Bromcom04En

2004 UK government in court over pupil data managment patent

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In 2004 the UK Department for Education and Skills (!DfES) sought to challenge a software patent EP 0664061 held by Bromcom/Frontline Technology on transmitting student data by wireless network. !DfES achieved partial success in June 2004, and settled with Frontline at the end of 2005, after the software patent directive was rejected.

News & Chronology

Outline

summarized the Government guidance James Heald as follows: Although claim 7 of the patent was upheld (regarding use of Bromcom's wireless protocol), the Government is advising that WiFi does not infringe, regardless of the software package.

The Department for Education & Skills statement on the case says:

Frontline Technology says on its front page

This was later changed to

It carries on thus:

Has there ever been an attempt at enforcing them?

More on the case comes from IPKat, which specifically notes that core Claims 1 & 2 were revoked.

Interesting spin by Frontline. Maybe it's true that the "vast majority of the grounds of attack" were rejected, but if a single argument against is held valid, that could demolish the patent, or at least make it so narrow as to be useless.

RMS-style deconstructions of abstract and claims.

The !DfES has now issued guidance to schools, basically saying that a school running a wireless network using standard non-specialist wi-fi equipment (conforming to 802.11a, 802.11b or 802.11g standards) would not be infringing the Frontline patent. Original is a Word document, link is to Google cache HTML version.

August 14: Frontline says it intends to amend the patent

September 28: Belated article in The Guardian on the court case.


May 2004:

Richard Allan MP, the Liberal Democrat Information Technology Spokesman, who has been campaigning actively for the Directive to be amended has raised this in correspondence Jacqui Smith MP, the minister representing the UK at the Competitiveness Council to try and persuade her to reconsider the Government's support for the current draft of the Directive:

http://www.jenruss.plus.com/russ/SoftwarePatents/ld.html

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