isn't deterring him.

Read more details (and see a copy of the lawsuit itself) at Wired.com here:


Bilski Decision Watch (The Final Stretch?)

Unless the Supreme Court agrees to hold the Bilski patent case over until the next term and have the case re-argued (an almost inconceivable possibility since Justice Stevens is retiring at the end of this term), the Bilski patent case will be handed down on Monday, June 28th.

Even the most ardent defenders of the current patent regime expect the Court to strike down "business method" patents. The big question will be if the Court goes even farther and delivers a broader decision affecting software patents and other controversial forms of patent monopolies.

Stay tuned...

More Predictions That The Supreme Court will Rule Bilski's Claim Unpatentable

Read all about it here:


The Bilski case will be issued within 6 weeks time at most (when the Court ends its session).

I'm doubling down on my earlier prediction that Justice Stevens will be writing the majority opinion - hopefully giving a memorable, final shot across the bow to our broken patent system before he retires.

The written description requirement for patents

The Washington Legal Foundation reports on an (admittedly small) step in the right direction to counter overly broad patent claims.

Read it here:



The Amazon one-click patent examination is now over - you can read here what our friend igdmlgd who forced the reexamination has to say about it. I think there are a couple of lessons here. First the patent office is hopelessly corrupt. This is an expected consequence of a regulatory system - money talks. Second, it is possible for a determined and principled individual to have an impact - even if igdmlgd didn't get the patent properly overturned, he was able to limit some of the ill-effects. In the end - the system just doesn't do what it is supposed to - which is why it would be best to do away with it.

Is this just a patent troll or a new way to extract money from everybody?

Steve Lohr writes in the New York Times about a highly secretive company, Intellectual Ventures, that claims it is trying to create a market for patented inventions link here. It has been in existence for ten years, already is heavily capitalized at $5 billion and controls 30,000 patents, and seems to be dominated by other patent-owning companies--"strategic investors"--including Microsoft, Verizon, Intel, Nokia and Sony. It is big into lobbying and has a large staff of engineers and engineers as part of a staff of 650.

Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft, runs it and has written a long piece in the Harvard Business Review, most of which is behind a paywall link here. His complaint about patents in the current market place is that big companies rip off the inventors by not paying them and suing them into submission. He lobbies against large company backed legislation which would make it more difficult for inventors to collect damages.

It doesn't sound to me like Myhrvold has much interest in the poor inventors. Rather, he just seems to want their patents so he can make piles of money suing manufacturers. But then, what are all those manufacturers involved as strategic investors? A clever device to take a cut from both inventors and users?

Just asking ....

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