patents gone wild
March 30, 2004 4:41 AM   Subscribe

Which abuse of the patent system are you? Take this test to find out. Now that they got it, they're beating distance learning colleges over the head with it, for money. Another obvious bit of programming turns lucrative for one company.
posted by mathowie (12 comments total)
A patent has to be "new, useful, and non-obvious" (or at least those *used* to be the criteria). I'd like to know how they got that patent, since it didn't live up to the last of these.
posted by notsnot at 5:18 AM on March 30, 2004

I'm a little confused here... are they suggesting they have a patent on the concept of a test done online, or on their method of administering a test online?

In the former, I can't see how they can claim to have invented that, and the latter sounds more like a software copyright issue. Either way, they're reaching.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:41 AM on March 30, 2004

This may or may not be the time to bring it up, mathowie, but I have also filed for a patent with the US Patent Office, and it was granted last week (#6,499,903). It is for a type of web site in which users register, can post links and make comments on those links in an area called a "thread." My legal people will be in touch with you soon so we can work out a licensing agreement.
posted by deadcowdan at 5:43 AM on March 30, 2004

your legal people never fathomed the likes of quonsar. bring 'em on.
posted by quonsar at 5:59 AM on March 30, 2004

Maybe when Congress stops siphoning cash out of the self-funding PTO, the agency will be able make a serious investment and hire a slew of examiners whose sole expertise is software patents. It's a mess right now.
posted by anathema at 6:05 AM on March 30, 2004

Matt, are you sure you want quonsar conducting negotations for you?
posted by deadcowdan at 6:12 AM on March 30, 2004

Stephan Kinsella's site is a good starting point for anyone who wants to take a closer look at the US patent system and its abuses.
posted by trharlan at 6:42 AM on March 30, 2004

The stupidity of the PTO never ceases to amaze me. This thing has "prior art" written all over it. When I was working at the Princeton Review back in the mid-to-late 90's, we were developing this technology. Brainbench and other online testing clearinghouses have also been licensing their stuff for years..
posted by mkultra at 6:45 AM on March 30, 2004

I'm a little confused here... are they suggesting they have a patent on the concept of a test done online, or on their method of administering a test online?

I don't think it's even the latter; it's a set of tools/services that perform a certain information posting, information gathering, and information administering function online. At the end of their patent they seem to say that it is a method that is not limited to administering online tests but could be used for other services, but they haven't developed these apps yet, but if anybody else does they'll get whacked too (but maybe I'm wrong):
One may appreciate that although the invention has been shown and described with respect to a certain preferred embodiment, obvious and/or equivalent alterations and modifications will occur to others skilled in the art upon the reading and understanding of this specification. The present invention includes all equivalent alterations and modifications and is limited only by the scope of the following claims.
What I can't understand is (IANAL) if they patent a specific architecture, how they can go for other architectures with this patent (because the patent itself seems pretty specific in terms of architecture). Also as the patent was only granted in 2003 isn't there a huge amount of prior art for this? on preview what mkultra said

I guess they're patenting the architecture, and then trying to intimidate as many small users who either do not understand patent law or can't afford good lawyers. Said small users can then avoid this hassle with a 'licence fee.' /obvious
posted by carter at 6:48 AM on March 30, 2004

Patent coverage is defined by the claims. Here is claim 1 from their patent (6,513042):

A method of making a test and posting the test on-line for potential test-takers, said method comprising the steps of:

providing a host system and a plurality of remote terminals operatively coupled to the Internet;

inputting questions at one of the remote terminals;

compiling the questions at the host system to make a compiled test;

posting the test on-line for potential test-takers;

wherein a test-taker is required to pay to take the compiled test; and

wherein the test-maker and the proprietor of the host system share the revenues generated by the test-taker taking the test.

To infringe this claim the online school seemingly has to do several acts which probably are not commonly done:

1) compile the test on the host computer (as opposed to say merely hosting a test prepared on a separate computer)

2) charge a fee for the test (Is this different than a fee for a course in which the test is administered?)

3) split the revenue between the test-maker and proprietor (which would seem to differ from paying the test-maker a salary).
posted by caddis at 7:00 AM on March 30, 2004

I am currently applying for a patent for the patent-something-trivial- then-threaten-to-sue-small-businesses-over-it- unless-they-pay-a-settlement business scheme, so I plan on some heavy meta-suits in the near future.
posted by signal at 7:25 AM on March 30, 2004

too much prior art there, signal
posted by trondant at 7:45 AM on March 30, 2004

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