Patents: Multimedia claim under the microscope

时间:2019-03-02 10:07:10166网络整理admin

By BARRY FOX The US Patent Office is taking the drastic step of re-examining a patent which makes such sweeping claims to a computer search system that it covers virtually all the multimedia computer and interactive game software. The patent (US 5 241 671) was first filed in October 1989. It is now owned by Compton’s New Media following a corporate takeover. It claims the basic concept of searching a master database of pictures and text, through different paths, to provide an ideas search, a title search, a topic search, a time line search, a picture explorer search or world atlas search. The official examiners of the US Patent Office found 27 prior patents in the field and 10 books and articles published before the patent was filed. But the inventors’ lawyers persuaded the US Patent Office that their idea was sufficiently novel to warrant a patent. Such a broad claim effectively gives Compton’s the right to claim royalties from virtually all its competitors in the fast-growing multimedia market. Compton’s competitors were quick to point to similar search software that was in use before 1989, such as a CD-based maintenance manual for the Boeing 757, Pergamon’s Educational Encyclopaedia on CD-ROM and the Guinness Disc of Records. Many of the software companies under threat from the patent cannot afford to fight the claim in court. By ordering a re-examination of the patent, the US Patent may relieve them of this burden. The US Patent Office is also re-examining its whole policy towards software patents. Compton also filed a string of foreign patents, including an application under the international patent treaty, (WO 91/06916), which covers more than 40 countries. This lays claims to more than 90 different aspects of multimedia. The main claim is to a blanket monopoly on a search system with text and graphical paths. There is no world register which shows the progress of a PCT application in all its countries. But an unofficial register compiled by the Science Reference and Information Service of the British Library shows no progress on Compton’s European or British filings, even though they were filed in 1990. Usually, where cases are progressing smoothly,