Spring Break: Patents Gone Wild

Over at All Things Digital, John Paczkowski has discovered that the U.S.Patent  Trademark Office has awarded a sweeping patent covering the control of a handheld device by motion to Durham Logistics LLC, a company that appears to consist of a mail drop in Las Vegas. If Durham Logistics, which acquired the patent from the actual inventors while it was pending, choses to enforce the patent, it could pose real problems for Apple, Research in Motion, Palm, HTC, Motorola and just about everyone else in the smartphone business.

Meanwhile, Andy Abramson at VoIP Watch has found that USAPTO has issued extremely similar patents for virtual phone numbers to to a patent holding company called 8X8 and to Vonage. So we can expect litigation over which, if either, of these patents is valid.

Just what is going on here? I don’t want to get into the question of whether there should be software patents or whether it is too easy to get a business process patent–the latter question may be settled by the Supreme Court in a pending case called in re Bilski. And I don;t know whether this mess is occurring because USPTO is misapplying the law or if a flawed statute is leading to these peculiar results. But it is painfully evident that the system just isn’t working. The issuance of overly broad patents, pant

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