Have you ever sent a motivational text to a friend? If you have, perhaps you tailored your message to an activity or location by saying “Good luck in the race!” or “Have fun in New York!” Now, imagine doing this automatically with a compuuuter. What a great invention. Actually, no. That’s not a good invention, it’s our latest Stupid Patent of the Month.
This month’s stupid patent, like many stupid patents before it, simply claims the idea of using a computer for basic calculations. U.S. Patent No. 6,817,863 (the ’863 patent) is titled “Computer program, method, and system for monitoring nutrition content of consumables and for facilitating menu planning.” It claims the process of using a computer to track nutrition information like calorie or vitamin intake. It is difficult to think of a more basic and trivial use for a computer.The ’863 patent is owned by a patent troll called Dynamic Nutrition Information, LLC. Dynamic Nutrition filed a lawsuit this month in the Eastern District of Texas accusing Australian company Fatsecret of infringing the ’863 patent. Dynamic Nutrition had filed four other lawsuits. Consistent with a pattern of nuisance litigation, each of those earlier suits settled very quickly.
This month’s stupid patent, a design patent, shows just how broken the current system of design patents is. Design patents, unlike the utility patents we usually feature, consist only of a single claim followed by pictures. It is generally the pictures that inform the public as to what is claimed. Importantly, in a design patent only the features drawn in solid lines are claimed. Anything in dotted lines is generally not part of the claim.U.S. Patent D767,583, issued on September 27, 2016, is a patent on a design for a “display screen portion with graphical user interface.” Here, the claim is to “the ornamental design for a display screen portion with graphical user interface, as shown and described.” As most design patent owners do, the patent also makes clear that “the broken line showing of the display screen in the figure forms no part of the claimed design.” Below is the sole picture from the patent showing the patented design:
On August 30, 2016, the Patent Office issued U.S. Patent No. 9,430,468, titled; “Online peer review and method.” The owner of this patent is none other than Elsevier, the giant academic publisher. When it first applied for the patent, Elsevier sought very broad claims that could have covered a wide range of online peer review. Fortunately, by the time the patent actually issued, its claims had been narrowed significantly. So, as a practical matter, the patent will be difficult to enforce. But we still think the patent is stupid, invalid, and an indictment of the system.
When it comes to patent trolls, no one is bigger than Intellectual Ventures. The Washington State-based behemoth is at the center of both patent trolling and the debate around patent reform. Though it claims to promote innovation, Intellectual Ventures is behind some of the most outrageous troll campaigns in recent years. Famous for hiding behind thousands of shell companies, it spawned Lodsys, the troll that harassed small app developers, and the Oasis Research litigation featured in This American Life.
This month, Intellectual Ventures filed some fresh lawsuits against targets including JCPenney, Sally Beauty, and flower delivery service Florists’ Transworld Delivery. We checked out the asserted patents to see if any deserved our Stupid Patent of the Month award. All were worthy candidates, but one in particular stood out.
This month, we feature another yet another patent that takes an ordinary business practice and does it on a computer. Our winner is US Patent No. 8,738,435, titled “Method and apparatus for presenting personalized content relating to offered products and services.” As you might guess from its title, the patent claims the idea of sending a personalized marketing message using a computer.