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ZDNet Developer: The Year in [Web] Standards: 1999 and Things to Come

Jan 17, 2000, 23:49 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Matt McKenzie)

"Pity the poor folks over at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Over the past year, this once — respected government agency has grown increasingly incompetent, pushing the U.S. intellectual property system into a major crisis even as the people responsible continue to deny that there's a problem.

The patent crisis has played out in two ways. Some companies have filed patents for ill-defined, impossibly broad business processes, such as Amazon's 'one-click' e-commerce option and Priceline's 'name your price' business model. Others, such as Microsoft and Intermind, have filed patents in areas such as Web style sheets and online privacy standards, in spite of clear evidence that their patents are based on existing technology. All too often, Web standards are getting caught in the legal crossfire - most companies can't afford the cost of a successful court battle, much less a losing one. As a result, the companies behind these patents often win through intimidation what they wouldn't win in a fair trial.

Unfortunately, the problem will probably get worse before it gets better. The USPTO has spent a lot of time denying the problem and not enough time scrutinizing its inadequate evaluation process."

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