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Online Greeting Cards Patented 237

Trailer Trash writes "According to this story at bizreport.com, Hallmark has given in and licensed Tumbleweed Communication Corp's patent for delivery of online documents with e-mail notification. Will the idiots at the patent office never stop? Jeff Smith of Tumbleweed claims to have been granted three patents last year."
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Online Greeting Cards Patented

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  • by Safety Cap ( 253500 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @12:09AM (#2783265) Homepage Journal
    ...is that someone can patent the process by which email can be generated which directs the recipient to click some link, which delivers a message on some dad-burn web page?

    Yup, the whole world has gone insane. I'm going to go cry now.

    • ...is that someone can patent the process by which email can be generated which directs the recipient to click some link, which delivers a message on some dad-burn web page?


      Yup, the whole world has gone insane. I'm going to go cry now.

      I would think porno sites have prior art here. That's all they do is send out thousands of emails with LINKS back to their stuff.

      Of course, what would be funnier is if they claimed prior art, got a patent, and then Hallmark had to pay HUSTLER for the right to send greeting cards via email.

      As for the part about wanting to cry...I've been crying for years now.
    • But if you think these Tumbleweed patents aren't great leaps forward take a look at US6,061,448, "Method and system for dynamic server document encryption" which sounds familiar.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Phew. Another One. [uspto.gov] Maybe this has been on Slashdot before?

        "Method and system for dynamic server document encryption" - 1997

        Abstract

        A method and system are provided for secure document delivery over a wide area network, such as the Internet. A sender directs a Delivery Server to retrieve an intended recipient's public key. The Delivery Server dynamically queries a certificate authority and retrieves the public key. The public key is transmitted from the Delivery Server to the sender. The sender encrypts the document using a secret key and then encrypts the secret key using the public key. Both encrypted document and encrypted secret key are uploaded to the Delivery Server, and transmitted to the intended recipient. The intended recipient then uses the private key associated with the public key to decrypt the secret key, and uses the secret key to decrypt the document. In an alternative, equally preferred embodiment of the invention, the sender uses the public key to encrypt the document. In yet another embodiment, the server transmits the document to the Delivery Server for encryption.

        Thats just PGP isn't it?
    • So if I send out email to my frineds and family pointing back to pictures of my baby on my ftp site, am I infinging? Do it have to be an html reference to an html page? Do I have to generate some stupid random name for each link? Or do I now have to just mail out megabytes worth of pictures to people who may or may not want them? Geeez!

      Our tears will form a river.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I came into work to find my office door bolted shut. Apperantly, the idea of "working" has been patented.

    Although, that's not entirely a bad thing... ;-)
  • Couldn't just about any service that delivered greeting cards online for the last 3+ years (for example, Blue Mountain, etc.), be considered prior art for this??

    If this keeps up, we'll soon see a patent for "facilitating data-entry via an alphanumeric input device" ;)
    • The patents in question were applied for back in '96 & '97 so prior art would have to be older than that.
    • Tumbleweed applied for the pattent in early 1997. I believe US patent law allows you a year to prepare your patent application, which means that prior art would have to be before early 1996. I don't think BlueMountain was around then.

      However, this is NOT what is important!

      Somehow slashdot readers like to get worked up about each _specific_ case of stupid patent being granted. However, there is little discussion of the underlying legislation. People like to think that it is all just due to stupidity in the patent office. However, with many "stupid patents" the patent office does exactly what it is supposed to do according to the law, yet the result is just as ridiculous.

      Does it really matter whether Tumbleweed actually was the first to document this idea? Would this condition make this patent fare or good for the society?

      I think it would be good for all of us to spend less time getting excited about the specific cases and more time looking at this topic in a broader way.
  • i invented reading. i also copywrited everything i've ever written.

    reading my post and thinking about it violates some sort of law, i think.

    send all settlement checks to me asap. thanks.

    --donabal
    • Scary part is- someone may actually seriously try this at some point.

      Except you violated copyright by using the word "batman". Universal Studios would now like their check for $4,000,000.

      Oh shit, that would be another 4 mil from me, now... bastard! :)
      • You said Gro**y - thats patented by Duke - of the DookNookum3D fame - look for an email from 3DRealms >:)
        • Who stole it from Evil Dead 2, look for an email from... well, probably nobody!

