Patenting Self-Destructing E-mail Messages

att-logoAT&T is seeking another patent on self-destructing e-mail messages. AT&T originally filed a patent application in January 2002 on this technology, which ripened into U.S. Patent No. 7,356,564. The latest patent application to publish in this family tree published on June 20, 2013 as U.S. Patent Application No. 20130159436. We profiled this back in August on See AT&T Seeks Patents on E-mail Self Destruct and 3D Media ContentShortly thereafter, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued a Non-Final Rejection of the application.

This application relates to e-mail, which virtually everyone reading will know is a messaging system used across the world to communicate information to other people. Indeed, so ubiquitous has e-mail become that it is hard to remember when electronic communications via e-mail did not exist. E-mail is so incredibly useful because it’s efficient and practically instantaneous. However, a sender has almost no way to protect confidential information once it has been sent across the Internet, and we have probably all sent one or more messages without thinking things through before clicking “send.” Many have also no doubt sent an e-mail by accident to someone who was not the intended recipient, which can range from a nuisance to embarrassing to completely catastrophic depending on the content.


Apple Patents Digital Handshake Between Devices

On April 23, 2013, Apple obtained U.S. Patent No. 8429407, titled Digital Handshake between Devices.

Creating a secure connection between two devices that are in close physical proximity allows users to share a great deal of digital content. Instead of showing a webpage or document to another person by turning the screen towards them, a user could choose to send the info directly to another device, preventing people from having to crowd around a small device screen to see. The same is true of videos and pictures. Also, some applications allow users to interact with other nearby devices for money transfers or to play a game.

Apple was granted the right to protect the system of creating a secured connection between devices laid out in this patent. It would allow an iPhone to create a bar code or alphanumerical code that can be scanned by the camera of another device. Once the “digital handshake” has taken place, other phones can also scan the key that was generated by the device to connect with the other devices as well.

As Claim 1 describes, Apple has gained legal protections over:

“A method for establishing a communications path between a first device and a second device, comprising: capturing an image of the second device using the first device; extracting, from the image, a first key associated with the second device; selecting from a plurality of processes a process to be used for generating a digital handshake key; generating the digital handshake key using the selected process with the first key; and establishing a communications path with the second device using the digital handshake key.” (more…)

USPTO Update: After Final, Software and Sequestration

uspto_seal_200Recently there has been some interesting news coming from the USPTO…and about the USPTO budget, courtesy of AIPLA taking up the fight against sequestration with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). What follows is a synopsis of events over the past week.

Addressing the RCE Problem

Last week, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced in the Federal Register that it would modify the After Final Consideration Pilot Program (AFCP) to create an After Final Consideration Pilot Program 2.0 (AFCP 2.0). The goal of AFCP 2.0 is much the same as it was when the USPTO initially introduced the precursor AFCP. According to the USPTO, the goal of AFCP 2.0 is to reduce pendency by reducing the number of RCEs and encouraging increased collaboration between the applicant and the examiner to effectively advance the prosecution of the application. Thus, this can and should be viewed as part of the USPTO effort to continue to try and address the RCE problem. (more…)

Federal Circuit Makes Mess of Software Patents

Gene QuinnIn what can only fairly be characterized as a patent tragedy, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit now has no official position on the patentability of system claims that objectively recite volumes of tangible structures that clearly satisfy the machine-or-transformation test. Less than 5 years after giving the industry the rigid machine-or-transformation test, which was ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court, five of the ten judges that heard CLS Bank v. Alice Corporation en banc would find that claims that seem to clearly satisfy the machine-or-transformation test are not patent eligible.

The per curiam decision of the Federal Circuit was very brief. It simply stated:

Upon consideration en banc, a majority of the court affirms the district court’s holding that the asserted method and computer-readable media claims are not directed to eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. An equally divided court affirms the district court’s holding that the asserted system claims are not directed to eligible subject matter under that statute.


Commentary on Mayo v. Prometheus

On March 20, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., reversing the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, holding that the patented Prometheus claim methods were invalid as they pertained to ineligible subject matter. The issue before the Court was whether the claims did more than simply describe laws of nature. Justice Breyer wrote the Court’s decision and emphasized the specific question, ”Do the patent claims add enough to their statements of the correlations to allow the processes they describe to qualify as patent-eligible processes that apply natural laws?”  The underlying policy concern was whether such patents would inhibit  future innovation. As stated in the Court’s decision,

…there is a danger that granting patents that tie up their use will inhibit future innovation, a danger that becomes acute when a patented process is no more than a general instruction to “apply the natural law,”or otherwise forecloses more future invention than the underlying discovery could reasonably justify. The patent claims at issue implicate this concern.

In order to better understand the complexities of the Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Labs., Inc. decision, we have collected articles written by patent practitioners and Practice Center contributors about the case. Check out these fantastic case summaries and opinion pieces: (more…)