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Irresponsible (Or Dishonest) Journalism From SF Chronicle On Patent Reform

Gary Shapiro’s ridiculously misinformed views on patent reform and Stephen Foley’s ignorant rant about “patent value” were (in addition to complete garbage) arguably nuanced opinions, albeit borrowed from others without regard to actual fact.  But James Temple’s piece on the San Francisco Chronicle’s Business Report absolutely takes the cake as  far as irresponsible journalism goes.  Temple is either completely unable to do the most basic of fact checking, or is deliberately trying to mislead all of his readers.

Temple’s latest piece of garbage (intended to persuade us, evidently, that the US patent system is broken) kicks off with a bang:

In 2001, a Melbourne, Australia, man won a patent for an ingenious invention he called a “circular transportation facilitation device.” That is to say, using nothing more than his thesaurus, he managed to reinvent the wheel.

via Patently absurd system encourages litigation, not innovation

Curiously outrageous, no? How could the USPTO be so stupid as to not recognize an attempt to patent technology that is thousands of years old! Clearly, the patent system is broken if this type of thing is allowed to happen, and Congressional action on patent reform must be a good thing, right?

There’s just one problem with this logic.  There is no issued United States’ patent for the wheel. It doesn’t exist, and a simple internet search proves what’s actually going on.  A copy of the Australian “Innovation Patent” is shown over at IP Menu and is indeed title “Circular transportation facilitation device.” A search for the inventor’s name (John Keogh) shows no corresponding patents in the US.  Before we even get into the how’s and why’s of this “Innovation Patent,” can someone please send James Temple a globe so he can see how what the Australian patent office does has no impact whatsoever on the patent reform debate in the United States.

Now, you’re thinking, “How could the Australian’s be so dumb?” Hold your horses.  As I said, this new patent on the wheel is an “Innovation Patent.” Not having encountered this phrase before, I ran a quick search.  You know what I found? I found that the Australian IP office actually has an entire web page devoted to explaining what an Innovation Patent is.  I also learned that when you apply for an Innovation Patent, this is what happens:

Your application will be subjected to a formalities check, which involves checking basic details such as legibility, applicant details etc. as well as making sure that it is not for a plant or animal, a biological process for their generation, or a human being. If your application passes this check, you will receive your notification of grant usually within a month.

These are extremely bare qualifications, and (maybe I should ask James Temple about this, since he’s evidently smarter than us) the last time I checked, a wheel is neither a plant, nor animal, nor a human being. So it is no surprise at all that this was granted.  Why would Australia bother issuing these ridiculous documents with no oversight? Well, the website answered that too:

As the innovation patent is granted without examination, IP Australia has not made any checks that the patent is valid. This may make the patent more difficult to sell or license until the patent has been examined and certified. Also you are unable to go to court to enforce the innovation patent until it has been examined and certified.

To fully enforce your rights and take infringers to court your patent must be certified following an examination. To request an examination, you must contact IP Australia or your patent attorney, and fill out the appropriate form and pay the required fee. An examiner will then check that your patent meets all relevant requirements of the Patents Act.

So, in other words, until you pay an additional fee to have it examined (a process this patent is sure to fail), it is, quite literally, a worthless piece of paper.  I’m almost certain the inventor did this to illustrate that there is literally no substantive examination of these types of patents. The only thing I don’t understand is why IP Australia decided to give this type of patent such an “official” sounding name (instead of “utility model” or “petit patent,” which is used elsewhere in the world for similar levels of IP protection).

But getting back to Temple’s article, this is something I was able to figure out after doing about five minutes of research.  Bear in mind that I am a blogger.  I am not a journalist. I have no staff. I have no “circulation.” I use free software tools to publish my content to the internet, and I do this in my spare time when I’m not trying to put food on the table.  If writers for the San Francisco Chronicle are completely incapable of conducting the most basic level of research (or are so intellectually dishonest that they’ll purposefully avoid reporting material facts when they undercut whatever agenda it is they’re trying to push) then it’s not a paper worth reading.

Just another example of the dishonesty, distortion and outright lies from patent reform boosters that serves only to sow the seeds of distrust in the debate, and is the primary reason I’m opposing patent reform.

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “Irresponsible (Or Dishonest) Journalism From SF Chronicle On Patent Reform

  1. Well said!

    Posted by Anthony Hayes | April 12, 2011, 6:02 am
  2. Ew. That level of crummy reporting makes me cringe.

    Posted by Bri | May 2, 2011, 9:18 pm

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  1. Pingback: Famous Last Words: US Patent Reform (Far From) A Reality « Gametime IP - June 9, 2011

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