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reading patents

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Today I was reading about a cool idea on the ''net, an idea which appears to be patented. I don''t really understand patents all that well, but eager not commit the ''sin'' of breaking intellectual property law, I rushed off to http://www.uspto.gov/ where I began to actually read the patent in question. Unfortunately, what I found made less sense than the ending of the film ''2001: A Space Odyssey'' having not read the book. I looked at a few other patents, and all I got was a list of strange requirements that are ''claimed''. So the question is, how do I go about reading patents? In particular, to break a patent would you have to make something that is described by every point in the list, just one point, a convincing majority? thanks

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Violating just one claim is enough. You''ll need a patent attorney to figure out if you really violated the claim or if the claim''s actually a legal one, though.

Remember, many companies write patents to be as non-specific and confusing as possible, to make it harder to reproduce the technology when the patent expires. This makes it extremely difficult to sit down and read most patents without already being an expert in the field in question.

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So much for the law then, it seems. I never much liked it anyway. I don''t think I''ll be exactly copying the thing in question - more ''being inspired'' by it.

thanks for the reply, though.

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To clarify on someones last post.

You must MATCH their description exactly though, before you violate the patent.

The chair is patented as a an entity with 4 legs, and a flat plane to sit on.

A 5 legged chair does NOT violate the patent. A chair with a curved surface to sit on does NOT violate the patent.

The chair is actaully a poorly written patent, but it serves my example. Read the patents description section. If you idea deviates from their description on any point, then you are ok.

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Patents are supposed to be narrow in scope and apply only to non-obvious things, but in practice that's not quite the case. Software patents can be vague and are often given to "inventions" which do not deserve any kind of patent protection. Frankly I'd prefer a world without software patents.

Patents are supposed to encourage innovation and promote the state of the art, but if patent holders are allowed to get away with vague descriptions of their inventions the whole purpose of patents is undermined.

There was a time when the patent office required working models before an invention could be patented. That's no longer practical, but the least they should do is to require detailed schematics for any patented invention.

[edited by - chronos on June 2, 2002 7:49:03 PM]

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