Every month the Electronic Frontier Foundation issues its "Stupid Patent of the Month." While there may not be enough months left before the apocalypse for EFF to expose every dumb patent, the digital civil rights group's latest find is a doozy.
US Patent No. 8,856,221
is called the "System and method for storing broadcast content in a cloud-based computing environment." In short, the invention claims ownership of a method to deliver media content from remote servers—the cloud, as we now know it—to computers.
"This might have been a somewhat fresh idea in, say the mid-1990s, but the application for this patent was filed in 2011," notes Daniel Nazer
, the EFF staff attorney with the distinguished title of the "Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents."
The patent suggests using "at least one server" that should have "a memory that stores media content and a processor." The server then communicates with "a consumer device" that can send messages and receive content. Aside from these prosaic details, the patent makes only a half-hearted effort to distinguish its supposed invention from the massive array of cloud-based media services that already existed when it was filed. For example, the description suggests that existing services were inadequate because customers might pay a flat monthly fee yet make few downloads. The patent recommends tailoring customer cost to the content actually downloaded. But even if that was a new idea in 2011 (and it wasn't), routine pricing practices should not be patentable.
Rothschild Broadcast Distribution Systems owns the patent and is a patent troll based in the Eastern District of Texas
, according to Nazer. The patent owner, Nazer said, is in the process of suing
(PDF) 25 companies—from unknown
(PDF) startups to Disney
The EFF last year awarded the same inventor
the "Stupid Patent of the Month" for an "Internet drink mixer." US Patent No. 8,788,090
, granted in 2014, describes an invention where a remote server "transmits" a "product preference" via a "communication module." Nazer said that the mixer patent "arguably covered the entire Internet of Things."
Neither the inventor nor Rothschild's attorneys immediately responded for comment. Nazer said the latest "Stupid Patent of the Month" invention "contains little more than rote recitations of long-existing technologies."