          Campbell has been quoted as not giving a crap, except blasting them for not having any imagination in coming up with original phrases.
  • Good! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dangermouse ( 2242 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @12:12AM (#2783277) Homepage
    I hope this patent stifles the shit out of the email-a-link industry.
  • by rveno1 ( 470619 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @12:12AM (#2783278)
    Isn't Blue Mountain who started the greeting card email craze?
  • hahaha ahahahahahahah hehehehe, hoooooooo ahhhh.
    that's some funny stuff.
  • Hmmm :-) (Score:1, Funny)

    by SuperDuG ( 134989 )
    I'm going to patent the patent process ... now that would be funny.

  • Before they sue me, and I have to stop, and...um...it's relevant, I swear...

    Oh well, I've reached 50 karma. Why stop now?

  • by Das Fink ( 462558 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @12:14AM (#2783289)
    You know this might be the first _good_ stupid patent.

    There are few things I dislike more than having some stupid piece of flash animation sent to me by email, or wore notification of said flash animation.
    If this Patent stops webisites from getting my mom to send me anymore dancing hamsters, or singing chiefs I will be only too happy.

    Next up I want someone to Patent SPAM
    • You don't get many e-cards do you?

      The flash and hamsters your mom is sending you aren't an e-card.

      Basically I go to a website, pick out a graphic, put a custom message with it somehow, and have an email sent to my friend who clicks on a link to see what graphic and what my specific message was.

      Why this merits a patent is a complete fscking mystery.

    • SPAM is a registered trademark [spam.com] of Hormel Foods corporation. SPAM Luncheon Meat, that is.

      since i'm off topic anyway, it is rather ironic to read Hormel Foods' position statement [spam.com] on the practice of spamming.
    • by Ron Atkinson ( 546834 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @02:24AM (#2783677)
      Naw, it still doesn't beat US Patent Number 5443036, "Method of exercising a cat".

      Of course I don't mind Patent 5965809, "Method of bra size determination by direct measurement of the breast". I'm sure a lot of guys are trying to infringe on this one :)

    • I agree, but for a different reason .. I always suspected these e-greeting cards were just a way for spammers to collect e-mail addresses. I always give people sh*t when they send me one of these things, not to mention the fact that they are annoying and my mail client doesn't display HTML.
  • Another licensee on my patent on "a method in which a female and male, in combination, create a being of signifigant mental incompetence."
  • According to Tumbleweed's press release [tumbleweed.com], the patent in question concerns "Private URLs for Directed Document Delivery", which sounds pretty damn elementary. It's not like no one could have possibly come up with the idea of private, dynamically generated URL's for document retrieval. In fact, given the way that the use of URL's is, well, intrinsic to the way the web works, who wouldn't do this if it was unsatisfactory to send the whole shmear over email, as is obviously the case if the html content you want to send involves custom rendered gif's and the like.

    • The stupid biznet site seems to be having a problem with that really ugly 20K of crap code and some ad links. Nice of them to pass this little bit of text, without displaying it!

      Hallmark Cards settled a lawsuit filed against it by Tumbleweed Communications Corp., agreeing to license Tumbleweed's patented technology for delivering greeting cards online.

      Neither company made financial terms of the settlement available, and both Hallmark and Tumbleweed officials were unavailable for comment.

      ^M According to a statement issued by Tumbleweed, Hallmark will use the technology for all Hallmark.com online offerings that "provide for or facilitate document delivery over the Internet, and those that include the provision for sending an e-mail delivery notification to the recipient." ^M Tumbleweed Chairman and CEO Jeff Smith in the statement said it is the third patent for the technology issued this year. ^M P One of the other patents was secured in a similar settlement with American Greetings Corp.

      Yes, it's an ugly display.


  • Communication with other people via the Net.

    Distribution of information via the Net.

    Puchasing of objects via the Net.

    Getting off via the Net.

  • WTF? (Score:3, Redundant)

    by bryan1945 ( 301828 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @12:17AM (#2783298) Journal
    " will use the technology for all Hallmark.com online offerings that "provide for or facilitate document delivery over the Internet, and those that include the provision for sending an e-mail delivery notification to the recipient." "

    Provide document delivery over the 'net- like email?

    provision for sending e-mail delivery notification to the recipient- like "return recipts"?

    Once again, it looks like patents are getting way, way too broad. Soon the patenet office is going to accidentally give a patent to someone for urls (oh wait, isn't a British company working on this one?), pausing TV (oh wait, isn't Tivo {or someone else} claiming this one?), or even a single click technology (the famous Amazon debacle). Maybe someone can try and patent the "right click" or contextual menus.

