I first learned about the now-infamous swing patent (U.S. Patent Number 6,368,227) from NPR’s extremely amusing news quiz, Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!. The swing patent issued on April 9, 2002. The very next week, Wait, Wait had a segment titled “That’s Mine, and I Can Prove It,” where a listener was given three outlandish stories about ownership, and challenged to select the true story.
On April 20, I sent the USPTO a five-page letter about the patent in question citing references which appeared to invalidate the patent. With Google’s help, I found two elementary school handbooks that forbid side-to-side swinging, both of which were published before the patent filing. I would have requested a reexamination, but that privilege is really designed for a commercial entity seeking to invalidate a competitor’s patent, and is priced accordingly (approximately $2,500). I am glad, however, to see that the publicity moved the commissioner to order a reexamination on his own, as published in the Official Gazette notice linked above.