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Microsoft Patents The Body Bus 508

Posted by timothy
from the wait-for-service-pack-2 dept.
Mz6 writes "Microsoft has been awarded a patent for using human skin as a power conduit and data bus. Patent No. 6,754,472, which was published Tuesday, describes a method for transmitting power and data to devices worn on the body and for communication of data between those devices. In its filing, Microsoft cites the proliferation of wearable electronic devices, such as wristwatches, pagers, PDAs (worn on people's belts) and small displays that can now be mounted on headgear. "As a result of carrying multiple portable electronic devices, there is often a significant amount of redundancy in terms of input/output devices included in the portable devices used by a single person," says the filing. "For example, a watch, pager, PDA and radio may all include a speaker." To reduce the redundancy of input/output devices, Microsoft's patent proposes a personal area network that allows a single data input or output device to be used by multiple portable devices." (What about DoCoMo's research in this area?)
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Microsoft Patents The Body Bus

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  • by ShepyNCL (740977) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:49AM (#9507830) Homepage
    ..... Micrsoft to sue all future survivors of lightning strikes.
  • by JohnTheFisherman (225485) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:49AM (#9507834)
    I'm an EE, and I don't want my wife to inherit a lawsuit for patent infringement. ;)
  • by Woodrow (21174) <(ten.letlla) (ta) (ffurdoowc)> on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:49AM (#9507840) Homepage
    This is a physical device and if there is no prior art then I think this is a very valid patent.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Wasn't Tesla doing this a century ago?
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:36PM (#9508541)
        Wear do current technologies like Heart Rate Monitors fit into this?

        Polar, Nike, even Timex have what I'd call body based data bus technology already. Interesting patent to say the least, I wonder what is next. Beside a proliferation of IP lawyers.
        • Wear do current technologies like Heart Rate Monitors fit into this? Polar, Nike, even Timex have what I'd call body based data bus technology already

          Don't HRM's transmit the data via radio frequency? They recieve electrical impulses through the skin, but don't use the body as a conductor to transmit the data.

    • PRIOR ART (Score:5, Funny)

      by the MaD HuNGaRIaN (311517) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:18PM (#9508302)
      My brain is prior art.
      It gets it's energy from my body, and uses it as a data bus to send messages to my various other parts.
    • by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:18PM (#9508306)
      No prior art? You might want to read the spec for ieee488 bus.

      Is it not a requirement for US patents to be non-obvious as well?

    • by mAineAc (580334)
      I don't know, I found this [mit.edu] that talks about PAN(personal area netowrk) from 1995
    • by samantha (68231) *
      Uh huh. This is the human body or more specifically, its skin. It has been known to be able to carry signals and even some amount of power for some time. Exactly what physical device did M$ invent here? It can legitimately patent devices to take advantage of this capability. But it cannot patent the very idea of using the skin in this manner any more than someone could at one time have patented running power through a conductor.
    • by CarlPatten (6233) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @02:18PM (#9509865)
      http://www.businessweek.com/1996/26/b348112.htm

      SOLE MATES. At MIT's Media Lab, where corporate sponsors fund prototypes of new digital technologies, computers are appearing in wildly unlikely places. As part of a project called Things That Think, researchers have embedded a computer in a Nike Inc. sneaker. Using a piezoelectric polymer to generate power from foot movement, a computer in the heel might act as a sort of personal secretary. When two people shake hands, for instance, the skin-to-skin contact would be detected by sensors in each person's shoe. That would trigger an exchange of information--the computers could perhaps swap electronic business cards and check calendars for a future meeting date. Modified eyeglasses and wristwatches might display the data.
    • by Jason1729 (561790)
      I have a CB radio from the mid-80's that has a touch-plate along both sides and uses the body of the person holding it as an antenna.
  • by saforrest (184929) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:50AM (#9507861) Homepage Journal
    Somehow, the topic icon of Bill as a Borg seems more appropriate than ever.
    • My thoughts exactly. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Brandon Glass (790653) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:58AM (#9507987) Homepage

      I guess Kevin Warwick [kevinwarwick.com] will enjoy the prospect of the Personal Area Network as described above, though. Now if only we could find a way to embed these devices directly into the skin and/or find a way to connect the input jacks directly into our brains...

      (For those who don't know, Kevin Warwick is Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University, and performed an experiment on himself by implanting a tracking device into his arm, which allowed computers to determine which room he was in, and make judgements based on his position).

  • Obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

    by chrispl (189217)
    Great now I can BSOD my brain!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:50AM (#9507863)
    A beowulf.

