Pity the Patent Examiners

Apple was granted a patent today (that they filed in December2007) that may potentially send seismic waves across the industry –United States Patent 7,966,578.

The patent apparently covers multitouch.

I say apparently because there are three things I’ve learnedabout patents and patent-related discussions:

  • The abstract alone does not provide enough depth for adiscussion on a patent. You need to examine the individual anddependent claims.
  • Every online discussion on patents follows a predictable path:Someone announces outrage about the trivality of some cherry-pickedpart of the abstract. Someone replies that you can’t go with justthe abstract, you need to read the claims. No one actually readsthe claims and the discussion fizzles.
  • Reading the actual claims is torture. Thisparticular patent is actually one of the better ones, but it stillis far more obtuse than is desirable for such an importantgovernment granted monopoly.

I cannot read patent claims. A few sentences in therepetition, non-specificity, and abuse of language literally makesmy vision blur. Clearly I’m not alone: It seems that only patentlawyers and patent examiners read these things.

Here’s an idea for a site that will get PageRank by thegajillions — make a “Simple Patents” site that, with disclaimersthat it isn’t legal advice, provides a simple explanation of theactual scope of a patent, with examples of infringing andnon-infringing implementations. It would surely see linkage fromevery discussion and social media story.