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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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  • Huh (Score:5, Funny)

    by masternerdguy (2468142) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @11:50AM (#38651558)
    Then I demand a patent on going to work.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sorry, I already have the patent on "System for Portion of a Day Working". ....now back to reading my /. articles....

    • by Forge (2456)
      We have that where I work.

      I am not sure of the name of the package.. but it has a web interface that you can use to check how many days you have available and to apply for time off. I can use that to not just request a 1/2 day, but also to request just a few hours.

      Does this mean we (and whoever created our HR software) have to sue IBM? Or can we just ask for a cut when they start collecting license fees on this patent?

      • We have it, in outlook.
        you simply schedule a half day meeting and tag it as OOO (makes it purple in the shared calendar .

        • by timeOday (582209)
          That won't send out-of-office notifications to people who send you emails though. (Not that I would ever enable them for that situation myself).
          • 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]

            • by yodleboy (982200)
              thanks, I was about to post the same damn thing. I just used this feature last week for a partial day notification and was worried my head would explode when I read the summary! Not sure how far back this goes but as of Outlook 2007 it's there. LOL maybe IBM is still using Notes or some old version of Outlook.
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        I am not sure of the name of the package.. but it has a web interface that you can use to check how many days you have available and to apply for time off. I can use that to not just request a 1/2 day, but also to request just a few hours.

        Our time entry system at work (again, no idea what the name is) allows us to simply enter a number of hours.

        We can enter decimals, so I've taken "1.25" hours of flex time before ... and I can separately access how much vacation and flex time I have. At a previous job, we

        • by Dog-Cow (21281)

          What you wrote has nothing to do with the title, summary, nor article. Congratulations for displaying your illiteracy.

      • That feature is going to have to be removed.

      • Re:Huh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Biff Stu (654099) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @02:46PM (#38654014)

        Does this mean we (and whoever created our HR software) have to sue IBM? Or can we just ask for a cut when they start collecting license fees on this patent?

        No. It's a valid US patent.
        It means that IBM can sue whoever created your HR software and get an injunction to stop its sale in the US. Whoever makes your HR software would then need to fight IBM and a team of wicked sharp lawyers in court, and convince a bunch of dumb-fucks in East Texas, who have nothing better to do for three months than sit in a jury for $12 / day, that the patent isn't valid do to prior art or obviousness.

        Welcome to the giant cluster fuck that is the US patent system.

      • by Builder (103701)

        Does your vacation booking software send out of office e-mails when you apply for time off ? If not, it has nothing to do with this.

        • by Forge (2456)
          It does. Both to get approval, then to notify those who must know I am out and finally an auto-response.
    • Re:Huh (Score:5, Funny)

      by NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @12:55PM (#38652442)
      I am writing a patent for taking portions of a day to slack off. The calendar will display all kinds of bullshit excuses, including writing a patent.
    • Thank god for these inventions! The system wouldn't let me take a half day before.

      • by tompaulco (629533)
        Thank god for these inventions! The system wouldn't let me take a half day before.
        You must be on salary. You can't take a half-day off if you are on salary. If you worked at all, it was not a day off.
        • Re:Huh (Score:4, Funny)

          by EdIII (1114411) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @12:41AM (#38660244)

          I work in IT :)

          You can't tell if I have taken a half a day off or not.

          Boss: Uh why were you not at the office between 12 and 4?
          Me: I had to go to the datacenter.
          Boss: For what?
          Me: The EPS conduits were all gunked up because the flux capacitor in the power converter was 3 degrees out of phase.
          Boss: Ok. Isn't that what happened to my laptop last week?
          Me: Yes, but this was not caused by porn.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I can't afford the license fee, so I'll stay home today.

    • So in order to go to work I would have to pay you a licence fee? Fsck that I quit!

  • It's time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cmdr_klarg (629569) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @11:51AM (#38651568)

    It's time for pitchforks and torches at the USPTO...