    No, really!
  • by MDFedderly (789643) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:51AM (#9507868) Homepage Journal
    When any of your portable devices detect that the DRM has been violated for their IP, they would like the wearer of the device to recieve a powerful electric shock, capable of causing paralysis.
  • by mikael (484) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:51AM (#9507872)
    ...Microsoft have announced they are patenting the use of the human body as a energy source for computers.
  • Borg Love (Score:5, Funny)

    by mfh (56) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:51AM (#9507873) Journal
    The Microsoft Slashdot icon has never been more accurate that it is with this article. Where are they getting the human skin to test this on? Interns? Seriously, though... just stick your finger into these electrodes, please.

    Now that we can all be Borg, so I just want to know how long before we have Borg incubation chambers? Anyone with kids will back me on this... we need them. I would think the skin bus might cause cancer, wouldn't you? No FUD about it... this could be some scary shit when you consider Microsoft's security record, as well.
    • by dlmarti (7677) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:03PM (#9508067) Homepage
      So what happens when my wife and I have sex.
      Do the two networks connect?
      Is my watch going to get a virus from her cellphone earings???

      I have now officially coined the phrase "Sexually Transmitted Computer Virus" or STCV's.

      I would love to see the sylibus for the sex-ed classes in 2010.
      • by RevDobbs (313888) *
        So what happens when my wife and I have sex.
        Do the two networks connect?

        I think the more important question is, "what happens when my girlfriends wants to know what I'm doing with all of these extra 'Client Access Licences'."

        But sweetie, they just came as part of a bundle... I hardly ever use more than two at once...

    • by NecroPuppy (222648) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:07PM (#9508132) Homepage
      Where are they getting the human skin to test this on? Interns?

      Sure.

      Cause you don't build social attachement to MS Interns like you do to rats...
  • Does this work??? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bollow (a) NoLockIn (785367) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:51AM (#9507879) Homepage
    This sounds very much like science fiction to me. Are there any proof-of-concept studies in this direction?

    My gut feeling is:

    • Data transmission: maybe, but bandwidth will be low.
    • Power supply: won't work
    • Re:Does this work??? (Score:5, Informative)

      by JPriest (547211) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:08PM (#9508145) Homepage
      RTFA, the DoCoMo technology said they can exchange data between people at up to 10 meg. The DoCoMo tech lets users exchange email address and "buisness card" data with a handshake. Cool stuff.
    • by Divlje Jagode (710824) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:19PM (#9508315)
      Followed any [slashdot.org] of [news.com.au] the [ntt.co.jp] links [nttdocomo.com]?

      My gut feeling is:
      • Data transmission: maybe, but bandwidth will be low.
      • Power supply: won't work
      Look, you only had to go as far as the slashdot link [slashdot.org]:
      Eye of the Frog writes "Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. and its subsidiary NTT DoCoMo Inc. have developed a device that attaches to your PDA which uses the body's conductivity to transmit data at an amazing 10 megabits per second.
      the keywords being amazing and megabits. Please, in the future, keep your gut feelings to yourself.
  • by dickeya (733264)
    stay home. And don't ever move to Seattle.
  • by darth_MALL (657218) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:52AM (#9507884)
    They are also patenting the human built-in telescopic antenna array. Unfortunately, it will only be available to approximately 50% of the population.
  • It's power not data (Score:5, Informative)

    by malefic (736824) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:52AM (#9507885)
    DoCoMo's research is to transfer data via the body, which IBM also has done research (and most likely has some patents on). The MS patent is to power non-powered devices by having a power supply somewhere else that transmits the current through the skin. Similar, but different.
    • by Mr. Sane (526041) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:12PM (#9508217)
      Microsoft filed their patent (which is titled a "Method and apparatus for transmitting power and data using the human body") on April 27, 2000.

      Yet at this web site, http://www.almaden.ibm.com/cs/user/pan/pan.html, there is a white paper (dated November 18-19, 1996) where IBM demonstrates their "new Personal Area Network technology that uses the natural electrical conductivity of the human body to transmit electronic data".

      So, IBM demonstrated similar techniques back in 1996 that used the natural electrical conductivity to transmit data.

      However, Microsoft's claims focus on power, and frequency adjustments, this is basis for their ability to send data.

      One of Microsoft's claims states "modulating an information signal transmitted" using this signal; yet, in the IBM white paper it states that "The natural salinity of the human body makes it an excellent conductor of electrical current. PAN technology takes advantage of this conductivity by creating an external electric field that passes an incredibly tiny current through the body, over which data is carried."

