The United States Patent and Trademark Office recently granted IBM a patent for an out-of-office email system, the EFF reported.
United States Patent No. 9,547,842, “Out-of-office electronic mail messaging system” traces its history to an application filed in 2010.
Under the rules of US patent law, that means it is supposed to represent a new, non-obvious advance over technology from that time.
However, the technology had been around for well over a decade.
Microsoft traces the auto reply technology used in its Exchange email system back to the late 1980s.
“The Patent Office is so out of touch that it conducted years of review of this application without ever discussing any real-world software,” said the EFF.
Following the article, IBM told Ars Technica it will “dedicate the patent to the public”. It informed the patent office it is foregoing its rights on the patent.