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Re: The patent process

From: Barry Margolin
Subject: Re: The patent process
Date: Wed, 12 May 2004 21:18:43 -0400
User-agent: MT-NewsWatcher/3.4 (PPC Mac OS X)

In article <>,
 "PrussianSnow" <> wrote:

> >>[snip]
> >>
> >> If a technical person is going to make any use of patents, shouldn't
> >> they be able to understand them?  If the understandable part is the
> >> abstract, but it doesn't really say the same thing as the claims, they
> >> could be led down the garden path, thinking that they're not
> >> infringing.
> >>
> >
> >I think that tends to happen here in Usenet. The only real answer is to
> >learn how to read claims.
> >
> Sure, patent claims don't make light reading but then again neither does the
> documentation for a C compiler, the W3C XML specification, an ANSI or ISO
> standard, an RFC, or any application requirement specification. However, I
> would expect a skilled programmer to be able to at least muddle his or her
> way through any one of these documents and decide if it was relevant to the
> task at hand.

The difference is that in the documentation for a C compiler, the 
technical terms mean what we all expect them to mean.  Patents differ 
from this in two ways:

1) Claims often don't use the normal terminology that practicioners are 
used to.  They're also generally written in a very ideosyncratic, 
stilted version of English that makes them quite opaque to anyone who 
doesn't have experience reading patents.

2) Even when they do, they don't necessarily mean what practicioners 
think they mean.

I've read enough patent claims that I've gotten used to the strange 
wording.  But every time I try to discuss a patent in these newsgroups, 
someone tells me that I can't assume that phrases like "launch an 
application" mean the specific thing that we all expect it to mean.  It 
also means anything that could be remotely considered an analogous 
activity in some context (e.g. going to a new web page in a browser 
could be considered).

Suppose someone is trying to be a good citizen and avoid infringing any 
patents?  If he's writing a browser, how would he know that his patent 
search should include phrases like "launch an application" when, as far 
as he's concerned, he never performs that activity?

Barry Margolin,
Arlington, MA
*** PLEASE post questions in newsgroups, not directly to me ***

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