      My gut says that many of MS's claims are voided by prior art -- but one would need to study the MS claims in detail, and compare it to DoCoMo's and IBM's research on the subject, to make a truly educated rebuttal.
      • And if you actually look at the Microsoft patent, you will see that they reference the IBM work as well as the DoCoMo patent. I suspect that if they thought these patents invalidated their application they would have realized it by now. At the very least, the patent examiner would have looked at the refereced patent and determinined they are suficiently different.
  • Handshaking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nucal (561664) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:52AM (#9507886)
    So I guess this might ultimately allow the transfer of data literally through a handshake ...
    • And bring new meaning to the words "male and female connectors".
    • Re:Handshaking (Score:3, Interesting)

      by earthman (12244)
      Already some years ago I have read somewhere (link, anyone?) about how this kind of technology could be used to automatically exchange virtual business cards when you shake hands with someone. So this isn't exactly something new.
    • Re:Handshaking (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mr. Sane (526041)
      Yes -- see IBMs [ibm.com] paper on the subject.... note the date of the -prior art- demonstration: November 18-19, 1996 -- Microsoft filed their patent April 27, 2000. I wonder where they got there ideas from?
    • Upgrade path (Score:3, Interesting)

      So I guess this might ultimately allow the transfer of data literally through a handshake ...

      If this becomes a standard, there will have to eventually be upgrade paths... right? I keep imagining things like subdermal conduits for improved bandwidth or current-carrying capacity. Geeks flaunting their gear with brightly colored stripes running down their arms, just beneath the skin.

  • by The Ape With No Name (213531) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:52AM (#9507887) Homepage
    When I was 5 I discovered electricity for myself by sticking a fork in an outlet. Thereby proving Benjamin Franklin right and developing prior art to use against Microsoft. Ah, the follies of youth.
  • It's sure as hell not obvious to me, and I haven't heard of anyone else doing it yet?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...ActiveHerpes.

    I prefer to pick up my own viruses and worms, thank you. I don't need MS "delivering" them to my skin.
  • by foxtrot (14140) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:55AM (#9507928)
    ...a relatively small, cheap speaker, each device will instead have a relatively large, expensive widget to use our nerves as cat-5 (human-5?) so we only have to shlep around one little speaker?

    They are kidding, right?

    -JDF
    • No.

      Instead of each device having a battery and a wireless radio, each device will have a data I/O and a power I/O device. You'll be able to have one efficient battery power your watch, PDA, cell phone, and display-eye-wear.
    • by twitter (104583)
      each device will instead have a relatively large, expensive widget to use our nerves as cat-5 (human-5?) so we only have to shlep around one little speaker?

      No, the future is much better than that! Imagine yourself covered in speakers or organic LEDs. They will use your skin to make you into a big billboard. Skin power transference also shows great promise in EULA and copyright enforcement. DMCA mark V will require placement of electrodes on all external genitalia at birth and terrorism, masturbation, p

  • Oh great (Score:5, Funny)

    by foidulus (743482) * on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:55AM (#9507934)
    I beta tested the stuff, and now my butt won't stop rebooting...
  • good luck MS (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:55AM (#9507937) Homepage
    A personal area network (PAN) is a technology that could enable wearable computer devices to communicate with other nearby computers and exchange digital information using the electrical conductivity of the human body as a data network. For example, two people each wearing business card-size transmitters and receivers conceivably could exchange information by shaking hands. The transference of data through intra-body contact, such as handshakes, is known as linkup. The human body's natural salinity makes it a good conductor of electricity. An electric field passes tiny currents, known as Pico amps, through the body when the two people shake hands. The handshake completes an electric circuit and each person's data, such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers, are transferred to the other person's laptop computer or a similar device. A person's clothing also could act as a mechanism for transferring this data.

    The concept of a PAN first was developed by Thomas Zimmerman and other researchers at M.I.T.'s Media Lab and later supported by IBM's Almaden research lab.

    sorry but MIT and IBM is way ahead of Microsoft in this with prior art.

    hell I made a example prototype from the information I recieved from mister Zimmerman back in 1997 for playing around with PAN's when i was heavy into the wearable computing research.

    Microsoft, what Idea can we steal today?
    • Re:good luck MS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kakos (610660) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:13PM (#9508230)
      They aren't patenting PANs, they are patenting a particular method of implementing a PAN. Nice try at MS bashing though.
      • Re:good luck MS (Score:5, Informative)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:17PM (#9508286) Homepage
        I suggest you actually READ the patent. they are trying to patent data transfer (PAN) and power transfer.

        if they weren't trying to sneak the data stuff in there I would not have a problem with it, but they are trying to submarine the PAN data technology into their own patent.

        strip out everything to do with data and I'll love the fact they have a patent on a new idea.
    • Re:good luck MS (Score:5, Informative)

      by Christopher_G_Lewis (260977) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:24PM (#9508385) Homepage
      The MS patent actually references several other patents, including:

      5796827 [uspto.gov] which is IBM's for the hand-shake data transfer.

