From: fredl@leland.Stanford.EDU (Frederic Michael Luskin)
Newsgroups: comp.multimedia
Subject: COMPTON Patent Reversed (details)
Date: 27 Mar 1994 21:04:39 GMT
Organization: Stanford University, CA 94305, USA

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, U.S.A., 1994 MAR 25 (NB) -- Patent and
Trademark Commissioner Bruce Lehman has reversed the Compton's
NewMedia multimedia patent, rejecting all 41 claims. The November
announcement by the Tribune subsidiary of its claims for
royalties on any system that combined sound, images, and text
stirred up a hornet's nest of protest in the computer industry.

In August of 1992, Compton's was issued a patent number 5,241,671
for the "Multimedia search system using a plurality of entry path
means which indicate inter relatedness of information." The
patent essentially said Compton's invented multimedia, but the
company waited until the computer trade show Comdex to announce
the patent and a royalty payment schedule.

The USPTO said strong reaction to the patent, in part, prompted
the re-examination although the office declined to comment on
other factors involved. At the forefront of the fight was the
Interactive Multimedia Association (IMA), a trade group with 260
member companies.

The patent office has come under sharp criticism for issuing
"broad, non-technical patents" and the Compton's patent isn't the
first. The office is also re-examining a similar patent granted
to educational multimedia software developer Optical Data
Corporation (ODC) of New Jersey for "Curriculum planning and
publishing methods," which has also come under fire.

Philip Dodds, executive director of the IMA said, "Commissioner
Bruce Lehman and the USPTO are to be commended for taking this
action. Their willingness to re-examine overly broad patents is
certainly encouraging."

As part of the re-examination process, the USPTO held public
hearings in San Jose, California and Arlington, Virginia. Some
concern was expressed by the IMA that multimedia publishers not
present all their evidence at the hearings, as it would then not
be admissible in court should some of the Compton's claims be
upheld by the USPTO.

However, that didn't happen as all 41 of Compton's claims were
overturned. Most of the claims were rejected based on the
submission of The Hypercard Handbook along with several previous
patents as examples of prior art. "This is a real victory for
developers and publishers of multimedia titles," Dodds asserted.

As a preventative measure in issuing overly broad computer
software patents, the IMA is recommending some steps be taken.
The trade group said it would like to see better trained
examiners in the section of the USPTO that reviews the software
patent applications, an improved software prior art database
available to examiners and the public, and pre-grant publication
of patent applications to open the patent process up to public

(Linda Rohrbough/19940325/Press Contact: Ruth Ford, United States
Department of Commerce Patent and Trademark Office, tel 703-305-
8600, fax 703-305-8240; David Kaufer, Kaufer Miller
Communications for the Interactive Multimedia Association, tel
206-450-9965, fax 206-450-9963; Ken Christie, Interactive
Multimedia Association, 410-626-1380)