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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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  • UYK (Score:3, Funny)

    by presidenteloco (659168) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @06:33PM (#30600372)

    Hint: It's Scottish!

  • by selven (1556643) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @06:34PM (#30600384)

    "lol" hasn't meant anything close to "laughing out loud" for years. It's more like "your statement is slightly humorous, but I'm definitely not laughing".

    • by Tr3vin (1220548) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @06:39PM (#30600442)
      lol
      • by Romancer (19668)

        From the filed doc:

        One particularly useful application of the invention is to interpret the meaning of shorthand terms. In one embodiment, a group of databases may be provided that each define one or more shorthand terms. These definitions may be structured in the database as shorthand terms paired with longhand terms. For example, one database may define the shorthand term "LOL" to mean "laughing out loud." Another database may instead define "LOL" to mean "lots of laughs." A database may also include multiple definitions for a given term. For example, a user's personal database may have two entries for the shorthand term "OMW" including "on my way" and "oh my word"

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jsiren (886858)

          From the filed doc:

          ...a group of databases may be provided that each define one or more shorthand terms. These definitions may be structured in the database as shorthand terms paired with longhand terms. For example, one database may define the shorthand term "LOL" to mean "laughing out loud." Another database may instead define "LOL" to mean "lots of laughs." A database may also include multiple definitions for a given term. For example, a user's personal database may have two entries for the shorthand term "OMW" including "on my way" and "oh my word"

          IOW, they have managed to patent a dictionary? Prior art, anyone?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by jc42 (318812)

          And in IBM's internal corporate database, LOL expands to "Lots of Lawyers".

          OA (Ob Abbreviation): IANAL.

      • rofl

      • imho, lol looks like someone sticking their hands up. "So the police yell 'Stick em up', so I'm, like, lol"

      • by Gudeldar (705128)
        IRDLOL (I really did laugh out loud)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rjamestaylor (117847)

        On a development project we banned LOL and insisted on the more accurate LIMH - laughing in my head. No one LOLs online.

    • by mqduck (232646) <mqduck@@@mqduck...net> on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @06:52PM (#30600586)

      Actually, "lol" is now an anti-abbreviation for a period. For example:
      "today i went to the store and got some orange juice lol"

    • by Brentyl (685453) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @07:00PM (#30600640)

      This patent would have helped a co-worker of mine's uncle: He thought LOL meant "Lots of Love."

      Pretty harmless, until he started using it inappropriately: "I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. LOL" or "You're better off without him anyway. LOL".

      Apparently, they had to hold an intervention. :)

    • by lattyware (934246)
      YSISHBIDNL
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tynin (634655)
        Damn google is quick to index. I went to search the interwebs to find out what YSISHBIDNL means, and I got 2 hits, both of them you.
      • by Tynin (634655)
        Yet Some Intellectually Small Humans Believe In Deceit, Not Learning.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by dookiesan (600840)
        Your Story Is Somewhat Humorous But I Did Not Laugh?
    • by Chysn (898420)
      "Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure LOL We are met on a great battle-field of that war LOL We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live LOL It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this ROTFLMFAO"
    • by Darinbob (1142669)
      You know this still throws me. I've learned over the years that it's the same as a smiley but for people half my age. However whenever I see it I automatically get a negative opinion of the writer. It just gets overused. For instance, in a chat room someone says "had to reboot my computer lol" I wonder if they're simple in the head somehow to cause them to laugh out loud when their computer crashed? It's a strange place to even put a smiley, and yet I see stuff like that all the time. I see people who
  • Whatis bot (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wmaker (701707) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @06:36PM (#30600400) Homepage
    as an IBM employee I use the "Whatis bot" all the time. It is just a chat bot on Sametime chat inside Lotus Notes that allows you to message it an abbreviation and it tells you all the meanings. This is very useful when you get an e-mail from a long time IBMer that knows every abbreviation and doesn't hesitate to use them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by wmaker (701707)
      here's an example: William H. Maker: lol 5:38:00 PM Whatis Bot *Fu...: Found 9 results. (Buzz) Definitions Found (1) Laugh Out Loud (4) Limitation Of Liability (3) Loss Of Light (2) Laugh Out Loud (1) Laughing Out Loud (1) Lead Overlay Layer (1) List Of Lists (1) Log Of Log (1) Lots Of Laughs ... brought to you by Acrobot. http://acrobot.almaden.ibm.com/ [ibm.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)
      This makes sense given IBM's propensity for naming all their products things like WCTME (Workplace Client Technology, Micro Edition).

      See? I bet you thought the W was for WebSphere! (I know I did, until I checked it before posting.)

  • by Phrogman (80473) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @06:37PM (#30600404) Homepage

    Does this win some sort of stupidity award for the most ridiculous patenting of something that shouldn't be patentable? Whats next, patenting the use of punctuation in sentances?

    • /. always words the summary of patents awarded in the stupid and most trollish way possible.

      It's actually a good idea and has nothing to do with patenting LOL.