    Seriously, the whole thing is really getting way out of whack! I wonder if Chesebrough-Ponds has patented the "single stick ear cleaning device"? (Q-tips)

    Time to go get a drink, me thinks....
  • Does this mean there will be less companies which allow our friends, who think we geeks will love these, to send us these annoying stupid e-cards? Do I really need another annoying MIDI soundtrack on top of an animated GIF with message as a "surprise"? I think not. These were cool two years ago when they were still a novelty.

    God I hope so! This patent may not be all bad!

    -Pete
  • I hope they don't plan to use RDF!
  • OH YEAH!? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hatechall ( 541378 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @12:21AM (#2783313) Homepage
    OK well tumbleweed put this in your ass and smoke it. I patented YOUR FACE! I not only patented the patenting process but I also patented the patent process and the patent for patenting patent is patent pending. Patenting the Patent pending patenting process is pathologically pathetic so ill leave that up to the RIAA. Permitting a patent pending processing pricky pears and a peter piper picking pickled patented pickled peppers patent patent patent patent patent......
    If you are now desensitized to all meaning of that word you know how I feel after all those damn patending decisions. When will the madness end?
    And not to be a flame, but is it really that important? What exactly is the real implications of this besides the obvious??

  • ...a system for encapsulating and transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide through an extensive network of branching tubes of diverse sizes.

    US Patent Office, here I come!(Next on my list: convince a venture capitalist that my pet rat qualifies as a proof-concept model...)
  • Isn't one stupid patent article enough for one day?

    -Pete
  • I demand that all cards transferred via this system that Hallmark is utilizing be transmitted via a private encryption system. If the rights of greeting card artists are blatantly ignored by people who can simply steal these cards upon receiving them, and send them to others without any proper repayment to the cards' creators, what will stop entire underground cartels from springing up and allowing people to share them freely?! I don't care if Hallmark licenses it, they have to work to protect the people how MAKE these things! The little guys! That's who they're here for, right? The GIAA is swiftly working to put a stop to this kind of filthy behavior, by developing a private network that transmits greeting cards in a proprietary .NIP format, but their system won't be in place for another year! We must work to protect the rights of greeting card fashioners the world over, lest all fairness and equality within the internet be lost forever. What's to stop some clod from printing one of these cards that I've fashioned, and giving it to a friend for free? Nothing. And that's just not right. Not at all. I should be paid for every single use of it. I deserve that much, for all the hard work it takes to come up with an illustration of a naked man sitting unawares on a toilet bowl with the caption "Caught You At A Bad Time, Huh?" over the top! Tsk tsk, such thoughtless copyright violating ... when will people learn?
  • over 8 years ago. I think I will sue Tumbleweed, then license my idea back to them..Hah
  • Two patents within the same time frame, really hope this isn't going to go on for toomuch longer at this pace...Too tired to list prior art, no doubt someone will.

    Wonder who will patent the patenting process?

    Matt
  • by footility ( 541226 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @12:25AM (#2783333) Homepage
    IAJAM (I Am Just A Monkey), but it just hit me that
    I /must/ publish every thought I ever have to
    protect myself from this slimy patent system we
    have, and slimier patent applicants.

    I suggest everyone else do the same. Document
    everything you think, whether it seems significant
    or not. Document the way you wipe your ass; the
    way you lift food to your mouth; the way you pick
    your nose. Document the method of transferring
    thought to a transportable medium.

    Fuck! I'm sick of the software /business/.
  • How about an "F-Off" postcard from MY site? q:]

    www.fuckaway.com

    MadCow.
  • For example, I have patented a system of communication not involving face to face speech or psychic transmissions, usually involving another medium for transmission.

    That's right, I have patented letter-writing, faxing, email, telephone conversations, chat rooms and telegrams, among others.

    In other news, the patent stupidity train keeps a rollin'.
  • by JohnA ( 131062 ) <johnanderson.gmail@com> on Friday January 04, 2002 @12:33AM (#2783358) Homepage

    The company I helped found in 1995 started doing this in December 1995, with a launch in February 1996. It was an internet greeting card site, and included such AMAZING features as e-mail notification of a new card to a recipient, and an e-mail to the sender when the card was viewed. The Internet Archive has an archive of the page as it was in December 1996 at:

    http://web.archive.org/web/19961226182315/http://w ww.cardclub.com/ [archive.org]

    Anyway, if anyone is challenged by this in court, let me know. I'm sure I can dig out all sorts of documentation that predates the filing dates of the patents in question.

