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Gateway in ‘preference file’ patent puzzle

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Proof that the US Department of Commerce employs robots to research patent applications finally emerged this week.

On Monday, Gateway was granted a Patent that covers the handling and merging of users' preference files. Patent 6,530,083 is pretty broad ranging, encompassing "convergent television/computer systems as well as television systems, audio systems, video systems, or the like" as well as PCs, and not only snares well know .INI file or registry settings but cookies too.

So is this another "mad patent" story that you're getting kind of weary of now? (We've had Microsoft and Apple in recent days).

Not quite.

What's really interesting about this patent, which was filed in 1998, is how it ever got granted. The patent cites one previous example of prior art, here which also discusses "profiles".

Only they're not user preference profiles at all, but application execution "profiles" and the two have nothing in common whatsoever. Execution profiles are an application's "footprint": what resources it's using and when. The patent cited here as prior art discusses debugging techniques.

Which provides proof of AI intervention. A diligent human researcher would have discovered the debug patent discussing "profiles" and rejected it, or at least excluded it from the list of Prior Art. But the USPTO didn't.

Some believe all patents are inherently evil, while many others accept them as a commercial necessity that protects an inventor for a limited time. If that's the case, then the only conclusion is that the US Department of Commerce urgently needs to spend more money on better staff to maintain the integrity of the patent system. It needs to and fast, for the system appears to have fallen into irretrievable disrepute. If you believe that inventions may be commercialized, you need to pay for a credible regulator. ®

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