Feeds

Trolls and victims watch Supremes for definition of meaningless patents

Fitness kit case will explore just how broad a patent can be before it becomes useless

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

A patent dispute over a fitness technology running in the US Supreme Court will decide just how vague a patent has to be before it becomes meaningless.

The long-running lawsuit (it was first filed in 2004) is between iron-pumping-powerhouse Nautilus and bio-monitoring specialist Biosig. Biosig's original complaint was that Nautilus violated a 1994 patent, by building a heart-rate monitor into a fitness machine.

The Biosig patent, US 5,337,753, described a hollow cylinder with spaced electrodes. However, it didn't stipulate the spacing of the electrodes, stating only that “a first live electrode and a first common electrode mounted on said first half in spaced relationship with each other; a second live electrode and a second common electrode mounted on said second half in spaced relationship with each other;”

That was the basis of the first decision in the case, with the original trial court deciding that “did not tell me or anyone what precisely the space should be”. In other words, the court believed that the patent had been drafted to be ambiguous, to cover as many technologies as possible in the future.

That decision has kept the case bouncing around and dragging on, with the original decision reversed by a Federal Court decision on the grounds that the patent wasn't so ambiguous that the product couldn't be built. With its original win now reversed, Nautilus has taken the case to the Supremes.

A decision isn't expected until June, but the case will be closely watched – particularly by patent trolls and their targets, since vague patents are often the basis for wide-ranging “attack everybody” lawsuits. As Reuters notes, if the final outcome means more detail has to be put into patents, it'll be easier to invalidate too-vague patents.

Which would probably not be a bad thing. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.