The team is joined by GuestKats Mirko Brüß, Rosie Burbidge, Nedim Malovic, Frantzeska Papadopolou, Mathilde Pavis, and Eibhlin Vardy
InternKats: Rose Hughes, Ieva Giedrimaite, and Cecilia Sbrolli
SpecialKats: Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo (TechieKat), Hayleigh Bosher (Book Review Editor), and Tian Lu (Asia Correspondent).

Friday, 18 June 2004


This came out yesterday from the subscription-only LexisNexis All England Reporter.

Frontline registered a patent in the UK entitled ‘Attendance Registration System by Radio Link’, which was filed with a priority date of 7 October 1992. The patent was for a schools attendance record-keeping system of student attendance at school using portable data collection units, such as laptop or palmtop computers, equipped with transceivers that communicated with a central computer via a wireless network. Claims 1 and 2 were broadly conceptual, while claim 7 related to the use of radio frequency transceiver units (RTUs) which could control the traffic data flowing between the portable units and the central computer.

It subsequently transpired that K, a purpose built school that opened before the patent’s priority date, operated networked PCs. This network was used for teaching and administrative purposes, including collecting data in relation to student attendance. The Secretary of State therefore sought revocation of the patent.

David Young QC, sitting as an additional judge, upheld the patent in part. Claims 1 and 2 were obvious and lacking in an inventive step in view of K’s prior use. Claim 7 was not however obvious in the light of either the cited prior art or any use or disclosures. The concept of a wireless network system using portable laptops or palmtops in place of wired PCs was no more than a logical alternative to K’s system, as would have been obvious at the material time, to a team of persons skilled in the IT education field and a to general systems analyst considering K’s system. However claim 7, relating to the use of intelligent RTUs, was something that those skilled in the art with the assistance of a radio frequency IT specialist could have arrived at only with hindsight.

The IPKat marvels at how clever everyone seems to be after the event. Lack of inventive step must be a real pain for small scale inventors, whose investment is always at risk of a key patent being found to be obvious many years after the event. At least in this case Claim 7 survived, but not all patentees are so lucky.

School attendance and truancy here, here, here and here
Some unusual truants here and here; skiving off here and here

1 comment:

Alex Macfie said...

<< Lack of inventive step must be a real pain for small scale inventors >>

Then again, if there was no "inventive step", how can they be "inventors"?

The other side of the coin is that it's very easy to hold a whole sector to ransom with a bogus patent as patents are very expensive to challenge.

With the Frontline patent case we have an unusual situation: a weak patent being challenged by an organization (the Dept for Education & Skills) with both the resources *and* the incentive to challenge it. Presumably the DfES saw the patent as standing in the way of choice and competition in schools wireless networking.

Subscribe to the IPKat's posts by email here

Just pop your email address into the box and click 'Subscribe':