    • So, what are you going to do with all of the money you get from licensing fees? ;-)

      • What happens when a patent is invalidated by prior art? Can the parties who demonstrated prior art file a patent? Or does the fact that they didn't file a patent invalidate any claim they have on the invention.
        • What happens when a patent is invalidated by prior art?

          IIRC it's not that easy to have a patent invalidated on this basis. Quite possibly more expensive and time consuming than getting a patent. Since patents only appear challengable by court action

          Can the parties who demonstrated prior art file a patent? Or does the fact that they didn't file a patent invalidate any claim they have on the invention.

          Another question would be if a patent invalidation always becomes part of the "prior art" the patent office actually bothers to check.
    • by KjetilK ( 186133 ) <kjetil@kjer[ ]o.net ['nsm' in gap]> on Friday January 04, 2002 @06:11AM (#2784223) Homepage Journal
      Great stuff!

      I think I have been infringing on this patent myself since 1995 :-), as I started telling my friends at that time: "don't send me heavy documents in the e-mail, dump it on the web with my name on, and send me the URL". This patent quite simply covers things that the web was specifically made for. But that isn't publicly available information so...

      Make sure you to go to BountyQuest [bountyquest.com] every now and than to check if a bounty is posted, so that these patents can be killed once and for all.

      Hm, come to think of it, there should be a similar site that organizes prior art claims and challenge patents on the basis of it... Anybody know about anything like that?

    • Anyway, if anyone is challenged by this in court, let me know. I'm sure I can dig out all sorts of documentation that predates the filing dates of the patents in question.


      Hello, McFly? F*cking Hallmark has been in court over this issue for some time now, and we are reading this article because they settled the case to avoid further legal entanglement. Maybe you should contact them, I bet their lawyers would be appreciative-- if indeed what you've done qualifies as prior art and you can prove it. Not only that, it might invalidate one or more stupid patents.
  • Hey, if you read their press release, they have a list of the their other patents in their "patent portfolio." Mostly stuff dealing with document distribution, encryption and notification.

    Over the past two years, I've been working on a distributed system where an operator in Wash, DC scans 250+ pages a day and is turned into PDF, OCRd, indexed, and then distributed via the web. We're up to 9GB of data and a few mil in annual revenues. There's gotta be a patent in there somewhere if these idiots can patent this stuff. Or at least prior art!
    • The company I work for (http://www.hpa.com.au) has been doing that for years, only we scan tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of pages daily. Ironically, one of the applications involves scanning, OCRing and indexing Patent applications, then making them available on the web as PDFs.
    • Of course you can have a patent. The problem is not having an idea to patent. We all have every now and then.

      The problem is that it is prohibitively expensive for any small guy.

      Software patents would have been OK if anybody with a good idea could afford to patent it (say, it costed $100), the time it took to have it evaluated was one week, and the patent expired after one month.

      That is what it would take for patents to not slow down tech development.

      However, making the patent process this fast and cheap is (I presume) not possible, and that is why software patents must be dropped alltogether.

  • Here's a quote from one patent description:
    "Each private URL ("PURL") uniquely identifies an intended recipient of a document..."

    Now, why on earth didn't the acronym "PURL" catch on? The world will never know.
  • by grahamsz ( 150076 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @12:45AM (#2783386) Homepage Journal
    How is this different from any password protected site which uses http basic authentication and email based registration.

    Say you go to a site and create an account (the details of which are emailled to you)

    That then means that the url:

    http://username:password@website.com

    has been created for you!

    Bizreport isn't responding for me so i am just assuming that the description of the patent posted by other users is valid.
  • I wonder if I can patent online pr0n?
  • "As well, E-mail is not the medium of choice for the distribution of complex documents..."

    But what about HTML embedded in email? For instance what you get with CNETs and Discovery channel's mailings. Those typically contain graphics, tables, etc. And what about attachments?
    • Well, I would have modded this as funny, but anyway, e-mail is not for complex documents. The only way to distribute documents that are complex is to dump it on a web page and send a (personalized) URL.

      I know I started to tell people about this in early 1995, it is the most obvious use of the web I can think of. It's quite simply how the web is used by those who know how to use it.

