Troll Tracker – tracked!

The now famous Patent Troll Tracker has been identified by some one, and he has revealed himself on his blog.

I added this blog to my Google Reader way back, and ever since he has been a fantastic blogger and has come up with brilliant posts. It’s a shame he was forced to disclose his identity. I am keeping my fingers crossed and hope that he does not have to give up his work.

Keep going dude, you rock!

Cisco blogs about iPhone!!

Cisco has gone public with details of the iPhone deal with Apple Inc and seems to have made a good point for itself. This information comes directly from Mark Chandler, Cisco’s SVP and General Counsel. Also this comes on a coporate blog of Cisco which goes a long way to show the power blogging has in today’s world and how companies use it to manage its public relations. The post has excited a lot of bloggers and has won Cisco brownie points with them. Also if you read the post, it does blame Apple, but very subtly and in a corporate fashion, not a big deal coming from a senior counsel.

Also during negotiations with a certain vendor a few days ago the sales personnel there directed me to their corporate website for more information on their product. Way to go!! How I wish some people would listen.

I did some searching on this tussel myself this morning and summarised below are my findings.

The interesting thing here is that whereas Cisco (through acquisition of InfoGear) holds the trademark for “computer hardware and software for providing integrated telephone communication with computerized global information networks” (S.No. 75076573), Apple (through Ocean Telecom Services) holds the trademark for “handheld and mobile digital electronic devices…” and “hand-held unit for playing electronic games” (S.No. 77007808).

If you actually check out the description the Apple trademark is more specific to hand held mobile devices and it is not difficult to see why Apple is not too concerned about trademark infringement.

Patents 2.0?

Only recently the USPTO suggested a peer review mechanism to ensure that bad patents are minimized. Wikipatents, launched on August 28th, aims to contribute to “the US patent system by commenting on issued patents and, soon, pending patent applications.” This comes on the heels of the IBM, Red Hat, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard backed Community Patent Review plan of the New York Law School scheduled for a debut early next year.

A Web 2.0 website, complete with AJAX and Digg options, Wikipatents, provides you with entire patent data in HTML/PDF format and allows a registered user to write a title and abstract in a layman’s language. It also allows users to vote on cited references, add comments to existing ones and add new references. A new concept here is the market review which allows a user to estimate parameters like marketing and licensing potential of a patent.

While I am supportive of the entire exercise, I have my doubts about the efficacy of the system. First of all patents hardly ever directly impact the public and it is mostly big companies (holders of huge IP portfolio themselves) who are nowadays being sued left, right and center by the so-called patent trolls that are more worried about bad patents. I mean IBM and Microsoft themselves hold patent portfolios greater than many countries. I find no reason for people to sympathize with them.

Second, patent laws are so unclear and confusing that not many people know about them. Outside the patent attorneys I think hardly anyone would know their priority dates from filing dates.

Third, it is very difficult to gather relevant prior art without a very good understanding of the technology domain and access to proper patent and non-patent databases.

And lastly, relevant prior art is not easily available and finding it requires a lot of man hours and huge effort, else the patent examiners would have found them. Further, patent valuation is a largely inexact science at the best and requires huge amount of experience and prior research to arrive at any value for a patent.

So while it would be nice to get a community review of a patent, I for one would take any information provided with a pinch of salt, or combinations thereof.

PS: Also posted on Desicritics here.