Super-villains, Patents and 5-Year-Olds

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If you have the law on your side, pound the law.

If you have neither on your side, pound the table.

While pondering the recent furor over an Apple patent — Unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image — my favorite Invisible Thought Leader delightfully pointed out that old legal aphorism. Is this the technology equivalent of “pounding the table?”

How do you decide what should be patent-able?

United States Patent Cover from a real patent ...
Image via Wikipedia

What is the standard for obvious? It’s often been said that all super-villains should have a 5-year-old to point out the obvious flaws in their plans. Child labor laws notwithstanding, how about we hire out some 5-year olds to work for the patent office? Then we have a simple litmus test: hand the patent to the 5-year-olds. If they can understand the concept, then it’s obvious and shouldn’t be a patent.

Should we allow a patent on “Optimized silicon wafer strength for advanced semiconductor devices?” What does the 5-year-old think?

Patent Office: We have a request to patent a method to manufacture damage-resistant silicon wafers by adding a nitrogen-laced dopant

5-year-old: A what?

Patent Office: Approved

Should we allow a patent on a “Portable multifunction device, method, and graphical user interface for translating displayed content?

Patent Office: We have a request here to patent a touchscreen display

5-year-old: Oh cool. I saw that on Star Trek.

Patent Office: Denied

Simple, right?

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