  • I just patented the process of complaining about patents. Slashdot readers everywhere, I ownz joo!
  • by elmegil ( 12001 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @12:53AM (#2783410) Homepage Journal
    The key part here is that Tumbleweed is in the business of providing SECURE "content management systems", not bloody greeting cards. Hallmark wants their greeting cards (unlike those of Blue Mountain et. al.) to be SECURE. So they licensed a particular technology which claims to do that, and which happens to have a patent.

    Now that you've thrown your reflexive anti-patent knee out of joint, try getting upset about something important for a change.

    • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @01:15AM (#2783482)
      Hallmark wants their greeting cards (unlike those of Blue Mountain et. al.) to be SECURE.

      Now, this is a significant innovation. I was sitting awake in bed all night worrying about a man-in-the-middle greeting card attack:

      • Alice chooses a Hallmark condolence card, and emails it to Bob on an unsecure link.
      • Mallory intercepts the condolence card message and substitutes a novelty insult card. Mallory forwards the message to Bob.
      • Bob receives the card, and is tricked into believing that Alice is an insensitive bitch.
      • Alice denies sending the card, but Bob doesn't believe her. Their friendship is never quite the same after this.
      With a secure greeting card, this could never happen!
      • Hallmark wants their greeting cards (unlike those of Blue Mountain et. al.) to be SECURE.

        * Now, this is a significant innovation. I was sitting awake in bed all night worrying about a man-in-the-middle greeting card attack:

        * Alice chooses a Hallmark condolence card, and emails it to Bob on an unsecure link.

        * Mallory intercepts the condolence card message and substitutes a novelty insult card. Mallory forwards the message to Bob.

        * Bob receives the card, and is tricked into believing that Alice is an insensitive bitch.

        * Alice denies sending the card, but Bob doesn't believe her. Their friendship is never quite the same after this.

        With a secure greeting card, this could never happen!


        This is a non-issue, because bob wouldn't actually *read* the card...

        * Bob check mail

        * Bob gets message with subject "Alice has sent you an electric greeting card"

        * Bob groans.

        * Bob knows he can't get away with not clicking on the enclosed link, because the card web site notifies the sender when the card was "read". That's why Mallory is still pissed at him.

        * Bob opens message, clicks on enclosed link.

        * Bob's browser opens in new window. He is forced, under great pain, to wait while a page with an animated gif of some sort draws on the screen. As soon as the midi file starts playing, he knows the page is fully loaded and Alice gets the notification that he read the message.

        * Bob closes browser window on second note of midi file. Card goes unread.

        * Bob hit reply to sender in email. Composes some hack response like, "I just read the card you sent me. Thank you so much for brightening my day. You are so sweet!"

        * Bob sends reply.

        * Bob deletes original message.

        The above series of events can happen in less than 30 seconds. Honest.

        Lastly,

        * Alice gets warm fuzzy feeling.

        * Bob gets laid.
    • I don't think you read the patent either. Take a look at them. They are referenced here [slashdot.org]
      Tell me where you see anything about making it SECURE...
    • I don't think /. is responding unfairly. For example, we do something similar to validate email addresses of people who sign into our system. They get a specal "VCODE" in a "Private URL (PURL!)" (essentially a unique MD5 hash) which they click on to get validated. The entire project took maybe a few days (including meetings arguing about pointless implementation "issues"). The code is minimal. The amount invested is minimal. The concept is trivial. This is all obvious when you read the abstract:

      A document delivery architecture dynamically generates a private Uniform Resource Locator (URL) to distribute information. Each private URL ("PURL") uniquely identifies an intended recipient of a document, the document or set of documents to be delivered, and (optionally) other parameters specific to the delivery process. The intended recipient of a document uses the PURL to retrieve the document. The server, upon retrieval of the document, customizes the behavior of the retrieval based upon attributes included in the PURL, as well as log information associated with the retrieval in a data base. This architecture and usage of PURLs enables secure document delivery and tracking of document receipt.

      Looks almost verbatim to our design docs!

  • Apple icards [mac.com]?
  • by _aa_ ( 63092 )
    If i had me some monies.. I'd patent me up the patenting process itself.. that'd learn 'em.
  • prior-art (Score:2, Informative)

    by davmct ( 195217 )
    I'm pretty sure DavidJones.com.au was doing this way before anyone else. (They even had classy cards, long before bluemountain ever rose from the bloody sea). It was quite funny, as they are a respectable retail outlet down in Australia (similar scale to Sears, sorry aussies), but all its site was really useful for was sending cool postcards of dalmatians or pointy hats.
  • I have an idea to apply for a patent on "all your base" and see if they grant it.
  • patent for delivery of online documents with e-mail notification.

