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NCR Patents the Internet 448

An anonymous reader writes "We all know about NCR's lawsuit against Palm & Handspring, but I haven't seen much press about patent infringements they are claiming against some of the biggest sites on the planet. According to documentation that a friend's company has recently received, their patents protect everything from keyword searching to product categorization. Patents to look for (and filed in 1998) include 6,253,203, 6,169,997, 6,151,601, 6,085,223 and 5,991,791 . IMHO, this is absolutely outrageous and is likely to cause billions in both legal fees and eventual licensing fees (eBay, Amazon and MSFT have already licensed from NCR). How is this not the lead story on every site? every day? Maybe because no one wants to get sued for having an online business."
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NCR Patents the Internet

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:20PM (#5290057)
    Finally, someone will make money off the internet.
  • by Kafka_Canada ( 106443 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:21PM (#5290064)
    Don't worry (yeh yeh, TM)... if this gets out of hand, patents will stop being respected. No need to worry our little panties off that this spells the end of the internet!
    • by Gabe Garza ( 535203 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:33PM (#5290177)
      Don't worry (yeh yeh, TM)... if this gets out of hand, patents will stop being respected. No need to worry our little panties off that this spells the end of the internet!

      The problem is that this is going to screw over a whole lot of people before laws are enacted to end this legalized extortion.

      What makes this especially ugly is that it's going to have a disproportionate impact on smaller web-based retailers, because they are going to have neither a legal department nor the hundreds of thousands of dollars a legal battle of this scope would cost--the only real choice will be to either pay the extortion money or not do business on the web. Everyone but the patent holder loses.

      • by beaucfus ( 584676 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @04:23PM (#5290621)
        A small company doesn't need an army of lawyers. Everyone who runs an internet business needs to join together and sue them all at once. It would cost pennies on the dollar to sue them that way.
      • by akmed ( 33761 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @06:37PM (#5291666) Homepage
        Sorry, but I couldn't resist commenting. Patents are exactly that. Legalized extortion. If I get a patent on something, I can rightfully exclude you from using it for 20 years. Or I can let you use it for free. Or for money. And if you use it without me letting you I can sue you for lots of money and also get a court order saying you can't use it (which, if you break you'll be quite sorry).

        What everyone forgets is that if anyone in the US was doing what your patent describes before you filed for the patent, then your patent is no good. And it doesn't cost billions of dollars to get a patent invalidated. First you need to get sued for violating a patent. Then you need to show some proof that at least one person was doing whatever the patent says before the filing date. Then you win. Given that it costs a minimum of $20k to get a patent, all this company has done is waste lots of money. If it ever tries to bring suit it'll spend even more money and it'll have nothing to show for it because these patents all seem to cover stuff that people've been doing with computers for a while. I doubt you will ever see a suit on any of those patents. It's like the guy who patented swinging. He spent at least $20k to prove that he doesn't understand the patent system. All I need is to bring in some witnesses that'll say they were swinging before Nov. 17th 2000 and he has officially wasted a lot of money. Patent examiners can only work with what they find in literature and trade journals etc. Courts can use anything you bring them.

        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='6368227'.WKU.&OS=PN/6368227&RS=P N/6368227 [uspto.gov]

  • They also patented the first post!
  • by ericdano ( 113424 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:21PM (#5290076) Homepage
    Seriously, it needs to be redone. We need some sort of bill/legislation/executive order on these stupid patents.
    • by rant-mode-on ( 512772 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:30PM (#5290146) Homepage
      Another shining example [uspto.gov] of the US patent office's brilliance. What child has never done that on a swing before? The children at the US patent office, obviously...
    • by broter ( 72865 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:41PM (#5290260) Homepage Journal
      Agreed.

      "A method, apparatus, article of manufacture, and a memory structure for storing and retrieving data in a database implementing privacy control is disclosed." (Abstract of 6,253,203)

      I think a filesystem with permissions would be prior art for this... Who the hell would sign off on this patent?

      Further on...

      "1. A data warehousing, management, and privacy control system, comprising... a database table comprising a plurality of data columns and at least one data control column... information reflecting consumer privacy parameters"

      exactly passwd which contains a "customer's" password hash and his/her home directory and shell.