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      Yeah, no kidding. Where I work we use MS Outlook/Exchange (formerly Oracle, I can't believe we could actually find something that's a downgrade from THAT, but we managed), MS Project and an open source vacation/leave request system. ALL of these have the features mentioned above, and have for YEARS.

      Ok, they don't have a drop-down box or something idiotic like that, if that is part of the patent, but for outlook/exchange, I set my away message to show up when I will leave the office (say, noon 2012-01-12), I

  • by DogDude (805747) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @11:53AM (#38651584) Homepage
    I'm wondering if anybody knows if IBM has a patent on employees having to ask to go to the bathroom. That was one of the more unique aspects of working at IBM, in my experience.
    • by identity0 (77976)

      Oh shit, that's how we can get them - patent the process of granting permission to go to the bathroom, then sue them and ask for a preliminary injunction from the judge.

      Watch them literally squirm in their seats, and not get any work done. They'll be putting in a lot of half-day off notices afterwards...

  • I wonder (Score:3, Funny)

    by slackware 3.6 (2524328) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @11:53AM (#38651598)
    if any one has patented the process of taking a crap yet?
    • if any one has patented the process of taking a crap yet?

      ... where would you want to take it to? Wouldn't you rather just flush it, like the rest of us?

      Or are you one of those "Emma, come 'n look at this - you ain't gonna believe it!" types?

      "Method and system for taking a crap."

      1. Eat food (see our related patent application for "Method and system for eating food";
      2. Wait. (period of time depends on food eaten and any contamination such as salmonella, see our related patents and our "brown paper"

      • by nschubach (922175) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @12:24PM (#38652038) Journal

        "Method and system for taking a crap on a computer."

        1. Eat food (see our related patent application for "Method and system for eating food";

        2. Wait. (period of time depends on food eaten and any contamination such as salmonella, see our related patents and our "brown paper" on "Montezuma's Revenge")

        3. Do what comes naturally on a computer.

        Excellent, I shall file this immediately.

  • 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?

    • by subsoniq (652203)
      Yeah, Exchange 2007 introduced this in late 2006 when it released.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, Exchange 2007 introduced this in late 2006 when it released.

        This patent was filed in September 2006. Maybe Microsoft will be paying royalties for using IBM's invention before long.

        • Exchange 2007 Beta 2 (which the release announcement states is feature complete) was out in July 2006. I don't think they'll be paying royalties.
          • by jank1887 (815982)

            that was under 'first to invent' not 'first to file'. the current system will work the way you described. this patent however will require a trial with discovery and proving who invented it first.

            • that was under 'first to invent' not 'first to file'. the current system will work the way you described. this patent however will require a trial with discovery and proving who invented it first.

              No, it won't. First-to-file vs. first-to-invent changes one procedure: interferences under 35 USC 102(g). Only about 20 occur per year, and it's when two independent inventors simultaneously apply for a patent on the same thing. It has nothing to do with prior art. Stop spreading FUD.

    • by Ptur (866963)
      How? I don't see any way in Outlook to make it send out of office replies for every afternoon, for example....
    • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I was going to state how even our in house payroll software lets us put in for portions of a days leave, but then I realised this is about automated out of office notifications - and I'd have to admit, obvious as it is most of the ones I've seen work with dates, not portions of dates.

  • I'll take my royalties at my Post Office Box.

    • OK, then I call the unix timestamp patent! I'll be out until 1326267061 and not a second later.
  • by pootypeople (212497) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @11:59AM (#38651672)

    I may not remember correctly, but doesn't Office 2007 and above have an option where you can set what time to enable/disable the out of office message? That would seem to cover this patent. When was the application made?

    What do folks at the USPTO do, exactly? You would think any reasonably-intelligent person would reject this on obviousness grounds and not even need to find prior art.

    • 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.

    • by Fnord666 (889225)

      I may not remember correctly, but doesn't Office 2007 and above have an option where you can set what time to enable/disable the out of office message? That would seem to cover this patent. When was the application made?

