As a technology company, we have the outmost respect for intellectual property rights, especially technology patents. Unfortunately, the U.S. Patent system is a mess. Patenting the obvious is considered something of an art form in the IT industry, and we often come across patents that are just plain ridiculous.
Major U.S. IT companies each hold hundreds, and sometimes thousands of patents that are completely bogus. They are often used in “patent wars” as a weapon in legal battles or sometimes as a way to raise money through suing for something that has been as widely used already as bread and butter.
Here we list some of our favorites:
- Microsoft holds a patent for navigating pages using Page Up and Page Down keys. Yes, the keys you have on your keyboard!
- After a 10-year struggle, the United States Patent Office was convinced that Google’s Doodles (yes, the logo that changes on the front page of Google) deserves a patent.
- Google has also actually managed to patent displaying patents (a service called Google Patents). Ironically, Google Patents can’t seem to find the Google patent for Google Patents.
- Amazon was awarded a patent for online gift cards. They also patented the storing of credit-card and shipping info and then using it to facilitate online purchasing via a single click. Have you been shopping online lately?
- Facebook was granted a patent for its “feed”, which is essentially a list of information. Can you think of another major social network that is in clear violation?
- IBM has patents for e-mail spam filters. Pretty much every e-mail software nowadays has a spam filter built-in.
- Monster.com holds a patent of an online job search engine system. I guess CareerBuidler.com is out of business.
- Net2Phone was suing Skype for violating its “point-to-point internet protocol” patent. The problem is those protocols have been used everywhere from instant messengers to file sharing for years.
- A California company called Intouch Group applied for a patent on a “network apparatus and method for preview of music products and compilation of market data” – in other words, a way for users to download samples of music before purchasing it. iTunes, anyone?
Do you think the madness stops there? Not, quite… How about patents for an online game, scoreboard, online poll, a system where you open apps by clicking on icons or automatic e-mail responders. Yes, all of these have been patented!