      "5. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a customer interface module providing access to the database table via the privileged view and to permit specification of the consumer privacy parameters."

      A file system with permissions.... (eg. AS400 whose fs is *actually* a database)

      Can anyone else see anything that's origional about this patent? I'm looking through all the claims and they all fit with either a filesystem or a rdbms.

      Why the hell would anyone take an infringement law suit seriously from these patents?

      Sometime the profound stupidity of businesses really hits me. Like the time an old boss of mine wanted to patent the ability to write libraries so that the implementation could change without changing the code written against it (ie. API's). This was in 2002.

      It's broken, but I don't see it getting fixed in this life time :(

      -RB

    • Simple: make software-patents illegal. They're really plain stupid stupid stupid. Software is NOT a device but merely a list of commands which controls a device. Such a list of commands is sometimes called a recipe - a list of actions which you should perform to reach a certain goal. Recipes should not be patentable, otherwise the way I move my hand when jerking of can also be patented (good luck trying to proof prior art:P). Or the way you move your mouth when saying "Anarchy". All actions:) What kind of agent (me, you or a computer) performs those actions should not matter of course. Patents are meant for fysical things. It's just the retardedness of the patent office that causes them to consider computers and software some sort of magical thing. Their way of thinking has become a bit like that the inquisition - driven by utter ignorance and FUD. Someone should either educate them or just kill them for stupidity.
    • by grumpygrodyguy ( 603716 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @04:00PM (#5290424)
      adjusts tin-foil hat

      Personally I think there's a major backlash campaign being given unspoken support from all the old-money dow-like companies. The internet is something they have never understood, and view it only as a threat to thier way of doing business.

      The legal system in no way supports the proliferation of free technocratic society, but serves only to perpetuate old-money institutions.
      You will never find a retired programmer on the bench. You will find a trial lawyer of some 30 years experience whos outlook is based entirely on precedent(think 1970s and 1980s). This was a time of farms, banks, automobile production, petroleum embargoes, and cold war.

      90% of the serving officials in the 3 branches of government were lawyers before being elected senators, or supreme court judges, or in many cases presidents. Very very rarely will you ever see an engineer or scientist turned politician.

      We are a fundamentally misrepresented class of people. Our priorities are largely askew from the priorities of the "majority voting public". All we want is unlimited bandwidth, unlimited computing power, and to be left alone. These 3 things are very much within our technological/finacial means as a nation. If the $200billion spent on the defense budget was poured into building a broadband infrastructure we would have it. And we all know how quickly processors and storage mediums improve. Simply said there are no real technological bariers towards the implementation of what the majority of us here want.

      But none of this will happen because old-money has become aware of the threat of giving abundant resources to "everyone". They will use the legal system as a means of slowing/crippling/dismantling the "internet" until it is no longer functional.

      Said again, the "internet" is under siege from old money...and it is nothing if not a war. Throwing file-sharers in jail, patenting hyper-links, all of this is insanity...but in war you use whatever means necessary to destroy your enemy. We, and what we represent, are the enemy of old-money institutions....and they will leverage every resource in thier means to destroy us.
  • Sure, REALLY, I (or anybody else) is REALLY going to pay NCR for inventing the internet. That's like claiming the invention of the road. It's part of international infrastructure, national security, and every business in the world. If they had a snowball's chance in hell we could worry.
  • Man, am I glad I am going into intellectual property/patenet law. Going to make the dot-com bubble look like spare change. Of course, posting this message on Slashdot is going to cost me 33 cents in royalties to NCR. Back to the local BBS....
  • evidence please (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stinky wizzleteats ( 552063 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:23PM (#5290098) Homepage Journal

    (eBay, Amazon and MSFT have already licensed from NCR)

    Is there proof of this?

    • by Mitreya ( 579078 ) <mitreya&gmail,com> on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:52PM (#5290341)
      Is there proof of this?

      Of course...! Ask any of our customers who have increased their penis size by at least 3". And all the millionaires that made their money from the internet and have retired comfortably...
      Act now and you may have the same licence that Ebay, Amazon and MSFT has at 1/2 the price they paid! This is not a scam!

      This was my first reaction anyways. No proof and this claim sound suspiciously familiar to spam I regularly receive...

