Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A ridiculous patent

US Patent 6816878 - A system for providing a warning signal to a plurality of persons and/or locations on a geographic basis comprising...

Okay. I understand the spirit in which this patent was awarded. However, the awarded language is too general. I'm looking at this and I can't imagine how a whole slew of systems don't infringe on this patent! It is, in fact, stifling innovation. I cannot, in effect, do any of the following:
  • use Asterisk (an open source Private Branch Exchange suite used to control office phone systems) to create a call list of any kind. The call list must be manually entered to prevent infringement.
  • use any mailing list for distribution of information on an alert basis. I can remember using Lyris ListManager in about 1998 to sub-divide groups of individuals for sending information about events in a particular geographic area.
Let's think of a few things:
  • How does the national amber alert system work? Probably infringing.
  • How does the "Reverse 9-1-1" system work that was used to warn (with a call) those that were threatened by California wild fires in October 2007? Probably infringing.
  • The systems for sending cell phone alerts to college students if something bad is happening on the campus (think Virginia Tech April 2007)
Never mind the suggestion of prior art ... Do we really want such necessary items to be "protected" from use without licensing to these two guys?

Call to Action
Let's get this thrown out based on prior art. The patent was filed February 11, 2000 and issued November 9, 2004. If you can think of anything else that can be evidence of prior art (in other words, it had provable existence prior to the filing date) write about it in the comments below. Thanks.


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