EFF targets 'stupid' online voting patent

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Credit: Electronic Frontier Foundation

It may not be as stupid as the patent issued for filming a yoga class, but this one covering the operation of an online-content voting contest comes darn close.

Maybe we should take a vote on it.

From an Electronic Frontier Foundation press release:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), together with Durie Tangri LLP, is defending a photo hobbyist against an outrageous patent suit from a company that claims to hold the rights to online competitions on social networks where users vote for the winner.

"Our client has been running 'vote-for-your-favorite-photo' polls for years, just for fun and the love of photography,” said EFF Staff Attorney Daniel Nazer, who is also the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents. “The idea that you could patent this abstract idea -- and then demand a settlement to go away -- goes against both patent law and common sense."

EFF's client runs Bytephoto.com, which has hosted user-submitted photos and run competitions for the best since 2003.  In 2007, a company called Garfum.com applied for a patent on the "Method of Sharing Multi-Media Content Among Users in a Global Computer Network."  The patent, U.S. Pat. No. 8,209,618, takes the well-known concept of a competition by popular vote and applies it to the modern context of generic computer networks--despite the fact that courts have ruled that this kind of abstract idea using generic computer technology cannot be patented.

Fully half of the Internet must be devoted to voting on stuff … and has been for a lot longer than the past eight years. So maybe there’s something about the mechanics of this site that cries out for patent protection; like maybe how it works. From the company’s FAQ page:

How does voting work? Each voter uses a 3-rating VOTE system to evaluate each video. Then, points are assigned to the video based on the following system:

  • A rating of 1 = 1 Voting Point
  • A rating of 2 = 2 Voting Points
  • A rating of 3 = 3 Voting Points

The video with the highest votes score wins the monthly competition.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office even looks at these applications.

(Update: This post has been corrected to reflect the fact that the patent in question covers a variety of multimedia content.)

Here is the motion to dismiss filed by the EFF:

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