San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has won reexamination of an illegitimate music patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). This was the sixth reexamination request filed by EFF's Patent Busting Project and the sixth time the PTO has granted EFF's request.

Seer Systems was awarded this patent for a system and method for joining different musical data types together in a file, distributing them over the Internet, and then playing that file. In the reexamination request, EFF, along with the law firm Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder, show that descriptions of this technology were published a number of times before Seer Systems made its claim—including in a book written by Seer's own founder and the named inventor of the patent, Stanley Jungleib.

"Mr. Jungleib encouraged others to use the techniques he described in his book and sought patent protection only after those ideas had entered the public domain," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Michael Kwun. "It's unfortunate that Seer Systems didn't call Mr. Jungleib's book and the other prior art we cited to the PTO's attention before the patent issued."

Seer Systems now has the opportunity to file comments defending the patent, and then the PTO will determine whether to invalidate the patent. The PTO has narrowed or revoked roughly 70% of patents it has decided to reexamine.

"Unmeritorious patents can place significant barriers in the way of innovation in the digital age," said Paul Grewal of the Day Casebeer firm. "The PTO quite rightly concluded that there are substantial questions of patentability raised by our request, and we look forward to the PTO's ultimate decision on this patent."

Students from the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School provided substantial assistance on this reexamination request, carrying out detailed research, preparing an initial claim chart, locating and analyzing a critical piece of prior art cited in the request, and drafting the prior art description that EFF posted on its website. The Seer patent being challenged is U.S. Patent No. 5,886,274, and the reexamination has been assigned the control number 90/009,299.

This reexamination request is part of EFF's Patent Busting Project, which combats the chilling effects bad patents have on public and consumer interests. So far, the project has killed one patent covering a system and method of creating digital recordings of live performances. Five more patents are under review by the PTO due to the Patent Busting Project's efforts.

For the full reexamination order:*/

For more on the Patent Busting Project:


Michael Kwun
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Paul Grewal
Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder

Related Issues