      What do folks at the USPTO do, exactly?

      Filed: September 7, 2006

      • by jank1887 (815982)

        Invented: ????

        US wasn't First-to-file yet.

        • Invented: ????

          US wasn't First-to-file yet.

          First-to-file doesn't change anything about prior art. All it does away with is interferences under 35 USC 102(g) where two independent inventors simultaneously file patent applications on the exact same invention. Previously, there was a big, expensive fight over who was really the first to invent. Now (actually, in a year when it gets implemented), the one with the first filing date will win.

          This is a rare procedure - there are currently about 20 interferences total per year... out of half a million appl

  • by mounthood (993037) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @12:01PM (#38651724)
    Where's the payoff for the avalanche of poor patents? IBM isn't getting paid, the USPTO isn't better off, so are the politicians getting paid? Why is this system continuing? Two reasons I can see: protection for the largest companies against new start-ups, and getting foreign countries to adopt US Patent laws and extort their corporations. But is that really it, is that the whole game? IBM isn't full of idiots and the politicians are (always) working an angle, so why this continued patent madness?
    • by NotSanguine (1917456) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @12:15PM (#38651906) Journal

      Where's the payoff for the avalanche of poor patents? IBM isn't getting paid, the USPTO isn't better off, so are the politicians getting paid? Why is this system continuing? Two reasons I can see: protection for the largest companies against new start-ups, and getting foreign countries to adopt US Patent laws and extort their corporations. But is that really it, is that the whole game? IBM isn't full of idiots and the politicians are (always) working an angle, so why this continued patent madness?

      The payoff is selling it as part of a portfolio of patents to cover other equally obvious stuff, like they're doing with Google now. Jeebus, our IP system is broken!

      • by mounthood (993037)

        The payoff is selling it as part of a portfolio of patents to cover other equally obvious stuff, like they're doing with Google now.

        Selling to the next sucker is one way to get paid, but that happens in every market and isn't special to patents. Maybe it's just momentum that keeps the system running: we've spent so much on patents we can't stop now! Like the housing boom where the market prices reinforce the system, and it doesn't stop until enough people say the emperor has no clothes, then it all crashes at once.

    • by Cassini2 (956052)

      Where's the payoff for the avalanche of poor patents?

      IBM will be sued the moment the PTO grants a similar patent application to another company, so they file first.

      As long as it passes the "will the PTO grant this?" threshold, IBM files it. They have to file it, because five years later someone else will attempt to patent the same feature. The PTO will issue the patent in due course, and sometime later a patent troll company will buy the patent and source code (like SCO). Presto IBM will be sued for billions of dollars for violating patents and copyright

      • by mounthood (993037)
        Protection against patent trolls is just an effect of the system, but how does the system payoff for IBM or the USA? Protection for IBM could also be bought by paying a few politicians to change patent law, but that isn't happening. So where's the payoff?
      • by pieterh (196118)

        IBM filing trivial patents for defensive reasons? Please, that's a joke. Filing a patent does not defend against attack from a troll. You cannot file all possible patents any more than you can claim all possible combinations of letters. A billion patents is still 0% of infinity.

        IBM file trivial patents because they make $$$ from patent licenses. The director of the USPTO, Dave Kappos, was chief patent lawyer at IBM. It is a pure case of regulatory capture. IBM *own* the US patent system, file 50% of all sof

        • by mounthood (993037)
          You're right that patent trolls can't be stopped by playing the patent game, but If we assume that "IBM *owns* the US patent system" why aren't we seeing competitors bribing politicians to change the rules? The lack of large companies demanding change suggests they're OK with the current system, but where's their payoff?
    • by jank1887 (815982)

      Inventors may get an award or bonus for a filed / granted patent. So that's a quantity over quality incentive. Patent lawyers get paid for getting patents filed, accepted, attacked, defended, etc. again, quantity over quality. In fact, patent lawyers make more when there is post-award litigation whether or not they're on the offense or defense. Even more quantity-over-quality incentive.

