Wednesday, March 28, 2018

SearchResearch Challenge (3/28/18): Can science fiction stories be used to demonstrate prior art in patent cases?

Icons can be more, much more... 

... than just small pieces of art that signify an app.  

Icons can also be works that are so rich in meaning, so deeply embedded in our culture that they stand for more than just the thing itself. They can represent an entire zeitgeist and aspirations.  

When I was young, the year 2001 was such an icon.  2001 was the year when the future would officially begin.  

I remember saying things like " the year 2001..." which was synonymous with the far future.  "In the year 2001, self-flying cars will be common."  Or, "In the year 2001, we'll all have computers with 20 megabytes of memory."  (How wrong we were!)   

Of course, like the book 1984 (which is an icon for authoritarianism), the movie 2001: a space odyssey represented the grand and glorious techno-future, complete with moon bases, artificially intelligent computers, and regularly scheduled flights lifting from Earth into orbit.  For Regular Readers of my age, 2001 (the movie and the year) is iconic.  

Of course, now it's 2018, and even the sequel to 2010: a space odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke's book (and movie) 2020: Odyssey 2 is set 8 years in the past.  

So it was with a certain amount of dismay that I heard about a lawsuit that argued the technolog of Apple's iPad was actually preceded by "prior art" that was first shown in the film 2001: a space odyssey.  (See the artwork for the movie above.  Is that astronaut holding an iPad?)  

Really?  Does it make sense that a science fiction technology first shown in movie could be claimed as prior art?  (If so, what would this mean to any other tech that was shown in an early film?) 

This week we have two Challenges: 

1.  Is it true that there was a lawsuit about iPad technology that claimed the movie 2001: a space odyssey as prior art?  
2. Have there been other lawsuits that have given similar arguments?  (That is, that technology that was first drawn / filmed / written-about in science fiction invalidated a patent because it was prior art?)  More generally, HOW would you search for such things? 

I'm primarily interested in US legal issues, but if you know about European (or other countries) legal issues like that, I'd love to hear about it.  

I'll give my answer next week, and give a bit of background about handheld tablet computers.  

Let use know HOW you figured this out.  As I mention above, we'd love to learn a general method for searching out these kinds of legal actions.  

Search on! 


  1. Replies
    1. …took a closer look at the poster art/tablet screen…
      seems it was Stormy on Mars then… could it have been the Google News Feed app?… doing time travel
      …and is there another lawsuit in the offing? and is that Anderson Cooper with the camera? (looking toward the Borg salvation)
      how could Arthur & Stanley have anticipated that?
      icons, icans
      the noun project
      lingo app
      lingo blog

    2. Just adding a Borat mankini case to your list.

      I have also learned here that there's such a thing as a patent troll business. And, as it turns out, even big and reputed companies like Hewlett-Packard may sometimes engage in what looks like trolling.

      Anyway, All Prior Art is already patented.

      Some extra fun on Free Patents Online.

      [ awesome ridiculous prior art claims ] proved to be a fruitful search string. The list goes on; above, I'm just giving its first results.

    3. …having something to eat, scanning the NewsPad – good day to be off-planet… any of them (btw, the beige was particularly tasty!)
      …even if it is with HAL…
      …or Krypton
      back in the wormhole

  2. Looks like it is true. I Googled "Prior art" just to get a better understanding and then "prior art" iPad and several links came up about Samsung making this argument based on the movie.

    And here is a link to other cases:

    Took about ten minutes. One thing that came to mind was the Dick Tracy Wrist Radio. Here is a link from the Smithsonian that links it to the Apple Watch.

  3. 1. Is it true that there was a lawsuit about iPad technology that claimed the movie 2001: a space odyssey as prior art?

    [define prior art patent]

    Shows interesting articles like Wikipedia and

    Prior Art and Competing art

    [define prior art patent intext:ipad]

    Results mention case about Samsung and Apple from 2012

    Samsung Argues 'Prior Art' Invalidates Apple's Patents

    Can a YouTube video be submitted as prior art? Ctrl- F “movie” links to

    4 Cases Where Examiner Found Ridiculously Awesome Prior Art

    [movies used as "prior art"]

    ” As with the design claimed by the D’889 Patent, the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table's surface), and a thin form factor." site links to:

    Foss Patents
    This Blog Covers Software Patent News And Issues With A Particular Focus On Wireless, Mobile Devices (Smartphones, Tablet Computers).