    • No Google search I can think of has come across this. Maybe the poster is confused with the GIF patent that Unisys holds?
  • They're going to be flooded in prior art claims. I mean, really. How many of those did they actually come up with before someone else, if any?
  • Man o man (Score:5, Funny)

    by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:24PM (#5290103)
    AlGore is gonna be pissed!
  • by Arcanix ( 140337 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:25PM (#5290111)
    US Patent #4,991,791.

    Abstract:

    "We own the Internet and anything connected to it."
  • by 680x0 ( 467210 ) <vickyNO@SPAMsteeds.com> on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:25PM (#5290112) Journal
    I'll file a patent on cluless patent examiners and make a killing in licensing to the USPTO.

    Oh, wait, there's too much prior art. Err, then again, if it didn't stop NCR, why should it stop me? :-)

  • by plover ( 150551 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:25PM (#5290116) Homepage Journal
    So apparently if you can filter a database you violate their patents?

    If Borland could find an old copy of PowerBase they could probably get this patent thrown out for prior art, and have their own patent rejected for coming 20 years too late.

    I dunno. Whining about incompetently issued patents is like whining about Microsoft or the DMCA. Good for a few quotable flames, but no real news. Move along, nothing to see here.

  • The easiest way for the masses to realize how screwed up the patent system is quality headlines such as the above.

    Now, to get this out of the technosphere and onto the front page of the NY Times.
  • by brejc8 ( 223089 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:26PM (#5290128) Homepage Journal
    The problem is that companies who pantent things which are obveousley common sence or knowledge cannot be stopped without going through the courts. I know of many companies who have patents across things they should not but I cannot do anything unless do they take me to court. And by then its too late and I can't defend my self.

    The only thing you can do is publish every idea you have no matter how stupidly obveous. (Cat overclocking hats [man.ac.uk] for example).
  • patents are an important mechanism that help spur innovation, but the patent system is too undiscerning - common methodologies, such as one-click, hyperlinks, business plans, and putting candy bars out by the checkout counter, should not be patentable.

    patents should reward true innovation, not extensions of common sense or general techniques....
  • by jj_johny ( 626460 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:28PM (#5290136)
    Just read the first one and you know they are invalid - privacy enhanced database. Maybe I am shooting in the dark but I thought this was implemented in - maybe - 1986 or even 1970. The only reason that some folks are paying up is to let someone else take on NCR and invalidate it. So this is really just another story about how the Patent Office screwed the pooch and gave patents for the equivelant of a doorknob. Yeah nobody patented it cause it was obvious once it was in use.

    You can't stop the future, you can only simulate it by stopping progress.

  • eRalph (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sstory ( 538486 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:28PM (#5290138) Homepage
    this is why in the latest Wired Ralph Nader says we shouldn't export our patent system to other countries--for all it costs, it's malfunctional, routinely issuing destructive, horrible patents.
  • How ironic... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stripmarkup ( 629598 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:30PM (#5290145) Homepage
    Patent 6085223 [uspto.gov] describes the method to look up the very same patent using the USPTO database by clicking on this url! The patent office is violating the patent!

    At least, by making patents available on the internet like this they make them sort of "open source" so that stupid patents like this one will be challenged as soon as someone finds out.
  • From patent 6,169,997 [uspto.gov] :

    The present invention correlates web page files (HTML, SHTML, DHTML, or CGI files) with subject areas (such as sports, news, entertainment, restaurant, shopping, computing, business, health, family, travel and weather)...

    Isn' t this what search engines such as Yahoo! [yahoo.com] have been doing since at least before 1996???

  • Don't Worry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thomas.galvin ( 551471 ) <slashdot&thomas-galvin,com> on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:31PM (#5290157) Homepage
    I used to say "Don't worry... there's no way anyone will take this seriously."

    Except that they are. Ebay, Amazon, etc are licensing these patents. Why? Because it's easier than fighting in court.

    But I still used to say "Don't worry... eventually, this will get bad enough, and real reform will come."

    Except the people with the money to change things are also benifiting from this situation. See Amazon's "one click" patent.

    So now I say, "start worrying." I get the very bad impression that things will get much worse before they get better.

    So, what needs to change?