      6104913 [uspto.gov] IBM's PAN

      and
      6211799 [uspto.gov] MIT's on power/data transmission over the body.

      Obviously they are building on previous patents, and have come up with an enhancement.

      Or the patent office just rubber stamped it :-)
    • Re:good luck MS (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Malor (3658) *
      I'm really not sure this is a very good idea.

      The body is a very complex beast, and has evolved to work in ways we simply don't understand yet. Adding our own signals to the body's natural electromagnetic field may be completely harmless, but it could also have strange, unpleasant side effects over time.

      Personally, I don't plan to carry any such device until they've been on the market, and in fairly wide uptake, for at least 10 years. I'm generally an early adopter of almost anything, but this technolo
  • by Woodrow (21174) <(ten.letlla) (ta) (ffurdoowc)> on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:56AM (#9507959) Homepage
    would anyone have any objections to this patent? This patent covers a physical device made of atoms just like 100% of all patents applied for 100 years ago. I do nto agree with sofwtare patents but I do with patents covering physical devices.
  • by dpilot (134227) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:57AM (#9507965) Homepage Journal
    has violated this patent. Plus the old experiment in school, where the whole class holds hands in a string, and the person on each end each touches one lobe of a Van Der Graff generator. Everyone's hair rises, and whoever breaks the circuit gets the shock - but there was a circuit and power was being delivered, it was even doing work.

    Here's the problem:

    Patents are being awarded for spending a little time thinking. For having the luxury of free time to think, and company lawyers to file, companies are able to establish themselves as a gatekeeper.

    Patents should be the product of effort - they were meant to reward that effort, and incent you to expend that amount of effort again in the future.

    IMHO, these 'few hours of thought' patents are diametrically opposed to the concept of patents as enumerated in the Constitution.
    • "electrocuted" (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gotr00t (563828)
      The word actually means death by electrical shock. If you got shocked by a Van de Graff generator, and are still alive to talk about it, then you have not been "electrocuted."

      Sorry to nitpick on something so minor. The rest of the points in your comment are completely valid.


  • Next time someone goes to the chair, Florida owes royalties, big time!
  • by swngnmonk (210826) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:57AM (#9507971) Homepage

    I remember IBM had a demo product that would exchange virtual business cards via a handshake - it might well have been a plug-in to a Palm Pilot They theorized max xfer at 2400bps at the time - this was 1996-7 or so. Still looking for the link.

  • by shachart (471014) <shachar-slashdot ... chnion...ac...il> on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:58AM (#9507983)
    Resistence is futile... errr... patented.
  • Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by isd_glory (787646) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:58AM (#9507991)
    Borg coments aside, I'd love to see this work. Turning the human skin into a data path has wonderful medical applications. Imagine being able to monitor pacemakers, hearing aids, and other prosthetic devices non-invasively.

    Furthermore, this could open up the prospect of "implants" to help humans with different things. If Microsoft can really get data and power running through the human body, it could really usher in a new age of computing.
  • Lots of people are joking about MS using the body as a power supply, which is not what this is claiming.

    They want to use the body as a power *conduit*.

    One word: bzzzzzzt!
  • Just wait until the first virus is written for such a system which can be spread by touch alone!

    "Damn, I've got the Blue Arm of Death! Could someone press my reset switch for me"
  • See IBM (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:05PM (#9508095) Journal
    There's some prior art for data transmission:
    http://www.almaden.ibm.com/cs/user/ pan/pan.html

    Where MS patent is different is they claim to do _power_ transmission as well.

    I wonder about a Mr Tesla...

    That said, I'm personally not comfortable with the idea of transmitting significant amounts of electrical power through my body- even low level power. Not sure what the side effects would be.

    Already there are some studies that indicate that electromagnetic fields do affect the body AND brain [cognitiveliberty.org].
  • I stumbled across this link, and although it strictly deals with bandwidth (not also with power, as in the Microsoft technology), it must be posted.

    Because, although many of us have suspected it before, it is now pretty much obvious that sooner or later, penises will have higher bandwidths than cable modems. [everything2.com]

    Brings a whole new meaning to the networking term "trunk".

    I can see it now:

    Defendant: No, no, no your honor, you've got it all wrong! Her battery died and I was just jumpstarting her devices!
    Judge: Couldn't you have just shaken her hand?
    Defendant: I thought if we got our juices flowing, maybe the conductivity would be greater?

