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10 tech patents that should have been rejected

Gord Goble | May 22, 2013
Patents are supposed to protect innovation, but some seem better designed to create confusion—or lawsuits.

"The tool for contemplation comprises a paper on which a main unit and a sub unit that surrounds the main unit are printed. The main unit includes a subject display cell that displays a subject and a plurality of thought results display cells that display a plurality of thought results found from the subject. Each sub unit includes a new subject display cell that displays each thought result as a new subject, and a plurality of new thought results display cells that surrounds the new subject display cell and that display a plurality of thought results found from the new subject."

Confused? Do what the United States Patent and Trademark Office must have done. Check the illustration for clarity.

Wait, what? Now I'm even more confused.

Intelligent Smart Phone vs. Apple

As cool as that whole David versus Goliath deal might be, and as righteous as it feels to fight the power, sometimes you just have to side with The Man.

Case in point: Intelligent Smart Phone Concepts versus Apple. In one corner, the patent-hoarding, closed-architecture iGiant of the computer world. Across the ring, a nothing. A business that exists for the sole purpose of suing the aforementioned iGiant--an entity that at least makes stuff--over a single patent infringement.

Not obscene enough for you? Then consider this: ISPC's $3-million lawsuit hinges on its 2008 patent describing how to plug a headset into a mobile phone. How to plug a headset into a mobilephone. You want broad? You want obvious? Look no further.

Microsoft patents your keyboard keys--or did they?

It's hard to remember a time when physical keyboards didn't have Page Up and Page Down keys. Just about every keyboard since the IBM Selectric disappeared has had 'em. And that's why a lot of people flipped their wigs in 2008 in response to initial (and histrionic) reports that Microsoft had patented Page Up/Down functionality.

The initial reports were wrong. Microsoft hadn't patented those Page Up/Down keys. Instead, it had patented a process allowing users to zip ahead a full page rather than a full screen--a crucial difference.

Granted, over time Microsoft has been every bit as annoying with its innovation-stifling patent frivolousness as its more maligned counterpart, Apple. And sure, Microsoft's implementation probably still falls into the "obvious" category if we're being fair. But this is one of several instances where react-first, investigate-later media gratuitously stirred the patent pot.

The Smartphone Technologies debacle
circa 2010--2013

Though this article deals with frivolous patents, it wouldn't be complete without a quick look at the other side of the coin: the frivolous patent infringement suit. And to that end, we present Smartphone Technologies, LLC.


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