Three months ago, the Electronic Frontier Foundation inaugurated a monthly tradition in which they wrote about a “Stupid Patent of the Month.” The first patent they publicized was basically a description of a doctor’s “computer-secretary.” Since then, they’ve highlighted a vague software patent owned by a serial litigant, a patent on filming a yoga class, and a patent with a formula for curing cancer (a combination of “sesame seeds, green beans, coffee, meat, evening primrose seeds,” among other things.)
This month, EFF shines a light not on an off-the-wall lone inventor, but on a source that some may find surprising: a public research institution. Earlier this year, Penn State University made the controversial decision to sell off some of its patents to make money. Even though it only sold licenses to two of the 73 patents on auction, it’s decided to hold a second auction on December 8.
“The patent auction is a final attempt to capture value from some of our older unlicensed patents and put them into the hands of companies that can use them at a favorable price,” said Ron Huss, the university’s associate VP for research.
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