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Cygnus files first challenge to Bilski patent standard

Just two months after a court, in re Bilski, demanded strict scrutiny of software patent claims, a small Michigan outfit has issued a direct challenge to the new standard.

Britney Spears with shaved head
Just two months after a court, in re Bilski, demanded strict scrutiny of software patent claims, a small Michigan outfit has issued a direct challenge to the new standard.

Cygnus Systems, a 20-year old Midwest networking outfit, claims a March patent approval gives it control over all thumbnails used as icons on networks, and has filed suit against everyone.

Well, not everyone. Just the three biggest someones -- Google, Microsoft and Apple.

At first glance this appears to be a Britney Spears claim -- a desperate cry for attention. But let's do some research anyway.

Wookiepedia (not Wikipedia) says the Cygnus B system contained a planet with giant sapient algae beds, and possibly the offices of Cygnus Spaceworks, which made shuttles and starfighters for the Galactic Empire.

Sounds like a dead end. What else is out there?

Pamela Jones of Groklaw is taking some time off, and Patent Law blog has not yet addressed the issue either. (They do wish us all a Merry Christmas.)

Revenews notes that even before Bilski patents such as this were dodgy, citing the fate of the Amazon One-Click patent.

If the Cygnus name rings a bell, an outfit called Cygnus Telecommunications LLC acquired a patent on callbacks in 1999. Their enforcement attempt against AT&T eventually failed earlier this year.

The inventor in that case was James Aleman, a researcher at Colorado University in Boulder, so this is as relevant to the present situation as Wookiepedia.  

Cygnus lawyer Matt MacAndrews told The Inquirer that Cygnus owner Gregory Swartz created the technology in his spare time back in 1998, filing for a patent three years later. Of course that paper also said Cygnus is based in Indiana. Not so.

Amit Chowdhry of The Pulse pulled a flow chart of the patented technology from Google Patents. It seems to cover how such thumbnails are created (by taking screen shots) not the thumbnails themselves.

The most telling comment, however, may be from MacAndrews, who works for a Chicago firm and admitted the defendants were chosen mainly for their deep pockets as "a logical starting place."

Hence the picture at the top of this blog post. I hear this look is all the rage in the Cygnus B system. But the Wookie would know for sure.