Print 33 comment(s) - last by Yawgm0th.. on Mar 11 at 10:58 PM

The latest strange patent has arrived, and this one's from IBM.

In the realm of rather strange patents, IBM, which claims to be trying to reform the patent industry, has filed for a patent on preventing its software products from being used in meetings.  IBM seeks to patent the practice in a new filing verbosely titled "Methodology And Process For Suppressing De-Focusing Activities During Selective Scheduled Meetings " 

The new patent application from IBM reads:

Within exemplary embodiments of the present invention repeating calendar event scheduling application options are implemented to support the implementation of a distraction-free meeting event. This aspect is accomplished by the calendar event invitation specifically stating that the meeting is expected to be distraction free, and as such, the acceptance of a meeting invitation would require that the meeting invitee submit to the computing system suspension requirements that are necessitated to initiate a distraction-free meeting. This meeting policy is enforced by the calendar event scheduling application being configured to effectively suspend the local activity of a computing system or incoming and outgoing communication requests that are received at the computing system.

Some are accusing the patent of being overly broad.  Others are noting that it’s rather strange for a company to patent a way for customers to ignore its products. 

Lotus Notes is an email client-server suite produced by IBM.  It predates Microsoft's Exchange server by four years, being first released in 1989.  Reports on Lotus Notes' market share vary wildly, but are in agreement that it’s trailing Microsoft Exchange Server.  Some estimates place its market penetration as high as 40 percent (Gartner), while another study from early in the year (Ferris) placed its market share at a mere 10 percent.

IBM has been known for making rather unusual patents in the past.  While regularly patenting many creative software and hardware concepts, it has also filed patents for things like making outsourcing more efficient.

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Some comments
By soxfan on 3/10/2009 6:12:25 PM , Rating: 5
1. This is a patent APPLICATION, not a "PATENT." Get it right. They are entirely different things.

2. A patent is only as broad as its claims. Here, it appears that claim 1 is drawn to a method wherein acceptance of a meeting invitation by an attendee causes a secondary system (e.g., IBM e-mail servers) to discontinue sending updates to the attendee during the duration of the meeting. This is entirely UNLIKE a memo or a request for a USER of a device to discontinue using their device during a meeting.

3. Someone commented that the USPTO should actually read the patent applications that are filed, instead of just issuing patents. Learn the facts. The USPTO allowance rate is significantly reduced since mid 2007, when the Federal Circuit changed the obviousness standard in the KSR v. Teleflex decision.

4. As to fining companies for wasting the PTO's time, I have several comments. First, the law does not require applicants to search for prior art prior to filing an application. The PTO, as an ADMINISTRATIVE body, has no ability to substantively change the law. If you have a problem with the law, write your congressman. Second, the examination of a U.S. application is funded by the filing fees paid by the applicants. Thus, in a way, the USPTO is "fining" an applicant for the examination of their application. Third, the USPTO exists to further the progress of science and technology, fining applicants for complkying with the law (i.e., filing applications without conducting a prior art search) would be directly contrary to that goal.

RE: Some comments
By 1078feba on 3/10/2009 6:54:25 PM , Rating: 3
$50 says you're a lawyer.

RE: Some comments
By Indianapolis on 3/10/2009 8:02:02 PM , Rating: 5
$5 says you're living in your mom's basement.

RE: Some comments
By 1078feba on 3/10/2009 10:10:01 PM , Rating: 2
You're on.

RE: Some comments
By callmeroy on 3/11/2009 11:23:24 AM , Rating: 2
$1.23, a stick of Wrigley's gum and some lint says no one cares.

RE: Some comments
By hcahwk19 on 3/11/2009 8:12:24 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, many administrative agency actions (rulemaking and adjudications) have the force of law behind them, so yes they can change the law. They do it ALL THE TIME.

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