Is the United States Patent Office becoming useless and ignorant?

Yesterday I saw a post on slashdot (slashdot link) about how Amazon was able to extend their “1-click” patent to include contacting customers after an order either by phone or email. Here is the diagram that was submitted: link to diagram. Be careful on your e-commerce sites, try not to email your customers or call them.

This is not the first time we have seen the USPTO so disconnected with reality, especially in regards to the internet space. Shall we list some other examples?

  1. Hyperlink patents — Did you know coloring your hyperlinks may be in violation of several patents?
  2. JPEG patent — The JPEG scandal, has everyone switched to PNGs yet?
  3. Domain name patent — Did you know there is an email and domain name patent and there was actually a lawsuit against Network Solutions and Register.com, I’m not sure of the outcome of that case, but still.
  4. Rich media patent — this company claims to have a patent on all Rich Media (Flash, Flex, Java, AJAX and XAML).
  5. Peanut Butter and Jelly patent — What? Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich with no crust is patentable?

Obviously the Patent System is flawed, greatly. Why then are we not doing something to correct this? Not only does it complicate and stifle innovation, it’s a huge waste of our governments time and money. There have been many suggestions on how to fix the USPTO, such as the peer review patent process (USPTO peer review link), but maybe what people should be asking is; Do we really need this mechanism? .. seriously, think on that long and hard.

The sheer laziness of the USPTO to do research and use common sense is amazing. It’s as if USPTO hires people who have never touched the internet and were held in caves till the moment of their interview, some of the things they approve are just idiotic. I mean how many of us had mother’s who would make us PB&J sandwiches, cut off the crust for us and seal them in a sandwich bag for lunch?? Just think your mom was infringing on someone’s patent. Apparently the obviousness of an idea is not a show-stopper for patent officials.

What are your opinions to fix the problem? I’ve never been a fan of idea patents, I do not agree that the idea is what makes something worthwhile — I have always said that the implementation and execution of the idea was what made it. I think Google’s search algorithm is a perfect example, the idea of a search engine was there long before Google came along so why are they the largest search engine now? Their implementation and execution was the best, survival of the free market proves it’s mettle.

Share your opinion.

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