    1. The legal system makes it more affordable to lie down and take it than to stand up to those who more than likely have no legal leg to stand on. This has to change.

    2. Patents protect just about everything possible. If you can do it with a computer, chances are someone, somewhere, has a copyright that you are infringing. I once saw a patent on nested for lops, for crying out loud. Software and business practices shouldn't be patentable.

    3. Lobbyists have got to go. People buy legislation. That is not democracy, and it is not right.

    4. Parties. "Go ahead, waste your vote on a third party candidate. Muahaha!" We should not have to choose between Republicrates, Democans, and Hopeless.
  • Since the topic is on crazy patents...

    Has anyone ever tried to patent the patent process itself? Heck, since such stupid things as using laser pointers as a cat toy are patentable, why not do something completely insane and patent the actual process of getting a patent.

    I can just see the waves of patent lawers out in the street screaming about how they have to now pay ME the holder of the patent on patenting royaltee's everytime they file a patent.

    As stupid as an idea this may sound, look at how stupid the patent office is already. I think someone with the balls and cash should do it, just as a wake up call to the USPO.
  • by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:33PM (#5290182) Homepage Journal
    Have you ever tried to read a patent? Trying to read a patent and not go nuts is quite a feat in some cases. They are able to make something as simple as a hair-brush sound as complicated as a jet engine. The poor guys at the patent office probably have an eye on keeping their sanity, so let these thing go through and let someone else deal with the resulting mess.
    • EXAMPLE: (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Boss, Pointy Haired ( 537010 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @04:02PM (#5290438)
      Currently, a web site stores Internet data indicating file access status for the files that have been accessed in response to requests from web browsers. Unfortunately, the Internet data are kept as a set of separate and non-correlated data records that are chronologically arranged according to the times at which the requests have been received and processed. Consequently, the Internet data are not arranged meaningful to management and business operation. The present invention correlates web page files (HTML, SHTML, DHTML, or CGI files) with subject areas (such as sports, news, entertainment, restaurant, shopping, computing, business, health, family, travel and weather). In this way, the Internet data are presented in a format meaningful to management and business operation.

      Roughly translated:

      Currently, a web site stores Internet data indicating file access status for the files that have been accessed in response to requests from web browsers.

      A log.

      Unfortunately, the Internet data are kept as a set of separate and non-correlated data records that are chronologically arranged according to the times at which the requests have been received and processed.

      A chronological log.

      Consequently, the [log] not arranged meaningful to management and business operation.

      Ok, so Boss, Pointy Haired couldn't read it. It's just a server log after all. Fine. What'ya gonna do about it, NCR?

      Well...

      The present invention correlates web page files (HTML, SHTML, DHTML, or CGI files) with subject areas (such as sports, news, entertainment, restaurant, shopping, computing, business, health, family, travel and weather).

      Cool! We can take an "Internet Data" (sorry, log) and split it up, no doubt by looking at other components of the path.

      Finally...

      In this way, the [log is] presented in a format meaningful to management and business operation.

      GEE WHIZ! They patented log file analysis.

      Go to hell NCR, and take US Patent #6,169,997 with you.
  • Jeez ... the gall! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:34PM (#5290188) Homepage Journal
    A method and apparatus for providing access to object data stored in a database management system to a receiver client. The method comprises the steps of receiving a database query from a submitting client on a first communication path, transforming the database query into database management system commands, transmitting the database management system commands to a database management system, receiving a response from the database management system comprising a media object locator, compiling an answer set comprising the database management system response, and transmitting the media object locator to the receiver client on the first communication path.

    Looking up a URL in a remote database and then using it - that describes just about everything usefull on the net (including Slashdot).

    This is definitely both in the "obvious to the prectitioner in the art" (as shown by all the people who've gone off and done it) - and also prior art (because of all the DB driven web sites out there prior to 1998)

  • Hey wait... (Score:2, Funny)

    by shadwwulf ( 145057 )
    Umm... Doesn't Al Gore have prior art on inventing the internet?
  • by Jammer@CMH ( 117977 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:35PM (#5290202)
    I haven't read all of the patents yet, but the first patent was about a database structore incorportaing cunsumer privacy wishes, and patent 6,169,997 [uspto.gov] is about categorizing web site logs for easy management. It's not about anything else.

