JPMorgan Chase, the biggest bank in the US, has been awarded a patent for the technology that allows mobile applications that talk to each other, attracting criticism from the tech and intellectual property community that believe the process is so commonplace in today's smartphones that no single company, least of all a bank, can lay claim to the patent.
JPMorgan's patent filing was titled "System and method for communication among mobile applications" and was filed back in 2013.
Upon its award earlier this week, digital rights advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), nominated US Patent No. 9,747, 468 for its Stupid Patent of the Month award.
The EFF has often criticised the patent office for "issuing broad software patents that cover obvious processes" and "places landmines for developers who wish to use basic and fundamental tools". It described the JPMorgan award as a classic example of the practice.
"The patent covers the simple idea of a user giving a mobile application permission to communicate with another application," states Daniel Nazer, staff attorney on the EFF's intellectual property team. "This idea was obvious when JPMorgan applied for the patent in June 2013. Even worse, it had already been implemented by numerous mobile applications. The Patent Office handed out a broad software monopoly while ignoring both common sense and the real world."
"How was such a broad and obvious idea allowed to be patented?" argues Nazer. "As we have explained many times before, the Patent Office seems to operate in an alternate universe where the only evidence of the state of the art in software is found in patents. Indeed, the examiner considered only patents and patent applications when reviewing JP Morgan's application. It's no wonder the office gets it so wrong."
Nazer argues that real reform of the US patent process is required to stop the "flood of bad software patents that fuels patent trolling".
Yet JPMorgan has itself been a victim of patent trolling. As of November 2016 the bank had been subject to more than 100 patent-related lawsuits since 2008, according to figures from Cornell Law Review. JPMorgan is also a member of the LOT Network, a non-profit consortium of banks and other big businesses designed to ward agaisnt patent trolling by granting fellow members a free license to any patents that may fall into the hands of a so-called 'patent troll'.