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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.

It all started-- publicly anyway--in 2011, when Apple filed patent infringement suits against its South Korean rival. Samsung responded with countersuits, Apple fired back, and soon there were more suits than you'd find at a Men in Black convention.

But the peak of frivolousness undoubtedly arrived in late 2012, when the USPTO granted Apple one of the broadest "design patents" ever, for what amounts to a round-cornered rectangle--the shape that has graced virtually every mobile device...ever. "New and useful?" Er...

A blow for normalcy: The slide-to-unlock denial

We end our look at the patently loony with a potential beacon of simple rationality shining in the seemingly eternal darkness of rights bickering and protectionism. For this, we go to the land of fish 'n' chips and really good soccer leagues, where a July 2012 judgment by the High Court of London could--repeat, could--have far-reaching impact.

When it ruled that HTC had not infringed on Apple's "slide to unlock" patent, concluding that slide to unlock is an "obvious" evolution in mobile devices, it may have set the stage for future common-sense judicial findings. Another such ruling was the April 2013 decision by Bundespatentgericht, Germany's Federal Patent Court, to invalidate all prior Apple slide-to-unlock patents in that country. The Bundespatentgericht concluded that Apple's patents lacked "technical innovation."

Hey, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office! Are you paying attention?


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