    Subject: [Slashdot] Moderation of "Not just cards..."

    A user has given an "Offtopic" (-1) moderation to your comment.

    Not just cards... http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=0xdeadbeef

    Surely that counts as an 'online document' and 'email notification'...

    *forwards message to Tumbleweed*

    From now on people will have to *pay* to mod me down! My karma is unstoppable! Except for the cap...

  • by Chagrin ( 128939 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @01:04AM (#2783448) Homepage
    Patent number 6192407, which Tumbleweed is claiming:
    • PURLs are temporary, dynamically generated uniform resource locators which uniquely identify the intended recipient of a document and the document itself, as well attributes associated with the delivery of a document. PURLs avoid attaching information to e-mail messages to send documents, but rather attach a general reference to a document to be sent, and then enable the recipient to access a document via the reference.
    Really, any user-specific link sent via e-mail is covered by this patent.
  • I'll patent the process of executing code by clicking on attachments and sue every poor sod who infects his computer with a virus and GET RICH QUICK!

    Give a man a fish and he eats for one day. Teach him how to fish, and though he'll eat for a lifetime, he'll call you a miser for not giving him your fish.
  • Their patent says the following:

    An electronic document delivery system and methods of its use are provided. A document, preferably in a portable format, is forwarded to a remote server (e.g. using HTTP to "push" the document to the server). The server sends a generic notification of the document to an intended recipient, and the recipient can download the document from the server using local protocols. In preferred embodiments, the invention is used for the controlled delivery of portable documents from a sender to a large number of recipients, using a network of servers that route the documents and notifications in a store and forward manner, while providing routing and accounting information back to the sender.

    Let's see here... we're sending documents to people over a computer network using a store and forward protocol. SMTP, anyone? WTF?

    SMTP + POP3 covers this in spades.

    When is the patent office going to realize that this is getting WAAAAAAAAY out of control?

    -nate

  • by Robber Baron ( 112304 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @01:10AM (#2783466) Homepage
    An electronic document delivery system and methods of its use are provided. A document, preferably in a portable format, is forwarded to a remote server (e.g. using HTTP to "push" the document to the server). The server sends a generic notification of the document to an intended recipient, and the recipient can download the document from the server using local protocols. In preferred embodiments, the invention is used for the controlled delivery of portable documents from a sender to a large number of recipients, using a network of servers that route the documents and notifications in a store and forward manner, while providing routing and accounting information back to the sender.

    Egad! Sounds like a glorified e-mail system! With attachments! And distribution lists! What a novel concept! But wait...It's not even attaching the document in question??? It's merely sending a link to a site where the file is located! Well,I don't know about you guys, but I was sending hyperlinks via e-mail prior to the patent filing date. Either I get to patent the wheel, or this is a non-starter. Somebody in the patent office needs a few whacks with the stupid stick... And don't even THINK about trying to collect royalties on this one.
    • Sounds like a glorified e-mail system! With attachments! And distribution lists! What a novel concept! But wait...It's not even attaching the document in question??? It's merely sending a link to a site where the file is located! Well,I don't know about you guys, but I was sending hyperlinks via e-mail prior to the patent filing date.

      Ample "prior art" in the "smail mail" world. e.g. someone tries to deliver you a package, it either requires a signature/payment or cannot be delivered in the usual manner (e.g. won't physically fit). Instead they deliver a card, you take the card, go to their depot, someone there uses identifying info on the card to retrive your package...
      This is all done by humans, but the actual method isn't that different. The whole thing comes back to the concept of using a new tool in an old way. Using email and HTTP to do what postal and courier companies have been doing for centuries is hardly "Innovation".
  • Thanks to 2600 Magazine [2600.com] and The EFF [eff.org] , we all have a legal precedent for the right to link from our sites to wherever we wish (More info at 2600). Might this also apply to linking from our emails, thus invalidating the patent? Which takes precedent? I would imagine a judge and/or jury.
  • It's my understanding that you can set your user preferences in slasdot to email you when certain events occur, like followups to your comments.


    In that case, I would receive email notification that there is a new document (new version of the web page) available for me.


    That sounds a bit like an infringement on the patent to me. In fact this technique os rather widely used.