    The abstract:

    Currently, a web site stores Internet data indicating file access status for the files that have been accessed in response to requests from web browsers. Unfortunately, the Internet data are kept as a set of separate and non-correlated data records that are chronologically arranged according to the times at which the requests have been received and processed. Consequently, the Internet data are not arranged meaningful to management and business operation. The present invention correlates web page files (HTML, SHTML, DHTML, or CGI files) with subject areas (such as sports, news, entertainment, restaurant, shopping, computing, business, health, family, travel and weather). In this way, the Internet data are presented in a format meaningful to management and business operation.
    This is not a claim on the whole of the Internet. I haven't read the rest of the patents yet (and probably won't, if the first two were this harmless), but I'd be a but suprised to find a claim covering "all of the Internet".
  • Is NCR really AT&T (Score:3, Insightful)

    by __aavonx8281 ( 149913 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:38PM (#5290227)
    from: http://www.att.com/news/0993/930922.nca.html [att.com]


    1991 - AT&T and NCR signed a definitive merger agreement in May, and the merger was completed on September 19. Product introductions included: the NCR 3600, the most powerful general-purpose computer on the market; NCR Document Management System, a general-purpose imaging system based on microprocessor technology and open, scalable systems; the NCR 3120, a notebook computer designed for mobile professionals who want feature-rich computing both in and outside the office; the NCR 3125, an advanced pen-based notepad that is the first mobile automation tool with true handwriting-recognition capabilities; and NCR Fourth Generation Self-Service Systems, which offer retail banks an unprecedented availability level of up to 99.9 percent. Charles E. Exley retired and Gilbert P. Williamson assumed the position of chairman and chief executive officer. R. Elton White was named president.



    1992 - Teradata merged with AT&T on February 28 and was functionally integrated into NCR. Groundbreaking on a new development facility for massively parallel computing takes place in San Diego. NCR and AT&T recognize one-year anniversary of successful high-tech merger. 1992 Democratic National Convention delegates vote using NCR 7054 Integrated Touch Screen Systems. Product introductions included: the NCR 3170, successor to the Safari notebook computer; the 3130 NotePad computer; the System 7000 family of MIPS RISC-based symmetric multiprocessing systems running UNIX System V 4.0; the 5688 drive-up ATM; and new ATMs capable of reading AT&T smart cards.

    • by cetan ( 61150 )
      That's funny because the bottom of the page says something very different:


      On December 31, 1996, AT&T Global Information Solutions (which was originally known as NCR) was spun off from AT&T into an independent company known as NCR Corp. For information about NCR's products and services, visit the NCR website.

  • Prior Art (Score:3, Informative)

    by slipandfall ( 580688 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:38PM (#5290230)
    6,253,203 Privacy-enhanced database
    Every web site

    6,169,997: Method and apparatus for forming subject (context) map and presenting Internet data according to the subject map
    WebTrends

    6,151,601: Computer architecture and method for collecting, analyzing and/or transforming internet and/or electronic commerce data for storage into a data storage area
    WebTrends

    6,085,223: Method and apparatus for providing database information to non-requesting clients
    Marimba/Castanet

    Take that to court!
  • Be serious, those patents are about security and privacy...
  • Please, no more "Al Gore created the Internet" quips. Y'all think you're being clever, but that horse is long since dead, and most of the blunt trauma suffered by the carcass clearly occurred after death.

    Find a new joke.
  • Does that mean they claim a patent on grep? In 1998?

    Does Ken Thompson know about this?

    KFG
  • by szquirrel ( 140575 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:42PM (#5290269) Homepage
    How is this not the lead story on every site? every day? Maybe because no one wants to get sued for having an online business.

    Or maybe, just maybe now, because it's a complete non-story. If these patent claims are so ludicrous then they will never stand up to a serious challange. You say the USPTO grants some silly patents? So what else is new? Call me back when any of these manages to survive a day in court.

    Isn't this story early? I thought we did patent hysteria on Thursdays.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I thought we did patent hysteria on Thursdays.

      Nope. That's duplicate story day.

    • I think you misunderstand a few key elements of patent law. The USPTO's own act of issuing a patent in the first place creates a very high legal standard for anyone to pass; the courts has repeatedly held( whether corrctly or not )that the USPTO is a competent organization that *generally* issues valid patents.

