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Group Battles "Dubious" Software Patents

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has launched a campaign to persuade the government to revoke patents it feels are harmful to innovation and free expression by small businesses or nonprofits.
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- A civil liberties group that has battled the recording industry and Hollywood over digital rights is now taking aim at what it considers dubious patents.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation launched a campaign this week to persuade the government to revoke patents the EFF considers harmful to innovation and free expression by small businesses or nonprofit organizations.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has seen a surge in software patents covering general business methods, which critics say are overly broad. Among them: the online shopping techniques of one-click purchases and electronic shopping carts.

"Rather than watch the problem get worse, we see it as an opportunity to show the harms that some of the patents are causing," EFF staff attorney Wendy Seltzer said

For instance, Seltzer said, dozens of small retailers now face lawsuit threats for using a virtual shopping cart on their Web sites, and they could ill afford the legal or licensing fees.

EFF plans to choose what it deems the worst offenders and work to get the patents re-examined--and rescinded--by the government.

The patent-busting campaign follows an October report from the Federal Trade Commission addressing questionable patents and recommending, among other things, better ways to challenge a patent's validity without going to court.