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July 25, 2005

Hold onto your seats, baseball viewers, or you might infringe a patent

Techdirt reports that a Microsoft patent application is directed to a method for identifying when a segment of a baseball game on television is exciting. Although most of the claims are for software, claim 66 is for a method that doesn't require the use of a computer. One reasonable interpretation of such a claim is that it could be infringed by the mind of a person watching TV at home.

Some qualifiers: the claims include limitations that might make them unlikely to be infringed by a human brain. Also, remember that this is a patent application, not an issued patent. The claims of the application might never be granted, or they might be modified before they are granted.

Patent claims like these raise interesting questions about whether methods that are performed without the use of machines should be patentable. The opinion in State Street Bank v. Signature Financial Group, the case in the U.S. that announced that business methods may be patented, did not make clear whether a business method must be implemented using a machine to be patentable. This has led many to file patent applications for so-called "non-machine implemented business methods," my favorite of which is a "Method of Shared Erotic Experience and Facilities for Same." And, unlike the Microsoft application, this one actually issued as a patent.

Does this mean that "safe sex" now requires an opinion from a patent lawyer?

Posted by Robert at July 25, 2005 7:49 AM
category: Software Patents

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