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Re: Patentability of HTML tags.

From: Paul Francis <francis@slab.ntt.co.jp>
Date: Sun, 22 Feb 1998 20:57:39 -0500 (EST)
Message-ID: <34F0D99F.B952F21B@slab.ntt.co.jp>
To: dudmills@ozemail.com.au
CC: www-html@w3.org, www-talk@w3.org
> At the very least the granting of these patents demonstrates that
> inventions having a special new HTML or SGML tag or element as an
> essential component are considered patentable by their US Patent
> Examiners.


I don't know if you've been through the US patent process before or
not, but it is interesting.  From my experience, the patent examiners
don't really understand the technology.  The first few times I went
through the process, this surprised and irritated me, though later I
realized that of course they can't know the technology, given the wide
range of technologies they have to cover.  Also, they understand
themselves perfectly well that they don't understand the technology. 
As a result, their procedure (again, speaking from my experience only)
is to assume that anything that remotely resembles your patent
application makes it invalid, and force the applicant to argue against
their rejection.

What I found was that they initially take a hard stand, but in fact it
doesn't take much counter-argument to get them to buckle-under and
grant the patent.

In any event, after going through this a few times, it became clear to
me that almost anybody could patent almost anything, and just through
clever use of terminology or plain obfuscation bowl the poor patent
examiners over. 

In other words, the fact that somebody has been awarded a patent on
something by no means means that either 1) there wasn't prior art, or
2) the thing wasn't perfectly obvious with anybody reasonably skilled
in the art or whatever the legal phrase is.

And what this means is that patents can be and obviously are often
fought out in courts, at great expense, and usually to the detriment
of the little guy.  Since it is often the little guy that drives
inovation, which in turn drives this industry, patents are widely seen
(often if not usually justifiably) as a hinderance to progress rather
than the reverse.  For this reason, you should not be surprised at the
rather hostile reaction to your patent.

You should also not be surprised if, after you get your patents, at
considerable expense I'm sure, you don't make a single cent off of
them.  Unless your lawyers are bigger than those of the companys' you
hope to liscense to, your patent, weak as it appears to be (based on
the reaction of this audience), may very well not help you at all.

Received on Sunday, 22 February 1998 21:06:48 UTC

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