  • by vchoy ( 134429 )
    U.S. Patent No. 5,790,790 for the "Electronic Document Delivery System in which Notification of Said Electronic Document is Sent to a Recipient Thereof."
    If you have a look at the this link [archive.org]:
    Bluemountain.com already had this in place back 12/1998! How did they ever get the patient application approved?
  • by pgrote ( 68235 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @01:23AM (#2783509) Homepage
    What a joke this patent is ...

    Anyway, here is what TumbleWeed has to say:

    http://www.tumbleweed.com/en/company/news_events /p ress_releases/2002/01_02_02.html

    The first patent was registered in October of 96 and was granted in August of 98. The title: Electronic document delivery system in which notification of said electronic document is sent to a recipient thereof. The link:

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1= PT O1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm &r=1&f=G&l=50&s1='5,790,790'.WKU.&OS=PN/5,790,790& RS=PN/5,790,790

    The second patent was applied for in April of 97 and granted in February of 2001. The title is: Private, trackable URLs for directed document delivery

    The URL is: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PT O1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm &r=1&f=G&l=50&s1='6,192,407'.WKU.&OS=PN/6,192,407& RS=PN/6,192,407

    Prior art exists for both of these. Thanks you wayback machine! Link from earlier post:

    http://web.archive.org/web/19961226182315/http:/ /w ww.cardclub.com/
  • Patents (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I'm heading to the patent office to patent greeting cards which use e-ink. I'll be back in a little bit.
  • Of course this and the other example of patent stupidity posted on slashdot earlier today are just the umpteenth million reason why we should be doing something more to give all these comments about our rights online and offline some kind of greater impact than they currently have.

    Its been suggested before, but i still havent seen much action from anyone on the idea of a Slashdot - or slashdot related - Advocacy Project (org/fund/website). What kind of hybrid creature that might be could be born of the wonder of the slashdot threaded discussion process, but essentially the best ideas that ive heard so far would involve making the connection between comments here on slashdot and useful recipients of those suggestions, like elected officials (or those seeking election) and company executives, etc., along with drawing in donations through pay pal and other means for a fund to support legal action and education and research and such (like what the EFF and the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic are doing).

    Hell, at the very least it could be a form of a distribution network for those kind of funds - raising donations for projets that users mod up in importance and comment on and help coordinate - with the redistributing of those funds to the most effective and support needing of those working on projects (like the eff with the adobe/sklyarov situation).

    Yeah i know theres the EFF and the ACLU and a bunch of other undersupported, overworked, undercoordinated organizations but do we seriously think that adding our support would do anything other than help.

    Id personally think that a major focus should be to bring programming, web design, networking and other skills to help out EFF and all the state and local chapters of the ACLU and others by the ton...

    Projects need IT support. Slashdot is the feeding trough the tech junkie world comes to for news and such. What better fit could there be... and how hard could it possibly be for a few dozen or more people to start passing emails between each other, maybe start up mailing lists, email and bring in big name types like Lawrence Lessig and Pamela Samuelson and all the others that anyone on /. can probably rattle off of their evolution 1.0 address books in their sleep.
  • The invention to be patented must NOT be obvious "to one of ordinary skill in the art."

    This patent fails the test... as do most patents like it.

    The patent office is clearly violating the public trust by awarding patents for "inventions" which which are clearly obvious "to one of ordinary skill in the art."
  • There's a certain aire among many immature or just plain uneducated entreprenaurs / management / executives that patents are some sort of holy grail of the American dream. Unfortunately, they've forgotten the hard work part. Instead they have delusions of grandeur that somehow they'll patent the "right thing" that everybody and their brother will want and suddenly they'll be rich. But alas, these people are not engineers, scientists or other tech workers. Their "big ideas" are the mere childs play of true intellectuals. And unfortunately, with so many idiots flooding the patent office these days, the bar has been significantly lowered to the point where such nonsense actually gets through.

    Patents don't have to be this way. Sure, if an individual or company puts a significant amount of time and money into developing a sophisticated physical design, they ought to be compensated for a *short* amount of time. What we need is massive patent reform.
  • by Thalia ( 42305 ) on Friday January 04, 2002 @02:30AM (#2783691)
    Let's try the intro to patent law again. The abstract is NOT the claim. The summary is also not the claim. In fact, there is a section, labelled "Claims" that are... well, the claims. The scope of the patent is defined solely by the language of the claims, as interpretted in light of any comments made during prosecution.

