It was almost two years ago now that we wrote about the Electronic Frontier Foundation's attempt to bust a patent covering the distribution of music files over the Internet that is held by Seer Systems, a one-man band that vigorously disputes the EFF's description of its patent as bogus.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted EFF's request for a reexamination of the patent in January 2009 and just recently issued a finding that will result in the reissuance of Seer's patent, albeit with alternations. The significance of those changes is now a matter of great dispute between the two parties.
From a post by EFF legal director Cindy Cohn:
The PTO has now announced that it intends to reissue the patent, but the reissued patent claims are all narrower than the original claims. That is very good news, although you should make your own determination as to whether you believe the narrowed claims are actually "novel" and "non-obvious" - we still have our doubts. At a minimum, though, the scope of the patent has been pared back, which is a positive development. Furthermore, the arguments and declarations Seer submitted to the PTO in arguing for its narrowed patent will hopefully create more clarity over what the claims allegedly cover, as well as new ways to "design around" the patent (i.e., make design decisions that will avoid infringement).
Cohn's post gets into the nitty-gritty of why she believes the narrowing of the patent is "another partial victory for the EFF's Patent Busting Project."
As would be expected, Stanley Jungleib, founder and chairman of Seer Systems, sees the decision quite differently. From the company's press release:
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected the EFF's "Patent Busting" re-examination attack on Seer Systems' patent #5,886,274. According to the EFF's website, Seer and its '274 patent were "Wanted by EFF Marshalls" for "Crimes Against the Public Domain; Willful Ignorance of Prior Art; Eggregious Display of Obviousness." The USPTO disagreed, ruling that the core original claims of the '274 patent are valid, as are six newly-added claims. From a technical standpoint the entire affair cost Seer only a few minor amendments of wording that rendered three of the original claims in the '274 patent no longer necessary.
Moreover, according to Jungleib, the EFF's offensive against his patent has made Seer the beneficiary of The Streisand Effect: "Thanks to EFF this Patent has now received enough attention that no one in the MIDI or audio domain can claim ignorance of its validity and implications."
They're certainly much more likely to know about it.
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