    ...*ducks*
  • by AragornSonOfArathorn (454526) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:06PM (#9508124)
    IS FUTILE

    ...or at least pretty high... dry skin isn't a great conductor ;-)
  • Lots of Prior Art (Score:3, Informative)

    by linuxtelephony (141049) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:09PM (#9508166) Homepage
    Several years ago there was someone that created this technology. When two people with PDAs using this technology shook hands, the PDAs used the "circuit" to exchange contact information. The logic went something like, if you shake their hand, you want to share and collect their information. Unlike wireless, you didn't just blindly share your info with everyone in close proximity.
  • Fuse? (Score:3, Funny)

    by nightsweat (604367) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:14PM (#9508257)
    So where exactly does the fuse go?

    Oh. Ew.
  • by LabRat007 (765435) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:16PM (#9508276) Homepage

    Body Bus = Skin Cancer?

    It will certainly be a while before the long term effects of data or power over skin will be available. The lower levels of the epidermis constantly divide and push older dying cells outward to protect the body (info) [about.com]. Many things can cause improper division and lead to cancer. UV radiation everyone should already know about but so can excessive amounts from other radiant energy sources; such as electromagnetic or microwave. I don't believe short term exposure to low levels of energy have any chance of causeing problems in a healthy adult; but years of exposure over the same areas may be another story. There is no way in hell I want devices sending messages or power across my skin until there is significant data to say its safe.
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:16PM (#9508278)
    In the same way that nothing from a pig goes into a Jewish body, nothing with a Microsoft logo goes into or onto mine...

    It'd bring a whole new meaning to having "worms"...

  • by bryanc (142005) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:25PM (#9508394) Homepage
    Various forms of hearing aids have used this idea for several years. For people with hearing in one ear, you can 'transmit' the sound from the deaf ear to the working ear.

    --bryan
  • by AaronBaker2000 (480581) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:39PM (#9508579) Homepage
    I remember reading about this in Popular Science years ago. IBM developed this in 1996 and called it a Personal Area Network. Read about it here:

    http://www.almaden.ibm.com/cs/user/pan/pan. html

  • by theodp (442580) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:41PM (#9508610)
    The Body Bus [wired.com]
    Tom Zimmerman has shown that the noncontact coupling between your body and weak electric fields can be used to create and sense tiny nano-amp currents in your body. Modulating these signals creates Body Net, a personal-area network that communicates through your skin.
  • Power Transmission (Score:3, Informative)

    by Praufet (555252) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:48PM (#9508697)
    Those who are defending this patent argue the MS is trying to patent power transfer more so than data transfer might wanna think about the fact that transfer power over your skin is extremely obvious. If the patent office were properly staffed with competent individuals these things would not happen. I mean anyone who has ever been shocked has discovered prior art for power tranfer over human skin.
  • the sited article [slashdot.org] is dated Sunday October 06, @20:37. .. October 6 of what year? This could make the difference between a random reference and verified prior art. (I'm not kidding here... Slashdot posts might classify as prior art in some patent fights).

    In this case, it looks like this one was 2002 (the other option is an unlikely 1996), which is 2 years after MS filed their patent.

    I'm lazy.. I hate having to use cal(1) to figure this out.

  • by Teahouse (267087) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @01:19PM (#9509106)
    Isn't there SCADS of prior art on this topic How the hell does M$ think they are going to repatent Blue Tooth by simply stating all the devides are attached to a human body?

    Of course, if M$ is really smart, they will patent applying mild electric shock to the human skin and GRAFTING these devices to the skin (using the skin as a comm-conduit of course) THEN they might actually have something....oh wait, prior art again....see The Borg legal departmemnt.

    "We are Borg Legal, you will be litigated, resistance is futile, pleabargain is your only option" Come to think of it, isn't that how M$'s legal team works today?

  • by Felinoid (16872) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @01:33PM (#9509283) Homepage Journal
    IMAO becouse IANAL some of this may not apply.

    Skin networking research at MIT
    The diffrence between MITs prior art and Microsofts patent is the power distrabution.
    But.. DU.. the data is electrical... power distrabution is an implied part of that.

    Any time you have a reliable electrical signal you have a power source.

    Basicly Microsofts patent is a minnor and obveous modification of an existing patent and as I understand it patenting the obveous is not permitted.
  • by fluor2 (242824) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @01:38PM (#9509351)
    Well I've thought of this for years, and also I've had some ideas including inserting small heat-devices near veins (inside body) to make the blood transport heat through the body.

    AND I've talked to others that have somewhat thought of similar ideas. I think this patent is just another nail in the coffin for the U.S. Patents.

    Excuse me for being arrogant, but you Americans should really start looking into what's happening.

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