      • The Internet already does this. I see a 3/4 letter acrinum and I look it up.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Phrogman (80473)

        Yes, but all they have patented is the functionality to look up a given abbreviation and substitute the long form of it. My IDE will let me enter "fore" and have it bring up a list of matching options include "foreach", how is this any different other than its in relationship to communications i.e. "texting" and presumably email? Its exactly the sort of functionality that someone building a message client might think to add - and probably has of course - and as such I think its ridiculous that it could be p

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by greensoap (566467)
          Does your ide include: "receiving, on a recipient messaging device, a text communication sent from a sender messaging device, wherein the text communication comprises at least one shorthand term;"? This the first limitation of the first independent claim.

          It might be obvious to add into a messaging device, but the USPTO would need to find a couple of prior art references that contain all the features and then show a reason to combine them. The PTO doesn't get to just say, "it would be obvious to do that,
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I already have prior art to this from at least 9 years ago. Used to do it with mIRC script in irc channels where people insisted on using abbreviations.

            In fact:

            on ^*:text:*:#:{
                echo $color(text) -trn $target $replace($1-,lol,laugh out loud,imho,in my humble opinion)
                haltdef
            }

            Come and get me IBM.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nabsltd (1313397)

            It might be obvious to add into a messaging device, but the USPTO would need to find a couple of prior art references that contain all the features and then show a reason to combine them. The PTO doesn't get to just say, "it would be obvious to do that, kneener kneener kneeeener"

            Actually, the Patent Office can do that, but they don't. This is what leads to incredibly broad patents.

            Originally, a patent was designed to cover a specific method for achieving a result. Today, we have IBM essentially patenting "using a database to automatically look up words in messages received on a computer". Don't think so? The text speaks for itself:

            receiving, on a recipient messaging device, a text communication sent from a sender messaging device

            My e-mail client is a "recipient messaging device

    • by selven (1556643)

      For many people, "lol" is punctuation. As in "I went to the store and bought some chicken lol"

    • Whats next, patenting the use of punctuation in sentances?

      I suspect it will be patenting grammer...

    • Whats next, patenting the use of punctuation in sentances?

      There's not nearly as much potential infringement for punctuation, as say, common misspellings.

  • New rule! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by headkase (533448) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @06:40PM (#30600454)
    If a patent application is found to be completely stupid one of your other patents is invalidated by random draw! *wishes*
    • by qbzzt (11136) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @07:31PM (#30600928)

      With this rule, companies will be motivated to submit as many semi-stupid patents as possible. That way, when the examiner decides that a patent is completely stupid, the other invalidated patent is likely to be a useless one that was created just as patent fodder.

      Or maybe incorporate a bunch of shell corporations, and have each of those corporations apply for a single patent at a time. If it is completely stupid, there is no other patent to strike down. If it is granted, the shell corporation will sell it to the real corporation.

  • WTF Indeed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @06:41PM (#30600464) Journal

    They've patented a dictionary? That's what it looks like to me.

  • while dumbing the concept down to lol to make it seem abd, lets think about it in a practicla manner.

    A system that auomatically knows what a abbreviation means withine the given context would be pretty clever.

    I ahe read documents ful of initals, sometime the SAME initials just different context.

    LOL, 555, mdr. all those mean the same thing.

    Also LOL is a place in france, LOL is short for Lack Of Love LOL is also short for memory.

    ASa side note, my kids actually say LOL sometime with pronounciation of each lett

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dangitman (862676)

      ASa side note, my kids actually say LOL sometime with pronounciation of each letter, sometime as 'Lawl'. The are 9 and 11.

      Not surprising, considering how illiterate their father is.

  • by syousef (465911) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @06:44PM (#30600506) Journal

    I do those translations in my head. My memory is the database. Does that mean I owe IBM royalties?

    I can't believe they just patented the lookup table, albeit in a very specific context.

  • by Mashiki (184564)

    I've been using these terms since 1992 for the most part, can I sue IBM now?

  • Your
    Abbreviation
    Translation
    May
    Vary

  • One more example of why the patent system needs to be eliminated. Let us invalidate _all_ patents, not just one other of theirs.
    • by dangitman (862676)

      One more example of why the patent system needs to be eliminated. Let us invalidate _all_ patents, not just one other of theirs.

      Brilliant logic!

      While we're at it, let's ban all cars because some of them cause accidents because they are faulty. Let's ban all speech, because some people use speech to preach hatred. Let's take laws against murder off the books, because some people have been falsely imprisoned for murder.

      • by gerddie (173963)

        There is no prove that society is better or worse off with or without patent system. Humankind has developed over a very long time without patents, so it is very likely that by abolishing all patents nothing would change. Chances are we are better off, because we don't have to deal with patent trolls any more.

  • by jo42 (227475)

    Dear IBM,

    FU!