      In other words, the courts tend to assume at the beginning of ANY legal action that the USPTO issued the patent correctly. This places the burden of proof( and a very heavy burden, at that )on the hopeful patent-breaker to prove( more or less to the same standard of "reasonable doubt" in criminal law )that the patent's claims are invalid due to illegality or prior art.

      Obviousness is a VERY difficult argument to win once a patent has been issued.

      So in a nutshell, if the USPTO has already issued a patent, it's really damn hard to get it reversed. It takes lots of time, money, and a HELL of a lot of evidence and valid argumentation.
  • by alexander.morgan ( 317764 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:44PM (#5290276)
    This sort of a patent is good news overall, because it will give anti-patent advocates yet another argument against patents, and perhaps Congress will get a wakeup call from the people they fear the most--ordinary voters motivated to cause change. The people did win the vitamin battle against well connected and rich corporations. Who says we can't win the patent battle?

    Unfortunately, this type of patents is also good news for large corporations. Sure they might have to pay a few dollars here and there, but it keeps that pesky innovation from the small players at bay, and that's the biggest threat to the established order--not patents from another stagnant mega corp. So it's dumb for a big company to fight this kind of patent. For them, patent payments are just musical chairs.
  • 6,253,203 Privacy-enhanced database

    This patent amounts to "select * from tbl where tbl.give_my_email_address_to_others = false".

    Seriously. That's the whole thing. Read it.
  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoi@nospAm.yahoo.com> on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:53PM (#5290361) Homepage Journal
    Patents are for actual physical objects.
    Copyrights are for a particular expression of an idea.
    Should I be able to patent a song? What about one about DCSS? Can I patent an office furniture layout? How about one that improves productivity? Can I patent Grep? How about a perl script that does the same thing?? What is the dividing line between copyright and patents?

    All this points to needed overhaul of the US Patent system. Why haven't they changed it? Hell, let the companies and individuals fight it out, as long as the Patent office gets money, and too much of it as well.

  • recoupable costs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @03:57PM (#5290396) Homepage
    Nothing is going to change until we start suing the patent office to recoup costs on claims related to gross negligence on the part of the patent office. A method by which a remote client can query a database and recieve a result? We're not talking about a child on a swing here, we're talking about patenting things for which entire industries have existed since the 70's. This is gross negligence of the highest order, with prior art just a quick altavista search away. Come to think of it, Altavista is prior art.

    This gross negligence on the part of the patent office is costing companies and consumers millions of dollars, while adding absolutely nothing to the general pool of knowledge. If the underfunded patent office found it was more resource-efficient to hire competent personel than it would be to simply fail at their appointed task, then we wouldn't have these sorts of problems.

    I say we get a class-action suit against the patent office. Any lawyers with me?
    • I say we get a class-action suit against the patent office. Any lawyers with me?

      Lawyers on /.? I wish. They're too busy making the news we all talk about so much.

      Nothing is going to change until we start suing the patent office to recoup costs on claims related to gross negligence on the part of the patent office.

      An excellent idea. Unfortunately, this wouldn't work. The patent office being horribly underfunded, as you said, there would be no money to gain by suing it. This doesn't really mean that suing it would be unsuccessful--after all, by taking away what little money it has we would obvioulsy punish it and make it stop this stupid behavior, and we might be able to shut it down entirely. However, the fact that no money would be awarded to us means that no lawyer would want to take on the case.

      Find a lawyer who'll work for free, and this'll become a viable idea. That should happen sometime around when hell freezes over.
      • Re:recoupable costs (Score:3, Informative)

        by HiThere ( 15173 )
        You need the permission of the federal govt. before you can sue it. Sorry. That's in the constitution.

        I know that they ignore most parts of it, but you can be sure that that's one part they won't ignore.

  • by dark-br ( 473115 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @04:07PM (#5290486) Homepage
    http://www.uspto.gov/ appears to violate all those patents itself !
  • by Yekrats ( 116068 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @04:10PM (#5290508) Homepage
    Are you hankerin' for a new patent idea? Fill in the blank...

    "Exactly like _________, except it's on the Internet!"