    Searched the blog and found other cases with “prior art”

    [movies used intext:"prior art"]

    Five Easy Prior Art Search Tips You Need to Keep In Mind Mentions Donald Duck case and links to:

    Five Easy Prior Art Search Tips You Need to Keep In Mind


    Yes. Apple claimed that Samsung has copied the design of iPad for its Galaxy Tab. Apple lost the case.
    Yes. There are other lawsuits with same arguments

    1. I am now trying this queries that are giving good results that I am reading:

      ["prior art" related to lawsuits] on both All and books.
      [ lawsuit movies as "prior art"]

      The court famously ruled that Edison invented nothing new, that his claims lacked novelty or invention in view of prior art and invalidated four of the six claims

      ["donald duck" intext:"prior art"]
      The "Donald Duck as prior art" case: Importance of finding prior art in non-patent literature databases

      Also trying famous Dr. Russell's tool: list of with [list of lawsuits intext:"prior art"]

    2. nice find Ramón
      my flawed mental processes initially advanced the calendar to 2051 and I felt even older… Dave, Dave, DDaaav…

    3. Thanks Remmij. Nice findings you always share with us. BTW, another movie that is now 50 anniversary is Charlton Heston's Planet of the Apes. I haven't seen any of the versions of this movie.

      After reading Jon's comment about Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, searched ["prior art" Elon musk]

      There are some interesting results about them and patents. Also found:

      How do you conduct a prior art search? and Should Elon Musk make SpaceX patents and trade secrets available for all who would use them in good faith as he did with the Tesla patents? I didn't know: "Launch vehicles and capsules are regulated under International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)"

  4. "(Heuristicallyprogrammed ALgorithmic computer) is a sentient computer"
    12th of January, 1992…or 91 or 97…
    HAL was/is(voice) Canadian
    the (wiki) skinny on HAL
    & then there is the ambient…
    mental state
    "Oh, just one more thing..." -- Lt. Columbo (repeated ad nauseum)… or was that SPJ? 
    the time warp… again

  5. … already the future – just on the other side of the glass –
    Jane, Jack (aka Ma Yun), Jeff & ET… but oddly not wireless –
    where's Timmy?
    one of the last images with biological life forms…
    and a drone
    Jack, Jeff & E.T. are all non-earthly…
    what's up with the cranium?

  6. First project is to define "prior Art" and "invention"

    [US patent law "prior art"] finds lots of stuff but the best and written by a Senior Partner lawyer is Considering What Constitutes Prior Art in the United States at describes When is something prior art against a patent? Good article.

    1) Yes, Samsung and Apple slapping it out

    2) [science fiction invalidated a patent because it was prior art?] good discussion at

    The gist of the best answer seems to be that SF describes the effect of a thing but seldom how it is actually made to work ie Starfleet transporter.

    Where to look for more: ius mentis (law and technology explained) has a good account of sunk ship being raised by filling with foam balls. In 1964 it actually worked, the practioner tried for patent but was denied apparently by a Donald Duck cartoon from 1949.

  7. Book: The Space Barons by C. Davenport pp 199.200. March 25 2014 Jeff Bezos was awarded a patent. Elon Musk was furious. "The idea of landing on ships at sea 'is something that's been discussed for, like, half a century,' Musk recalled. 'The idea is not unique. Its in fictional movies; it's in multiple proposals; there's so much PRIOR ART [my caps] its crazy. So, trying to patent something that people have been discussing for half a century is obviously ridiculous." SpaceX filed suit. Blue Origin withdrew the majority of its claims.

    Great read too. j

  8. used [legal search for prior art cases] – soon broke out in legalize-induced hives… (how is the in-house Google legal team at search? or is it all farmed out?)
    Determining Obviousness –
    European Patent Office (EPO)
    common mistakes - Australia April 4 2018
    "Do I Need a Patent Prior Art Search?"
    tutorial, from above article… sources, methods, terms…
    "Also remember that it is critically important to figure out what things are called. I cannot stress this enough. You need to use different names and labels. You will find that patent attorneys typically call certain features by a select few names. These names are not always obvious, but once you figure out what the industry calls something you are far more likely to find relevant patents."

    fwiw - hives… from the hive mind

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