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June 15, 2006
The Web Never Forgets
I got a call earlier this week from a CEO of a startup company that finds itself being harrassed by patent trolls. In particular, they're ready to go to market with a product but are hesitant to do so because of threats of patent infringement lawsuits. So they're looking for prior art as a potential counterweight - essentially to say "if you use that patent against us we'll get it invalidated." In this case, they came across some Web pages I threw up after a workshop I organized nearly 10 years ago. Such pages themselves aren't definitive prior art, but they record the names of people working in the area back then, and one can hope that such people had more formal publications that would make good prior art.
I tried to help out as best I could, mostly by giving likely places to search for such publications and the names of some people I know who were publishing in the target domain. I asked him to call back and keep me apprised of how things turned out.
On the one hand, this is sad because if patents actually required proper citations and searches of prior art before issuing we'd have a lot fewer crap patents to drag down innovative startups. On the other hand... wow, someone actually read that stuff I took the time to make back then. Maybe I helped a bit. Cool.
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