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Headline:

JP Morgan Chase just got a patent on basic app communications

The article alleges that

A simple Google search would have found oodles of prior art.

I'm sure JP Morgan should pursue any patents they can get as a matter of strategic defense, but with this patent in hand, they can probably cause any application developer a lot of trouble.

Should this patent have been awarded?

Here are the claims:

  1. A method for a first mobile application and a second mobile application on a mobile device to share information, comprising: the first mobile application executed by a computer processor on a mobile device determining that the second mobile application is present on the mobile device; receiving, from a user, permission for the first mobile application to access data from the second mobile application; the first mobile application executed by the computer processor requesting data from the second mobile application; and the first mobile application receiving the requested data from the second mobile application.

  2. The method of claim 1, wherein the first mobile application determines that the second mobile application is present on the mobile device by accessing a mobile device registry.

  3. The method of claim 2, wherein the mobile device registry is on the mobile device.

  4. The method of claim 1, wherein the first mobile application determines that the second mobile application is present on the mobile device by scanning the mobile device for applications.

  5. The method of claim 1, wherein the permission is received by the first mobile application directly from the user.

  6. The method of claim 1, wherein the permission is received at a website for a host of the mobile device.

  7. The method of claim 1, wherein the permission is received at a website for a host of the first mobile application.

  8. The method of claim 1, wherein the permission is received by the second mobile application directly from the user.

  9. The method of claim 1, wherein the permission is based on the first mobile application and the second mobile application being grouped together on the mobile device.

  10. The method of claim 1, wherein the first mobile application requests data from the second mobile application by providing the user's name and password.

  11. The method of claim 1, further comprising: the first mobile application executed by the computer processor providing the received requested data to a third mobile application.

  12. A method for a first mobile application and a second mobile application to share information, comprising: the first mobile application executed by a computer processor on a first mobile device determining that the second mobile application is present on a second mobile device; receiving, from a user, permission for the first mobile application to access data from the second mobile application; the first mobile application executed by the computer processor requesting data from the second mobile application by providing the second mobile application with a uniform resource locator; and the first mobile application receiving the requested data from the second mobile application via the uniform resource locator.

  13. The method of claim 12, wherein the uniform resource locator is provided in a machine-readable code.

  • The answer is most likely not. The problem is whether or not a person has the 250k to litigate it? – Ted Taylor of Life Oct 1 '17 at 14:07
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On cursory review, I don't see anything in the claims that is non-abstract, except, potentially, the organization of the functions.

The deeper issue relates to a quote from the article:

"How was such a broad and obvious idea allowed to be patented?" asks EFF patent attorney Daniel Nazer. "As we have explained many times before, the Patent Office seems to operate in an alternate universe where the only evidence of the state of the art in software is found in patents. Indeed, the examiner considered only patents and patent applications when reviewing JP Morgan's application. It's no wonder the office gets it so wrong."
Source: Forbes

More than obviousness, I think non-novelty (i.e. is there truly no existing application that uses these series of steps to validate, which is distinct from prior art based only on previous patents?) is the question. Nazer is suggesting it is highly unlikely a similar system is not already in use.

  • The rationale for issuing the grant would likely have been that the organization of these steps constitutes a novel method.

I suspect we'll see a number of review articles on this grant in the coming weeks and months, and I wouldn't be surprised if the grant were challenged if JP Morgan tried to enforce against competitors with equally deep pockets.

  • 'Nazer is suggesting it is highly unlikely a similar system is not already in use.' You do understand what prior art is? – Ted Taylor of Life Oct 1 '17 at 14:05
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    @TedTaylorofLife not sure what you're asking here... I think what Nazer is saying is that the claims in the patent are highly abstract, and it's unlikely they are not already in use, but that patent examiners only look for prior art in previous patents, not products in circulation that never sought patent protection. Thus, unlikely the abstract method granted to JP Morgan is actually novel, or even non-obvious. – DukeZhou Oct 2 '17 at 21:18
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    I just wanted you to state this, which you did because I think it is rather informative that patent examiners only look for prior art in previous patents, not products in circulation that never sought patent protection. Thus, unlikely the abstract method granted to JP Morgan is actually novel, or even non-obvious +1 from me – Ted Taylor of Life Oct 4 '17 at 15:38
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On my iPhone, the Health app communicates with the Strava app to get exercise related data. The apps ask me to allow this communication. This seems pretty much what the first claim covers. Not sure if this his predates the patent, but I'm sure there are other examples that would.

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    My guess is that the examiner found no evidence of “determining that the second mobile application is present on the mobile device;“ being a known step. I do agree that's ridiculous though. – DonQuiKong Sep 2 '17 at 6:57
  • @DonQuiKong But that is exactly what the Health app does. It provides a list of compatible apps and asks permission to access them. The problem is the examiner only looked at patents for prior art. – Eric Shain Sep 2 '17 at 13:11
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    @DonQuiKong The problem is probably 95% of software prior art is found outside of patents. – Eric Shain Sep 2 '17 at 13:44
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    or the problem is software patents – DonQuiKong Sep 2 '17 at 14:17
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    @DonQuiKong Although I have a couple of software patents, I tend to agree that software (or even algorithms) are ill suited to patent protection. 20 years is far too long compared to the life cycle of patents. – Eric Shain Sep 2 '17 at 16:25
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Most Likely will not hold up if ligated(challenge of claims)

Most examiners have a hard time with software.

  • Challenging patents is a function of cost to litigate. JP Morgan was strategic with this patent.

Why did they patent this?

  1. They know that the probability of someone big enough to challenge them, is few and far between,
  2. sends a signal to others
    • the appearance that have the exclusive rights to do whatever they claim to do
  3. and the ability to either sue others or be sued which will result in either clarification of patent claims or a settlement in their favor.

This is an investment vehicle. If the costs of getting the patent and maintaining it are less than everything I mentioned above, then it makes sense to arbitrary. 90% of the time is does.

What can you do?

  1. Find prior art to invalidate competitors claims
  2. Do not be dissuaded from inventing if you really think that they are patenting something so generic.
    • Eventually it will be challenged. There are very few novel patents whose claims are bulletproof, where everyone decides to license. Software is an entirely different animal
  3. Get good legal counsel.
  4. Hope for the future crackdown of non-specific claims.

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