I first heard this term in regard to a now disallowed practice with regard to patenting, with a far different usage than that detailed above.
The way patent law used to work, you could come up with a patentable idea, have it all sealed and notarized, and then not patent it. Years later, once your "ideas" are in use, you then were able to get a patent and sue the companies using them.
This practice was banned, but not before someone, one Jerome Lemelson, managed to get overly-broad patents on just about all modern technology, which he then used to shakedown big companies like Ford, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, etc. After his death, he passed the patents to a "charitable organization" which used them in the same way but claimed some unspecified amount would go to give scholarships to those pursuing innovative patent law as a career. However, because the United States Constitution prohibits ex post facto law, they are still able to sue with these patents.
Unfortunately, I no longer have the patent in hand, but I recall part of the one that was being used to beat a company over the head went like this (I know this isn't the exact specificaiton):
- It is possible to encode numerical data as electric signals and then manipulated.
- It is possible to take light, translate it to electric signals and then analyze said image.
Unfortunately, the courts repeatedly allow these patents to stand up
, despite their overly-broad specifications. Patents on One-Click shopping
and LZW pale in comparison
to these patents.