SAN FRANCISCO - May 19 - At the request of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) will reexamine a controversial patent for online test-taking from Test.com. The reexamination order is the second granted in just two months after petitions from EFF's Patent Busting Project.
EFF filed the reexamination request because the extremely broad patent claims to cover almost all methods of online testing. Test.com has used this patent to demand payments from universities with distance education programs that give tests online. But EFF, in conjunction with Theodore C. McCullough of the Lemaire Patent Law Firm, showed that Test.com was not the first to come up with this testing method -- IntraLearn Software Corporation had been marketing an online test-taking system long before Test.com filed its patent request.
"Bogus patents like these are hurting innovation and education in America," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz, who heads up the project. "This is a perfect example of how the patent system is broken and what needs to be fixed."
Test.com now has the opportunity to file comments defending the patent, and then the PTO will determine whether to invalidate the patent. The PTO has narrowed or revoked roughly 70% of patents it has decided to reexamine.
The successful reexamination request for the Test.com patent is the latest big victory for EFF's Patent Busting Project, which combats the chilling effects bad patents have on the public interest and innovation. The first reexamination request was granted in April and involves a Clear Channel patent for a system and method of creating recordings of live performances, locking musical acts into using Clear Channel technology and blocking innovations by others.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the eBay patent case, signaling how important patent issues are in today's economy. In a unanimous decision, justices overturned a dangerous injunction rule that threatened free speech and consumers' rights -- following the reasoning outlined in an amicus brief from EFF. Four justices also joined in a concurring opinion questioning so-called "patent trolls" and business methods patents, which could foreshadow future intellectual property showdowns in the nation's highest court.
For the full reexamination order:
For more information about the Test.com patent reexamination:
For more on the Patent Busting Project: