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The Law Office of Joan I. Norek

        Intellectual Property

            Chicago, Illinois





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Patent Internet Issues

  • The Internet & computers opened new avenues and modes of communications and doing business.

  • Just about the same time the awesome protection of the patent laws was extended to "methods of doing business" (MOD).

  • The USPTO and patent practitioners continue to wrestle with the problems of applying the patent laws' new and nonobvious standards in the MOD field.

  • Other technical fields have multi-decades of patent literature in the database, but not so for the MOD field.  So the lack of a practical database of business methods prior art continues to haunt the MOD field.

  • The Internet's vast wealth of information has become a second source of prior art for all technical fields, with one glitch.  The ephemeral nature of "words on the web" can raise some nasty issues as to the first date of publication.  If that date is after an application's filing date, it is not prior art.

Internet Website Date of Publication Issues, Ex parte Whitemiller, 2001
(Don't Believe Everything You Read!)

Disproving a webpage's ostensible date of publication, and apportioning the burden of proof, were first-impression issues considered by the USPTO's Board of Patent Appeals in Ex parte Whitemiller, Appeal No. 2001-1511, Application Serial No. 09/160,272; Attorney for applicant, Joan I. Norek.

The patent examiner had rejected all application claims based on the contents of a webpage that bore the statement "Updated 1/8/98".  If the 1/8/98 date was accurate, the webpage was published prior to Whitemiller's filing date, and its contents were fatal prior art against the application.

At the examiner level, evidence submitted on behalf of the applicant established that (a) the website owner registered to do business on 10/23/98, (b) the owner stated he was not yet doing business on the 10/23/98 registration forms, (c) the website's domain name was registered on 11/10/98, and (d) search engine records of the website began on 12/8/98.  Obvious odds are that the webpage was not "out there" until November of 1998, which was nine months after the "updated" claim, and months after the application filing date.

The examiner nonetheless continued in the claim rejections.  On appeal the Board reversed, holding that (a) the examiner established a presumption that the 1/8/98 "updated" date was the publication date, but (b) the applicant had rebutted the presumption.  Therefore, if a web page's displayed publishing date is shown to lack credibility, the burden of establishing the actual publication date returned to the examiner.

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The Law Office of Joan I. Norek
25 E. Washington Street, Suite 1400
Chicago, Illinois  60602
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Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website provides information and resources but is neither legal advice nor a substitute for the legal advice of an IP attorney.  Retentions are subject to the discretion of the firm.
This website was designed and constructed by Joan I. Norek.