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I'm looking at patents US 20120084131 A1 and EP 2460126 A1, which appear to be almost identical systems for identifying a shop rather than for looking up a URL from a unique code.

Are these issued patents? Are they patent applications?

It seems to me that acoustic data transmission has been around for ages as DTMF. The only real difference between this and DTMF is the high frequency.

The second patent does seem to have some prior art identified at the bottom of the Google patents page (This and this).

Are the original patents US 20120084131 A1 and EP 2460126 A1 currently valid and in force in the U.S.?

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These are not "valid" at all. They are applications for a patent, not granted patents. Application publications in the US start with a number that looks like a year and issued patents are sequentially numbered and are now in the 8 millions. Google patents makes this easier to see than looking at the PDF of the actual document. Look at the upper right hand corners of these pages.

The US application you mention: Screenshot of mentioned US Application on Google Patents

An example actual patent: Screenshot of a granted US patent on Google Patents

Looking at the history of both the patent applications you mention, and especially published examination and prosecution documents of patents of their families, you will see that plenty of prior art was already found. Both cases are interesting to understand how an application may become a valid, granted patent.

US 20120084131 A1

Regarding the substance, the USPTO site Public PAIR shows that this application has not yet been examined. The file also has a page in it submitted by the applicant that lists things they are telling the patent office about, and in particular of references.

Screenshot of IDS in USPTO Public Pair for mentioned US Application

The reason why the applicant of the US application submitted this information to the USPTO is because other offices told them about this prior art and under US patent law, they have to disclose this kind of data to help the USPTO. Initially, the patent was filed in the UK on October 1 2010 and in the US in November 19 2010. Google doesn't mention it, but you can find about this on the USPTO website where you will see what is the priority document(s), in this case a UK patent application. Then, the applicant filed for a PCT (international) request, which you can see on Google by clicking the WO2012042276A2 link, then you can see the application at the EPO (EP Register and Espacenet) and you will see they eventually designated the EP region during the national phase.

While the USPTO did not begin search and examination, the UK office as part of the initial filing and the EP office, which was designated by the applicant for the international search, did. Both offices expressed some form of opinion on the validity of the applications as they were submitted to them. Since the application is now public, you can read scanned copies of these opinions from the GB register and the EP register.

EP 2460126 A1

Likewise, you can read documents on the procedure of the second patent application you mentioned by clicking the "EP Register" link on the Google Page. In this case, the applicant originally filed several US patent applications, then a PCT request at the USPTO which performed the international search and expressed the (non-binding) opinion that this was not novel, and then a competitor submitted (more) prior art documents and also an opinion to the European Office. Applicant amended the claims in response to this. The next step for the application you mention is for the EPO to examine the application.

However, while this application is not valid (yet) in Europe, you can see on the EP register website that there is a granted, valid patent in the patent family: US Patent 8,489,112. You can find it on USPTO Public Pair and it was granted on July 16, 2013. The corresponding application US20110028160 can be found on Google Patents but claim 1 was narrowed as part of the procedure (Google doesn't show the granted patent yet). If you believe it is still extremely broad, please feel free to post a new question on this US patent.

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  • Interesting I find this whole patent rubbish so hard to follow ...
    – Goz
    Jul 27, 2013 at 6:50
  • Yeah i guess the "Publication Type" is the giveaway there. I do have to wonder on those patents though as it seems a pretty "obvious" invention given the cited links. I can't see how the citations aren't prior art ...
    – Goz
    Jul 27, 2013 at 7:06

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