Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to write a patent application

I found this article, "The Anatomy of a Trivial Patent", in Linux Today, from 2000. It is written by Richard Stallman, who some of you may recognize from his work in Free Software. In the article, Stallman explains how you can make a trivial programming concept sound really complicated simply by choosing your words carefully.
One reason is that any idea can be made look complex when analyzed to death. But another reason is that these trivial ideas often look quite complex as described in the patents themselves. The patent system's defenders can point to the complex description and say, "How can anything this complex be obvious?"

I will use an example to show you how. Here's claim number one from US patent number 5,963,916, applied for in October 1996:
Now you can see how they padded this claim to make it into a complex idea: they included important aspects of what computers, networks, web servers, and web browsers do. This complexity, together with two lines which describe their own idea, add up to the so-called "invention" for which they received the patent.

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