Trolls in the BlackBerry patch

Columbia lawprof Tim Wu on patents as “Weapons of Business Destruction”. How easily can patent examiners be prevailed on to grant a patent application?

On Nov. 1, 2005, the PTO issued Boris Volfson of Huntington, Ind., Patent 6,960,975 for his invention of an antigravity space vehicle (according to the application, “the spacetime curvature imbalance … provides for the space vehicle’s propulsion”).

(Slate, Feb. 6). More: Jan. 19, Sept. 16, etc.


  • In all fairness, it’s almost harmless to allow a patent for something that doesn’t have any reasonable chance of being useful, since it’s unlikely to be a blocking patent.

    For more damaging is when a patent is granted despite prior art that is common knowledge among the practitioners in the field, or that should be dropped for failing to meet the non-obviousness test.


  • It’s almost harmless, unless Volfson uses the patent to fraudulently attract investors. It might not even be conscious fraud. I forget the name, but around 50 years ago there was a man who built a machine that spun unbalanced weights around at high speed. It kind of hopped up and down, but never went anywhere – however, since the hopping made it impossible to measure the weight while the thing was running, the inventor convinced himself, and a few other people, that it was getting lighter and he was on the way to antigravity.

    I think the biggest mistake ever made in patent law was when the PTO stopped requiring a working model. That would not only weed out frauds or self-deception like this, but more importantly it would have forced people like Lemelson to spend their time perfecting a few useful inventions, rather than guessing what other people might invent and filing broad patents for things they would never create themselves.

  • BlackBerry dispute settles for $612M

    “Although the U.S. Patent Office recently invalidated most of the patents at issue in the dispute, NTP still had the right to appeal. However, RIM was put in a tough position because [Judge] Spencer didn’t…