Saturday, June 11, 2011

The future of prior art?

A blog at the Washington Post includes the text:

Facts once put up a stubborn resistance. You looked them up in books and there they were, unaltered and unalterable, unless someone had vandalized the page and left Patrick Henry shouting, "Give me liberty, or give me Darth.”

No longer. There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and facts I found on the Internet.

One recalls the file history of the patent on colored bubbles, wherein the applicants utilized a "false fact" from the internet to get the application allowed. Same sort of thing can happen in patent litigation. Of the colored bubbles, see

US 7,910,531 overcomes KSR obviousness by asserting unpredictable outcome via allusion to Popular Science [!]

The WaPo post included a reference to a controversial Virginia textbook for 4th graders:

Sometimes this is embarrassing. Last year, Virginia was forced to recall a set of textbooks because they stated that thousands of African Americans fought for the Confederacy. The book's author admitted that for this information, she "relied primarily on an Internet search."

Sort of like Mark Lemley writing in the Stanford Law Review that Gary Boone invented the integrated circuit, except that the Stanford Law Review didn't make a correction. At least Stanford University has corrected their forms for assignment of patent rights.

Within an earlier WaPo story on the textbook [Virginia 4th-grade textbook criticized over claims on black Confederate soldiers ]:

Scholars are nearly unanimous in calling these accounts of black Confederate soldiers a misrepresentation of history. Virginia education officials, after being told by The Washington Post of the issues related to the textbook, said that the vetting of the book was flawed and that they will contact school districts across the state to caution them against teaching the passage.

"Just because a book is approved doesn't mean the Department of Education endorses every sentence," said spokesman Charles Pyle. He also called the book's assertion about black Confederate soldiers "outside mainstream Civil War scholarship."


When Masoff began work on the textbook, she said she consulted a variety of sources -- history books, experts and the Internet. But when it came to one of the Civil War's most controversial themes -- the role of African Americans in the Confederacy -- she relied primarily on an Internet search.

Lisa Vox wrote:

What does surprise me is that someone who calls herself a "fairly respected writer" would do a simple Internet search and not question the results. (Or, that she would rely on the Internet at all to conduct research for a textbook.) She discovered articles online that had been written by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and apparently concluded that these articles were legitimate sources written by experts.

Vox noted the Confederate Congress approved the enlistment of African-American soldiers on March 13, 1865.
At the time, there was a wickedly funny political cartoon showing Confederate soldiers running across the lines to "surrender" to Union troops.


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