  • I can add that IBM's Lotus Notes 8.5 -- released in 2009 -- already had the ability to specify hours of a partial day.
  • what are they talking about? Outlook does this now...it's called setting the hours....maybe I am missing the exact feature this article refers to...
  • ...with IBM tools, at my current client project. Can I then file a patent for not going to work ?
  • A good chunk of these BS/trivial patents stem from devs gaming the system.

    Many corporations, and I imagine IBM is one of them, have patent bounties that are paid out in a multi-tier system:
    - propose a patent application that passes the internal corporate review board: small $ bonus
    - get the patent app files: bigger $ bonus
    - have the patent granted: big $ bonus

    I've known a few devs who have made a nice chunk of change in annual bonuses because they've learned the system. From devs on the line, through manage

  • Did they only have to pay for half a patent also? The other half was off course bloody obvious.
  • The patent office's real job is to keep all of society locked in their cubes, think of dumb things that produce nothing but will make a ton of money, forget that society even exists, and depend solely on food delivery and masturbation for survival. So, let us patent "method for masturbation." Yes, the traditional one. What, me invent something?

  • ... but this is just a subset of existing integrated calendar/e-mail functionality.

    "I will be $planned_function from $begin_time_date to $end_time_date. $optional_custom_message"

    FFS, I implemented this with procmail and a couple of shell scripts fed off my PalmPilot schedule back in ancient times.

  • If companies don't patent every possible angle of everything then a troll will get that patent and go on the attack. The patent office has lowered the bar to the point that everything and anything is patentable and MUST be patented for self protection. This patent is purely the fault of Congress for ignoring the patent offices downward spiral to economic zombie. Braaaaains! Braaaaaaaaains!
  • Because this:

    A system for generating an electronic notification containing a portion of a day out of office notice, comprising:

    • an application server node operably associated with a database server having an application data supporting personal information management (PIM) system, the application server node configured to execute a personal information management application, the application server node further configured to store the personal information management application;
    • an application programming in
  • by roguegramma (982660) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @02:21PM (#38653610) Journal

    .. a system to deliver quarter-day off notices ..

  • Just because other people can think of an invention does not mean the patent should not be filed. A patent is largely about someone creating something novel nobody has thought of, or more likely got their patent filed first in the case where the invention is easily repeatable.

    What should rule out a patent is previous art. If someone else implemented this feature prior to IBM filing for the patent, or it can be proven that someone else implemented this feature before an IBM product implemented the feature,

    • by JustNiz (692889)

      You're right but you miss the real point.
      Companies like IBM, and especially Microsoft file patents already knowing they are without merit and that prior art exists.

      The root cause of the problem is with the US legal system, being so slow and expensive to come to a final decision on anything at all.

      For a small company suspected of being in breach of a patent, even a frivolous one, companies like IBM can generate so much bogus legal activity to totally bankrupt smaller competitors with ongoing legal costs alon

  • "And yes, the invention is every bit as obvious as you can imagine."

    The standard defense against this type of claim-without-support is that if it were obvious, and given that there are _lots_ of eyeballs on the subject matter, and given that it is highly useful, then someone would have already done it. Therefore, since nobody has done it before, it was not obvious.

    The "it's obvious" rant is almost universal when someone sees an idea that they (a) know is good, and (b) understand. As an inventor and generall

    • You remind me of the parable of Colombus going into a bar and being given grief for discovering new lands. "Anyone could have done that... its obvious" say the patrons. And Colombus then proceeds to challenge anyone there to stand an egg on end. The patrons try as they may, the egg always rolls to its side and never stands straight. "It's impossible" they say. "Not impossible!" says Colombus, as he smashes the bottom of the egg to force it to stand on end, "merely not obvious." And then, of course, the patr
  • Four years ago I and the person who was going to replace me when I retired built a TimeRecs app that kept track of partial vacation or time off days for any dates and times in the future as well. It was build using APEX and dynamic HTML, so employees could access it with their browsers.

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