Silly patents can be useful for explaining how difficult it is for examiners to evaluate patent applications on software ideas. They can show how abstract software ideas are.
They can also be a distraction. They can make the listener think that the main problem is the examination process, letting silly patents through. They could think that if there were more examiners, or if each one had more time, we could avoid silly patents and then the system would work. If they think that, then you haven't correctly explained the real problem.
Also, many news stories about silly patents are about applications for silly patents. Anyone can apply for a patent on anything, so these stories are not very consequential. Stories of silly patents that have been granted are more useful.
Countries that grant certain patents without review
Some countries have special processes to approve patents without reviewing them. The review only happens if the patent is contested or used in a court case. So, when the Australian patent office grants a patent on the wheel, it's not because the examiners are stupid, it's because there was no examination.
For some countries, it's for all patents, for others it's just for "special" patents such as "innovation patents" in Australia.
Related pages on en.swpat.org
Slashdot publishes a lot of stories on this topic.
- HP Patents Bignum Implementation From 1912
- USPTO Awards LOL Patent To IBM
- IBM Wants Patent For Regex SSN Validation
- IBM Patents Changing Color of E-Mail Text
- IBM "Invents" 40-Minute Meetings
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