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Internet Patent News
Internet Patent News Service is moderated by Greg Aharonian. Presented below are recent excerpts from the service. Timely patent news and Greg's insightful wit, combine to make this newsletter issued three to four times weekly a valuable resource.


DNA suntan lotion?  Check out patent 5,643,556, "Stimulation of tanning by DNA fragments or single stranded RNA" - with the following first claim: A method for protecting the epidermis of a mammal against ultraviolet damage comprising applying topically to the epidermis DNA fragments selected from the group consisting of: single-stranded DNA fragments, double-stranded DNA  fragments, a mixture of single and double stranded DNA  fragments, deoxynucleotides, dinucleotides, and dinucleotide  dimers, in a sufficient quantity to stimulate melanin production.

Isn't this a rather unnecessary use of DNA?

Greg Aharonian
Internet Patent News Service



The Government of the People's Republic of China has informed the Director General of WIPO as follows:

In accordance with the Joint Declaration of the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the Question of  Hong Kong signed on 19 December 1984, the People's Republic of China will resume the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong with effect from 1 July 1997.  Hong Kong will, with effect from that date, become a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China and will enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs which are the responsibilities of the Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China.

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) of June 19, 1970, as amended on September 28, 1979 and February 3, 1984 (hereinafter referred to as the 'PCT'), to which the Government of the People's Republic of China deposited its instrument of accession on October 1, 1993, will apply to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region with effect from 1 July 1997. The Government of the People's Republic of China also makes the following declarations:

1. The designation of China in any international PCT application or after July 1, 1997, shall also cover the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.

2. The modalities of 'entering the national phase' under Article 22 and Article 39 of the PCT as far as international applications filed on or after July 1, 1997, and designating China are concerned, will be communicated to the Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization not later than by the end of the current year (that is, by December 31, 1997).

The Government of the People's Republic of China will assume responsibility for the international rights and obligations arising from the application of the Treaty to the Hong Kong Special administrative Region.

Greg Aharonian
Internet Patent News Service



In 1981, a paper was presented at the 18th Design Automation Conference titled "The Cell Design System", a digital circuit CAD program developed at Xerox PARC based on the GUI technology being originated there. The paper, at page 245 of the conference proceedings, including the following paragraphs for multiply/selecting objects to apply commands to:

        Multiple Selections

        Ordinarily, the user selects a single item by clicking the
        Select Button while the cursor is over some part of the object.
        All items already selected are deselected when this occurs.
        However, the user may add objects to the Current Selection.
        The new object will be outlined, but the old one will not
        have its outline erased, signifying that it is still part of
        the Current Selection.  The user may add as many objects as
        desired to the Current Selection in this manner.

        The user may subtract objects .....
        The user may select a group of objects within a rectangular area .....

Great technique, eventually to be widely popularized at the operating system level and application program level by the Macintosh community, and then mimicked by the Microsoft community, to the extent that it is now a commonly known and used GUI capability.

Now these CAD systems of the early 1980s not only handled objects such as representations of digital circuits and structural components (groups of such objects selected as above to be changed and manipulated), but text as well, for which the above Multiple Selections technique was used, a style which appeared in the numerous GUI word processing systems of the 1980s and 1990s.

Yet somehow the US Patent Office seemed fit in April of 1997 to presume valid the following exemplary claim of a patent application filed in October 1993:

        Method and system for automatic formatting of user selected text 5,621,875 - Microsoft

        1. A method of formatting text in a computer system having a display and a pointing device, the method comprising the steps of: displaying text on the display; receiving from a user an indication of a text format to be applied to portions of displayed text; and in response to the user selecting each of a plurality of  non-contiguous portions of the displayed text by using the pointing device to point to each portion, formatting and redisplaying each selected portion of the displayed text in accordance with the received indication of the text format before receiving from the user any additional indications of  text format.

      Infinitely obvious, incredibly unnovel, citing no GUI research at all.

 Neither the US Patent Office, nor the patent bar community, nor the large companies that file thousands of these patent applications are taking the software patenting process seriously. They have reduced it to a big joke (and then colluded to create new jokes such as the Software Patent Institute). And if anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying (though their lies will be amply footnoted with tons of citations from legal journals - must be proper).

Which is fine with me, I get to bust this crap. Which, if you are a smaller software company, you will be increasingly forced to do or pay for as these patents get asserted in the years to come. And there will be tens of thousand of them lurking out there.

Greg Aharonian
Internet Patent News Service



I am in the process of preparing a statistical analysis of software patents for the first half of 1997, a detailed update of a study I did in 1994. All trends continue to worsen for everyone affected, except for software patent litigators and patent busters.

 My final count for 1996 is that 9600 software patents issued, up from 6100 software patents in 1995. The current count for 1997 for January to the end of June is 5239 software patents, with an estimate of over 11,500 software patents for all of 1997. Networking is the number one category of software patenting, and IBM is the number one assignee.  Detailed statistics on all of this in the next few weeks.

Greg Aharonian
Internet Patent News Service



Thanks to all my readers who explained the derivation of Intel's name for one of their microprocessors, Deschutes. This name, along with Klamath and Merced, are the names of rivers/counties in Oregon apparently fun for rafting and other activities that I guess Intel designers go to to relax.

