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
Friday, 18 June 2004
Posted by Jeremy at 5:57:00 p.m.