(credit: Ohio University Libraries)

Once a month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s crack team of patent lawyers reaches deep into the US Patent Office’s giant sack of freshly issued patents. Then they pull out one of the shadiest, saddest, painfully obvious, never-should’ve-gotten-even-close-to-issuance patents and subject it to public scrutiny.
This month, EFF attorney Vera Ranieri selected a highly questionable Xerox patent and yanked it into the bleak January sunlight. US Patent No. 9,240,000, entitled “Social Network for Enabling the Physical Sharing of Documents,” boils down to a system of sharing documents online. It looks like exactly the kind of patent that shouldn’t have made it through the system, considering new guidelines put in place as a result of the Supreme Court’s Alice Corp. v. CLS decision.
“Ultimately this patent is one of hundreds or thousands of patents that don’t describe actual inventions, but rather just rehash old, obvious ideas ‘on a computer’ using confusing language,” writes Ranieri. “The failure of the patent office to prevent this patent from issuing is regrettable, and shows just how dysfunctional our patent system is.”
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