Earlier this year, IBM patented an “out-of-office” email feature. This technology has existed since the late 1980s. Various activist groups and organizations were critical of the patent and the EFF referred to it as a “stupid patent of the month”. Due to public backlash, IBM donated the patent to the public.
This event highlights an important concept, that public backlash or criticism can be used to challenge unpopular or controversial intellectual property. In 2006, Aveda dropped its Indigenous trademark, after outcry from Aboriginal rights activist groups and GlaxoSmith Kline does not patent medicines in the Third World.
Intellectual property and IP law do not exist in a vacuum. Both inventors and the public should take heed of this fact.