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USPTO Awards LOL Patent To IBM 274

Posted by samzenpus
from the wtf-industries dept.
theodp writes "Among the last batch of patents granted in 2009 was one for IBM's Resolution of Abbreviated Text in an Electronic Communications System. The invention of four IBMers addresses the hitherto unsolvable problem of translating abbreviations to their full meaning — e.g., 'IMHO' means 'In My Humble Opinion' — and vice versa. From the patent: 'One particularly useful application of the invention is to interpret the meaning of shorthand terms ... For example, one database may define the shorthand term "LOL" to mean "laughing out loud."' USPTO records indicate the patent filing was made more than a year after Big Blue called on the industry to stop what it called 'bad behavior' by companies who seek patents for unoriginal work. Yet another example of what USPTO Chief David Kappos called IBM's apparent schizophrenia on patent policy back when he managed Big Blue's IP portfolio."


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USPTO Awards LOL Patent To IBM

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  • FWIW... (Score:5, Informative)

    by guspasho (941623) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @07:15PM (#30600776)

    For those of you who didn't RTFA, they didn't patent LOL, but the process of using a database to tell you what LOL means, or something along those lines. Not quite as absurd, but still silly.

    However, if you have ever worked for a huge company like Intel, you are swimming in a veritable alphabet soup of unrecognizable acronyms every day. They make an acronym for everything over there. So something like this database would be a godsend in an environment like that.

  • by fuzzylollipop (851039) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @07:27PM (#30600890)
    How about using the Internet to look up "acronym" and learn how to spell. While you are at it, learn that every Abbreviation is not automatically an Acronym, Acronyms form pronounceable words, like LASER and RADAR. IMHO is not an acronym.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @07:34PM (#30600950)

    You need to know a few important things about IBM and patents (I work there):

    1) Employees are given a bonus for submitting patents. So any idea you have, if you can get it past the IBM review board, makes you money. Expect stupid ideas to get through every once in a while.

    2) IBM likes to brag about the size of its patent portfolio and they make a lot of money licensing it. A bigger number (2500+ per year) sounds impressive and few people will actually look to see how many are really any good.

    3) They usually won't enforce a stupid patent like this, but they'll use it against anyone that sues them as a defensive weapon. (See the SCO case, although IBM dropped its counterclaims when they realized how ridiculous & weak SCOs position was)

  • Re:FWIW... (Score:3, Informative)

    by guspasho (941623) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @08:27PM (#30601368)

    That isn't the technology being patented.

    Abstract from the linked patent page: "Electronic messaging systems, a machine-accessible medium, and methods for text-based electronic communication. In one embodiment, a plurality of databases are provided. The databases each define shorthand terms with one or more longhand terms. A shorthand term is targeted within a text message, and the databases are searched for corresponding longhand terms. The longhand terms are selected for display according to factors such as user preferences, the identities of participants to the text communication, and the context of the text message. Abbreviations, shorthand, and other jargon sent by one user is thereby interpreted. For example, one of the longhand terms may be substituted in-line with the text message. Alternatively, all matches for the shorthand term found in the databases may be listed in descending order according to relevancy. "

    That is much more intelligent than just looking up an acronym in Google or at And when combined with the cultural propensity of certain companies like Intel to make up acronyms on the fly that will never appear on a website because their use is limited to a couple of groups within a company, well, now this database seems pretty useful.

    It isn't just a database. It also intercepts your messaging and provides you with the context that some developer in another department doesn't think to provide to you when he uses an acronym that everyone on his team uses but nobody else - anywhere - has ever heard of.

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