Mr Rubin helpfully provides a new, less emotive, definition of a patent troll, being "a company that fosters innovation by providing patent marketplace liquidity".
On another note, US company AppliedE, Inc. (site under construction) has just announced via a press release that they have been allowed US and European patents for their invention titled "Professional time tracking and recouping system and software". They boldly admit:
"This patent is a business method patent that claims and protects a method of automatically recording Internet activity performed by a user on behalf of a client"and they state that it is difficult in the US and Europe to get such patents. A quick look at the 'Druckexemplar' (the application in a form allowed for grant at the EPO) available from the EPO's epoline service reveals that the allowed method (on 1 February 2007) is as follows:
1. A professional time tracking and recouping method for tracking usage time and for creating reports based on the usage time in an Internet use environment, wherein the Internet is accessible by a user for one or more client matters, the method comprising:
receiving a logon request from the user;
authenticating the user login ID;
launching a time tracking function upon a successful user logon;
receiving URL information from the user;
recording the usage time associated with each URL received from the user; and
processing the usage time data to create one or more reports, wherein the reports are formatted in accordance with predetermined parameters,
wherein the preceding steps are performed on a personal computer of the user or a network server to be accessed by the user.
This Kat is not commenting further on the merits or otherwise of this claimed invention, but wonders whether this claim would have been allowed at the UK Patent Office. For anyone sufficiently interested, there is still plenty of time (at least until the end of the year) to file an opposition at the EPO.
Merpel is more worried about AppliedE, Inc. wanting to keep track of her internet usage, which is considerable.
UPDATE (18 May 2008): The 9 month opposition time limit has now run out, and nobody has opposed the patent. Will AppliedE now start taking action in Europe against alleged infringers?