Patent reform legislation may have failed to get through Congress this year, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation has not backed off on its efforts to bring attention to the flaws of the U.S. patent system and the need for significant change.
In fact, on July 31, a date which coincidentally marked the 224th anniversary of the first-ever U.S. patent, EFF launched a new campaign, dubbed the “Stupid Patent of the Month.”
Some may see the move to publicize the more dubious patents coming out of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as a PR stunt. But given the number of outrageous patents still being issued, the move could succeed in highlighting the system’s problems, influencing public opinion and even swaying Congress.
Case in point: For its inaugural “stupid patent” award, EFF chose U.S. Patent No. 8,609,158, an invention purporting to cure cancer.
According to the application, the invention is a “potent drug” that “rebukes cancer, cancer cells and kills cancer.” It is composed of a combination of “evening primrose oil, rice, sesame seeds, green beans, coffee, meat, cheese, milk, green tea extract, evening primrose seeds and wine.”
The product also claims to alleviate mental illness, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other maladies.
EFF staff attorney Daniel Nazer doesn’t simply cite the patent, however. He goes on to analyze why it never should have been issued. “The patent examiner could and should have rejected it on any number of grounds, including enablement, indefiniteness and utility,” he writes.
He then explains why an examiner might have let it through, highlighting flaws in the patent review system that EFF and other patent reform advocates would like to see corrected.
While the cancer-curing patent may prove entertaining, Nazer concedes it may not be typical. “But finding other bad patents is not difficult,” he writes. He then proceeds to list three other recently issued patents that qualify for “(dis)honorable mentions.” All of them, he says, merely tie an abstract business process to a computer, which the U.S. Supreme Court declared in June is not patentable.