Page orientation patents, the USPTO, and you

When people or computers at the USPTO detect that a fax has been sent upsidedown and needs to be turned 180°, what do they do? They send it back and ask you to turn it 180°. Why don’t they do this obvious task themselves automatically?

Who will these patents affect?

Individuals? No. If I write something to do this, the patent holder will never even hear about it. So my private use isn’t in danger.

Companies? Depends. If they’re big enough, if the patent holder (or a patent troll company) hears about it, then a threat letter could be received. It might be possible to invalidate this patent. The fees might be low, but it will cost the time of the company’s lawyers. As long as the patent holder asks for less than than the total cost of invalidating the patent, they will often get paid. The patent holder can make hundreds of thousands from a patent that could be invalidated for a few thousand.

Free software projects? Rarely, but when it happens it’s a lose-lose deal. Individual projects usually don’t offer the financial wins to motivate a patent attack. But, sometimes patent holders force free software projects to remove a feature just so that software users will be pushed towards other projects which can be extorted.

And then there are software companies. Anyone that makes fax software which includes this feature can be required to remove the feature or pay a licence fee.

All this money and time from educated people, wasted over an idea that many software developers would probably come up while writing software.