    - The Internet

  • If you click the graphic in the summary, you get a diagram of the translation. It takes a short economical phrase, then expands it into a longer one. What's wrong with economy? Ok, perhaps there's some vocab learning that has to take place first, but I'm still doing that with English perpetually anyway -- I'll run across a word for which I'm uncertain of the meaning and I'll look it up in an online dictionary. It's also safer to leave be, otherwise those poor parishioners at the Lord of Love church [lol.org] are

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      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.

      It's called acronymfinder.com [acronymfinder.com], and it's been there for a long time [acronymfinder.com].

      • by hondo77 (324058)
        Too bad it blows [acronymfinder.com].
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by guspasho (941623)

        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

  • by Greyfox (87712)
    To explain IBM's patent schizophrenia, the corporate stance may be against silly patents, but they pay their employees handsomely for getting a patent approved. Gaming the system is both lucrative and easy, so we get shit like this.
  • and other IM's used to convert LOL, BRB, etc into faces, little signs or sounds years ago. Isn't that the same thing?

    I'm sure there was some option where the short hand was translated onto the screen to its full meaning.

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @07:58PM (#30601144)

    Don't blame IBM. They're not "schizophrenic". They are merely in the game playing by the rules as they are written, because that's what everyone else on the field is doing. What if a football team suddenly decided throwing passes was dishonorable, and they wished other people wouldn't do it? They'd get hammered. They'd lose all over the place.

    Same for IBM. They can wish for change and still play a mean game. Nothing wrong with that at all. In fact - the more the merrier, says I. Why? Because the more idiot patents like this that get granted, the sooner this mess will end. For two reasons.

    First reason - the dumber a patent is, and the more obvious it is that you are merely patenting something someone else came up with - the more likely it is that a judge somewhere will get that clue we've all been waiting for.

    Second reason - World War I.

    How did WWI start? The assassination of Franz Ferdinand of Austria. A single death. That's all it took. All of the alliances and counter-alliances of the time made an extremely unstable system. All it took was the right nudge, a single assassination, and all those alliances got called up. Countries picked sides and it was off to war. Where 15 million people died. Imagine that. Fifteen million people all killed, and it all traces to a single assassination.

    Remind you of anything?

    All of these companies today have these IP portfolios, and an uneasy truce in between them that says "you nail us and we'll nail you". Strategic partnerships, licensed IP - a tangled web of legal rights. Just like the tangled web of alliances pre-WWI.

    All it will take is our Ferdinand.

    Remember the hubub over the FAT file system, how MS holds the patent on it? Why aren't they suing everyone for their legally due royalties? They could nail everyone from Samsung to Nokia. So why not do it? Because everyone would nail MS for other trivial things they are in violation of. It would be Patent WW I.

    So let these companies patent trivial crap like LOL. Why not? It will make the crater bigger when The Big One happens. And nobody wants that because in this case it won't be soldiers dying, it will be money evaporating. IP portfolios are insanely overpriced. If PWI happens, the courts will be *swamped*. The only fix will be to invalidate software/process patents or spend every single minute of court time available until 2142 sorting out the mess. And that means those portfolios will suddenly be useless. As will all the license agreements. That's a lot of money to go *poof*. It'll make the housing market bubble of 2008 look like a hiccup. We're talking many many billions of dollars here.

    So let the current cold war continue. Go ahead. Patent LOL. Patent emoticons. Patent tying your right shoe before your left - I don't care.

    Just know that it's going to end, it's going to end soon, and it's going to end badly. And there will be blame enough to go around for everyone. In fact, the end may be beginning right now. We may have had our Ferdinand just recently. [google.com]

    It's going to be a hell of a ride when this whole mess hits the fan.

    • And nobody loses but the little guy, who gets hit with eleventy-three patent suits from every company in the Delaware phone book, and doesn't have any patents to retaliate with.

      The hordes of stupid patents will do nothing if IBM tries using them against Microsoft, or vice versa. They're great for stamping out Joe's New Idea, Inc.

  • Disemvowel? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Since prior art counts for little, has anyone rushed to patent disemvoweling?
  • stfu, ibm. srsy, u gd bmf. afcps ur awb. ur afu.
  • by BlueCoder (223005) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @08:19PM (#30601312)

    Let's lobby the patent office to create a wiki for lay man ideas. Then everyone normal that can't afford to patent every blog article that they can come up with on a daily basis can then upload their ideas to the database.

    This should eliminate all patents for obvious stuff. And only the 10 or so really original ideas are still patentable.

    Simple solution, maybe I should patent it...

  • by Geoff (968)

    Hmm.... I thought LOL meant "wow, that cat sure is cute [lolcats.com]"

  • Back in high school, I had a notebook (which I think I still have) that had a list of emoticons and their meaning, and also the meaning of acronyms like lol or rofl or imho. I would consider that prior art if the patent merely is for a translation system.
  • I love the icon for this article. I wonder how their software deals with palindromic abbreviations.

    WTF FTW

  • I always thought it looked like someone drowning. or surrendering.. you know
      o/ = waving hello or goodbye
    \o/ = Yay!
    o7 = a snappy salute
    lol = dont shoot!

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