10 February 2012

Patent Troll Struck Down

Here's a story from Wired that readers might find interesting. The anti-software patent crowd will probably be cooing with delight, not to mention those suffering from troll-paranoia. Of course, that's not to say that there is anything wrong with the decision. I am sure a Texas Jury would have no problems interpreting a software patent...

But the reason that this article captured my attention was that it so clearly illustrates how inaccurate public perception can be. The article is entitled "Texas Jury Strikes Down Patent Troll's Claim to Own the Interactive Web". But one of the independent claims defining the invention reads as follows:

 A method for running an application program in a computer network environment, comprising:
 providing at least one client workstation and one network server coupled to said network environment, wherein said network environment is a distributed hypermedia environment;
executing, at said client workstation, a browser application, that parses a first distributed hypermedia document to identify text formats included in said distributed hypermedia document and for responding to predetermined text formats to initiate processing specified by said text formats; utilizing said browser to display, on said client workstation, at least a portion of a first hypermedia document received over said network from said server, wherein the portion of said first hypermedia document is displayed within a first browser-controlled window on said client workstation, wherein said first distributed hypermedia document includes an embed text format, located at a first location in said first distributed hypermedia document, that specifies the location of at least a portion of an object external to the first distributed hypermedia document, wherein said object has type information associated with it utilized by said browser to identify and locate an executable application external to the first distributed hypermedia document, and wherein said embed text format is parsed by said browser to automatically invoke said executable application to execute on said client workstation in order to display said object and enable interactive processing of said object within a display area created at said first location within the portion of said first distributed hypermedia document being displayed in said first browser-controlled window.
Interesting how Wired appears to think that the above passage is the same as providing an Interactive Web. If only patent practice were that simple. Perhaps I'm being pedantic or even silly, but people reading Wired are voters and voters drive decisions.

Also, the diagram used by Wired (see above) is actually a diagram of the prior art. That means that it does not actually form part of the invention and is just provided by way of background. So for Wired to hint that the diagram represents the cover that Eolas was trying to achieve, then hopefully it is doing so out of ignorance. Anything else would be dishonest.

There's a lot of hullabaloo about patent trolls. Frankly, I don't get it. Improve the examination process and half the battle is won.

OK, rant over. My main point is that the interpretation of patents is highly complex and to reduce the above claim into two words is disingenuous at best. I won't even start with juries... 

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