    So, let's look at the broadest claim of the newest patent:

    1. A document delivery system for delivering one or more documents between a sender and at least one recipient, said system comprising:

    a server that temporarily stores said documents, wherein said server generates a URL for each intended recipient of said documents, the URL unique to each recipient, and sends each of the URLs to each respective intended recipient; and

    a database which is associated with said server and which records log data describing which recipients accessed said documents;

    wherein said server sends the log data to the sender of said documents.

    What are the simple limitations in this claim that make it narrow enough to be uninteresting. Well, let's see:

    1. The server must store "each of the documents" temporarily. So, dynamic URLs are pretty much out.

    2. Log data must be "sent to the sender." This means that if you require the sender to log back on to your side (the traditional way of doing this) instead of sending them the log, you do not infringe this claim.

    What do you want to bet that none of the prior art (from BlueMountain to standard email) meet all of these criteria? And this doesn't even take into consideration the fact that likely those limitations were discussed during the prosecution of the patent. If you really want to analyze the scope of the claims -- if for example you want to invalidate the patent -- order a copy of the file wrapper [delphion.com] from the patent office, which includes every scrap of communication between the PTO and the company. Once you've reviewed that, we can get a real discussion going.

    If you actually look at the patents [uspto.gov], and in particular 6,192,407 [uspto.gov], you will find that they cited a huge number of references, including most of the references that you have discussed. This strongly implies that the patent office actually took a look at this patent, before allowing it. Now, whether patents should be permitted at all or not is a different discussion. But assuming that no prior art technology, articles, or patents were referenced is rather silly, when the patent is available for review.

    I will agree that this claim is too broad in my (not-a-legal) opinion. However, it is not nearly as broad as /. seems to imply.

    So... for future reference, read the bloody patent claims (not just the abstract) before starting to bitch.

    Thank you,

    Thalia

    • In fall of 1995, I was one of the developers for a US Gov't website that provided online statistical analysis to the general public.

      We wrote a system that emailed the user both a summary of the results and a unique link to the stored results. This was done because the analysis was too computing intensive to do in real time and we couldn't hold the browser connection open for more than a minute or two...

      We did both of the things that are in the claim, and a couple of things that aren't. Anonymous logins to websites, which are similar to anon. logins for FTP sites, and we generated, on the fly, a unique piece of software to compute the dataset (which saved the results in a temp. dir).

      So, BTDT and I can prove it. If anyone cares, they can find me at the URL in the .sig.
    • During my company's battle with Tumbleweed, we looked long and hard for prior art. We found none. Their patent is very carefully worded so as to exclude any of the prior art. Some previous projects come close to the patent description, but none seem to match it.

      We were screwed, and had to change our design. I hate these assholes.

    • Interestingly, I can see no way in which that claim fails to describe hotmail (temporary storage, message notification via email with URL, etc) with return-receipt turned on. I don't know if there are any email-via-web services that support return reciept and forwarding of your mail to an alternate address, but if there are they clearly violate that claim.
  • I'm going to patent using your brain to think thoughts of things.

    The way the patent office is going about it, no one will even blink twice and I'll have a monopoly!

    I'll never lose another argument again!

    The only thing left is for someone to patent continuation of the species via sex and/or artificial insemination!
  • I (I mean, er, an anonoymous reader. I was working at a competitor at the time, and wouldn't dream of slamming) submitted this when it was approved [slashdot.org]. It's sad that it's being enforced.
  • Firstly, give all those idiot patent examiners a raise. (keep reading)

    Secondly, every time a patent gets overturned in court the patent examiner responsible gets docked pay.

    While we're at it, I think everyone in congress and the senate deserve pay raises too.

    Every time a law is declared unconstitutional dock every one that voted for it. (I'd really rather toss them in jail for a while, but somehow I don't think that'll fly.)

    -
  • Will the idiots at the patent office never stop?

    Will the idiots who don't understand the USPO responsibilities every shut the hell up?
  • Tumbleweed are real bitches. My company (I won't name it) had to deal with them a year ago. We were constructing a secure document delivery system with notification, etc. All the cool features. Well, our original idea turned out to be covered by TW's patent, so we had to do some things ass-backwards in order to stay free and clear. As a result our product doesn't operate as cleanly as it should, but at least we don't have the assholes at TW breathing down our necks. We're a smaller company and can't afford to license it.

    The patent in question seems to be the same one mentioned in this article. It's one of their older patents, at least two years old I think.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of code." -- an anonymous programmer

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