EFF to Fight Dubious Patents

Wired News: EFF to Fight Dubious Patents. The Electronic Frontier Foundation launched a campaign on Monday to overturn several patents that it says are having a “chilling effect” on public and consumer interest. In a white paper posted to its website, the civil liberties group targeted 10 patents in particular, including one awarded to Amazon.com for one-click shopping and another awarded to California lawyer Lawrence Lockwood for online credit card payments. The two patents are frequently cited by critics of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as examples of how patents can do more harm than good for the software industry.

Wendy Seltzer, an attorney for the EFF, said in an interview Monday that the goal of the new campaign is to prevent questionable patents like these from being used against individuals and small businesses.

“Traditionally, corporations have used patents to protect their work, but we've been seeing patents more and more frequently asserted against nonprofits and individuals and other nontraditional targets for patent enforcement,” said Seltzer.

“In fighting these patents, our first goal is to help clear out specific instances of patents that are clogging the works and then point the way to change the law to prevent future violations,” she added.

The EFF will begin its campaign by compiling prior art, or evidence, that it hopes will help prove that each of the targeted patents was wrongly awarded. The organization will also collect data about any negative effects that the patents may have had on individuals and small businesses. The information will then be presented to the patent office in requests to re-examine the patents.

“We're continuing our mission of protecting civil liberties, especially as they are affected by technology policies,” said Seltzer.

The EFF was founded in 1990 to help defend a small book publisher whose office had been raided by the Secret Service during an investigation. Since then, the organization has supported defendants in a number of high-profile cases concerning free speech and the Internet, including MPAA v. 2600, in which the Motion Picture Association of America charged a Norwegian teenager of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act  [Tomalak's Realm]

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