Greg Aharonian
Internet Patent News Service



Over the years, I have skimmed through many thousands of theses while building up my software archive databases. Theses are often a good source of computer source code, and occasionally quite handy as patent busters. I have always lamented the lack of attention given to theses as sources of high quality technology information. But that's another story.

The vast majority of theses usually have some simple copyright notice:

            Copyright (c) 1997  Joe Smith.  All rights reserved.

or something similarly simple. Not that it really matters, given the limited attention given to theses, and the difficulties in copyright enforcement for theses, but this type of short notice doesn't take up much room. Which makes the following copyright notice I recently stumbled across hilarious in its compulsiveness.  Read it and weep for MIT's technology transfer and media publication offices.

Internet Fish
Ph.D. Thesis
MIT EECS 1996

Notice of Copyright and Terms of Limited License

This thesis document, including all figures, tables and code fragments, is Copyright (c) 1996 Brian LaMacchia. Country of first publication: United States of America.  All rights granted to the author in accordance with 17 USC 101 et. seq. are hereby reserved.

Pursuant to 17 USC 201(d)(2), the author hereby grants to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (hereinafter "MIT" or "the Institute") certain nonexclusive, non-transferable, limited rights related to the copyright of this document:

 1. MIT may reproduce paper copies of this thesis document for use within the MIT community for educational or research purposes (an action which  is an exclusive right of this copyright holder under 17 USC 106(1)).

2. MIT may reproduce paper and microfiche copies of this thesis document for archival purposes within the MIT Library system (an action which is an exclusive right of this copyright holder under 17 USC 106(1), notwithstanding the provisions of 17 USC 108).

3. MIT may reproduce paper and electronic copies of the abstract page of this thesis (the page immediately following the title page of this document) and distribute such copies to the public (an action that is an exclusive right of the copyright holder under 17 USC 106(1) and 17 USC 106(3)), so long as no fee is charged for such copies.

4. MIT may reproduce paper copies of this thesis document and distribute such copies to the public (an action that is an exclusive right of the copyright holder under 17 USC 106(1) and 17 USC 106(3)) so long as no fee is charged for such copies in excess of the actual cost of making the copy.

5. All copies of this thesis document made by MIT under this license must include a copy of this license and the copyright notice on the title page.

6. All other uses of this thesis document within the scope of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder as specified in 17 USC 106 are  reserved by the author, and any action by the Institute that infringes  any of those exclusive rights, except as explicitly granted above, requires the expressed written consent of the author.  In particular, MIT may not create an electronic version of this thesis document nor distribute an electronic version of this thesis document without the expressed written consent of the author.

7. Placement of this thesis within the collection of the MIT Library system constitutes acceptance of the terms of this license by MIT. MIT  may cancel its agreement to the terms of this license by destroying all  copies of this document made under the terms of this license and providing written notice to the author of this action.

Greg Aharonian
Internet Patent News Service



PTO, Congress and the Mafia?  Yes, in a convoluted way I can relate all three (or at least have some fun trying). The common ground: corporatizing the PTO.  Both bills in Congress right now include provisions to corporatize the PTO, which I think will have no effect on improving the quality of issued patents. One justification being thrown about is that it will lead to a more efficient PTO and therefore lower costs for inventors.

Much the same was said about the Post Office when it was corporatized - not the best of precedents for corporatizing the PTO :-) Which brings me to the Mafia. Last month I was in New York and picked up a copy of the Village Voice (8 April 1997, page 38-39). They had an article about how John Gotti Junior, son of the Mafia leader currently in jail, is operating a telephone card business, Liberty Tel, out on Long Island. While there is much fraud in this business being exploited by organized crime (selling bogus telephone cards, laundering money, rounding phone card use up to the next minute, etc.), according to a quick survey done by the Village Voice staff, apparently John Gotti Junior's business is legitimate, at least in terms of the telephone minutes on the card corresponding to what you purchased.

What interested me about the article was the following table of per-minute costs for telephone cards bought in the New York area (and presumably a decent representation of such costs around the country):

  •    U.N.I.   17.0 cents
  •    The Green Card  20.0 cents
  •    Liberty Tel  23.0 cents
  •    F/X   24.0 cents
  •    NYNEX   25.0 cents
  •    Dollar   25.5 cents
  •    Phone Change  26.1 cents
  •    Phone Time  29.6 cents
  •    Tele Tower  33.1 cents
  •    7-Eleven  40.0 cents
  •    US Postal Service 50.9 cents
Liberty Tel's card rounds up to the nearest minute, and doesn't allow you to use "stranded costs" (anything amount less than 23.0 cents is unusable), but even assuming that such rip-offs double the effective rate for the Mafia's telephone card to 46.0 cents per minute, it still is a better bargain than that of the corporatized US Postal Service. Government corporations should not be engaged in such business practices. Is the USPS that desperate for income that it is charging outrageous prices for telephone cards?  Who knows what the PTO will charge when it starts selling telephone cards through the Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries?  Maybe they will make enough to eliminate maintenance fees, so they don't have to issue tons of patents to bring in income. Corporatization sounds nice on paper. The reality is often very different.

Greg Aharonian
Internet Patent News Service
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