PATENTS & LICENSES -- Covering Their Assets
The confusion patents can cause was reflected in a thread posted earlier this spring in a PrintPlant.com forum (which has since been renamed "Application Integration—eProduction") in response to ImageX announcing its receipt of "Notices of Allowance" for some of its patent applications. Posters speculated on whether or not an earlier patent, or prior art, might invalidate the applications. With a quick read of that patent's abstract below, it's easy to see why there might be some confusion about what all it covers:
Patent #4,839,829 issued to Henry B. Freedman—"Automated Printing Control System. A system for automated control of the printing of a work comprises a first terminal adapted for use by a printing requester for receiving from the requester information concerning parameters for the printing of the work. A second terminal is adapted for use by a printing facility for receiving from the printing facility pricing and administrative information concerning the printing of a work. A programmed computer having a memory and input/output means is provided in communication with the first and second terminals..."
Pittsburgh-based Printcafe Software is one of the companies to have negotiated a licensing agreement with Freedman in the past. At that time, President Marc Olin commented, "In licensing this patent, we acknowledge the work of Henry Freedman before us in addressing the broad scope of e-production and e-commerce within the printing industry."
When asked to clarify what his patent covers and his intentions for its enforcement, Freedman replied that, "Since I have ongoing work in this area, I do not have any public comments (to make)."
Given the complexity of the issues, and perhaps seeming remoteness, the temptation is there to take the same approach to patents as many do to OSHA or EPA inspections, licensing of fonts, etc. Don't worry about it until that proverbial knock on the door comes.