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IBM Patents Idle Your Rights Online

IBM Snags Patent On Half-Day Off of Work Notifications 163

Posted by samzenpus
from the looks-like-you've-been-missing-a-lot-of-work-lately dept.
theodp writes "The USPTO appears to have lowered the bar on obviousness, awarding a patent to IBM Tuesday for its System for Portion of a Day Out of Office Notification. 'Out of office features in existing applications such as Lotus Notes, IBM Workplace, and Microsoft Outlook all implement a way to take a number of days off from one day to many days,' acknowledges purported patent reformer Big Blue. 'Yet, none of these applications contain the feature of letting a person take a half-day or in more general terms, x days and x hours off.' Eureka! And yes, the invention is every bit as obvious as you can imagine."
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IBM Snags Patent On Half-Day Off of Work Notifications

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  • Prior art? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @11:53AM (#38651600)

    I can already do this in Outlook, and have done so on several occasions... how is this new?

  • Re:MS Office (Score:4, Informative)

    by nologin (256407) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @12:05PM (#38651770) Homepage

    Patent filing date is September 7th, 2006.

    Since Outlook 2007 does have this feature, it would be the likely candidate for prior art, since it would have been release somewhere in that time frame.

  • Re:MS Office (Score:4, Informative)

    by Spad (470073) <slashdot.spad@co@uk> on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @12:12PM (#38651874) Homepage

    Exchange 2007 RTM build date was December 2006, though the betas/RC would have obviously pre-dated that by a few months.

  • Re:Prior art? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @12:35PM (#38652194) Homepage

    Despite the summary, the patent describes a particular specific application, where every aspect of the system is based around minute-granularity timestamps, rather than mere dates. The application also follows a particular architecture, which is all nicely explained in the actual patent itself. The half-day example was just mentioned for clarity, and does not affect the patent itself.

  • Re:Huh (Score:5, Informative)

    by Canazza (1428553) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @12:42PM (#38652284)

    My outlook does exactly this, it's almost identical to the image they submitted...
    http://canazza.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/outofofficeobviously.jpg [wordpress.com]

  • Re:Huh (Score:5, Informative)

    by CrankyFool (680025) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @01:00PM (#38652498)

    It's worth noting that while the USPTO just GRANTED the patent, it was filed back in 2006. I was all set to join the pile-on -- Outlook 2011 on the Mac has this feature -- but I can't recall Outlook, at least, having this feature back in 2006.

  • Re:It's time (Score:5, Informative)

    by jc42 (318812) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @01:09PM (#38652606) Homepage Journal

    Sometimes I think the USPTO approves this kind of patent as a sort of protest; just to get attention and force Congress to give them rules allowing them to reject "obvious" inventions and reference prior art other than publications.

    Actually, the Patent Office folks have explained this publicly in the past. Their motive isn't to get rules and definitions from Congress. They agree that such things should be the Patent Office's job. Their motive is to get Congress to fund the required work. Some years back, when Congress passed the laws that radically expanded what could be patented, Congress also cut back on Patent Office funding. The Patent Office can't do the "obvious" checking of patent applications, because they can't legally hire (and train) the people that the job has required for the past decade or so. The flood of patent applications has become an astronomical number.

    The Patent Office folks made it pretty clear back then that their only possible approach was something that historians will find familiar: Approve them all, and let the Courts sort them out. Essentially, funding for patent examination has been moved into the Private Sector, aka the lawyers. This has, of course, radically increased the cost of a patent application, because the court system simply wasn't designed for this sort of task, and patent lawyers cost a lot more than patent examiners.

    As long as our political system remains in its current "privatization is the way to go" state, this is not likely to change. And if you're complaining about the way that the current patent system is a dead weight on economic development, you should understand that that's exactly its function. A patent is a tool for limiting use of a bit of technology to someone who can afford to defend the patent. That's intentional, and it has always been used by the big guys against the little guys. The only way to fix it is to limit what can be patented. A decade back, the US Congress took exactly the opposite approach, and radically expanded what was patentable. They did this knowingly, to limit access to technology to the big guys (aka campaign contributors ;-). This isn't going to be fixed as long as the crowd that did that is still running the US Congress.

    (Well, OK, there's an outside chance that the courts might cancel those laws on obvious Constitutional grounds. Anyone want to make a wager on when that might happen, how much the appeal process will cost, or how many years it'll take? ;-)

  • Re:It's time (Score:3, Informative)

    by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @02:54PM (#38654174) Homepage Journal

    The Supreme Court didn't hear a software patent case from 1981 to 2008 and in those years the district courts essentially created software patents.

    Not district courts - the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Sometimes called the "12th Circuit". And during those two decades, the Supreme Court declined hearing a bunch of appeals because they thought the lower court's decision was correct.

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