The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently examined the validity of 3 patents relating to information access from a remote database in a patent infringement suit in the case of Netscape Communications v. Konrad. The patentee claimed that the information systems of several large corporate defendants fell within the patents. These now-commonplace systems provide information interactively from a database to a user on a remote computer. The court found that a demonstration of a prototype of the system to university computing personnel was a public use such as to invalidate the patents since no effort was made to inform the latter of the requirement of confidentiality or a duty of confidentiality owed to the inventor. It did not matter that the system demonstrated and that claimed were not identical since differences would have been obvious to a person skilled in the art. Furthermore, in the court's view, the inventor's offer at a time when the invention was ready for patenting to produce a working prototype of the system in exchange for a fixed term of full time employment or a sum of money constituted a commercial offer for sale and thus invalidated the patents. To view a copy of the decision, visit: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit:


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