    NCR Corporation provides us with some examples to get you going:
    • Exactly like a database, except it's on the Internet.
    • Exactly like a secure database, except it's on the Internet.
    • Exactly like a commerce database, except it's on the Internet.
    • Exactly like a database client, except it's on the Internet.
    • Exactly like computer security, except it's on the Internet.
    Thanks, NCR!
  • by magnum3065 ( 410727 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @04:12PM (#5290517)
    In Australia some lawyer obtained a patent to the wheel back in 2001. Here it is! [ipmenu.com] He took advantage of a new program for 8 year "Innovation Patents" which basically don't get reviewed. This was basically a stunt to prove that the new program was flawed.
  • by stinky wizzleteats ( 552063 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @04:28PM (#5290673) Homepage Journal

    I think I will patent a system for the production of specific enzymes through the use of transportable and duplicable molecular combinations through polymerase enzymes.

    I will then demand license fees for the operation of DNA in every lifeform on Earth.

  • by troutman ( 26963 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @04:59PM (#5290960) Homepage
    A client of ours just had a very similar thing happen to them, with Divine's supposed patent on shopping cart technology, which is also insane.

    unfortunately, they had to settle eventually to get back to business. We did put together a website to try to help fight Divine, and intend to continue the effort ourselves. And expect to get targeted by divine as well.

    scum sucking lawyers are making most of the money off of these things, not the companies who hold the patents.

    check out the history of the divine issue here:

    http://www.divineintervention.biz/

  • by jbischof ( 139557 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @05:08PM (#5291016) Journal
    for legal fee's, court costs, and wasted employee time for knowingly trying to copywright things that they didn't create and prior art clearly exists for.

    It is ILLEGAL to steal money and to cause monetary damage to other companies (*ahem*hacking,sharing mp3s,violating DMCA*ahem*) and this is no different. They should be held responsible for their actions.

  • by techstar25 ( 556988 ) <techstar25&cfl,rr,com> on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @05:43PM (#5291280) Homepage Journal
    I remember using Windows 95 to access MSN and probably Amazon before Windows 98 existed, so therefore it was before '98 (when these patents were granted). I don't understand how they could claim they invented such things in '98. Surely the patent office has made mistakes before and should be held accountable. Somebody there just didn't do their homework. Here are the facts: Amazon started in 1996 and Ebay started in 1995, according to the copyright statement at the bottom of their homepages(for what that's worth).
  • by Eric Damron ( 553630 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @05:55PM (#5291366)
    Let them patent it all! After we have litigated ourselves into last place in the computer tech race maybe our lawmakers will get a clue and realize that software patents stifle innovation!
  • by thumbtack ( 445103 ) <thumbtack&juno,com> on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @07:07PM (#5291827)
    Did Al Gore ever work for NCR?
  • by Dynedain ( 141758 ) <slashdot2@NOSPAm.anthonymclin.com> on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @09:32PM (#5292531) Homepage
    #6,253,203 - June 26, 2001
    A database containing personal privacy prefferences.
    I distictly remember setting AOL privacy prefferences in 1996...dont even try to tell me they didn't use a database to track that

    #6,169,997 - January 2, 2001
    Category viewing of portal content such as News, Sports, Weather, etc instead of simple chronological organization.
    I signed up for my Yahoo! ID in fall 1997.....

    #6,151,601 - November 21, 2000
    This one uses the words "collecting" "transformation" "organization" and "transmitting" so many times I can't even understand it. However, it appears to be for using a database system to analyze network traffic at the ISP level.
    I don't know the inner workings of AOL or any other major ISP, but I'm betting they've been using these type of systems for a loooong time.

    #6,085,223 - July 4, 2000
    This is for connecting a client to a database through a seperate step, seperating the client and the database.
    One acronym to defeat this one: ODBC

    #5,991,791 - November 23, 1999
    A database system to catalog a bunch of stuff...whether digital or not, and to deliver it when requested..
    My local public library had everything on an electronic catalog waaaaaay back in 1990. And vending machines delivered me content on request as well.

    There's your prior art - run with it
  • by kisrael ( 134664 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2003 @10:28PM (#5292763) Homepage
    Well, thankgoodnes they took out these patents... otherwise we wouldn't have keyword searching or product categorization or anything in between! Online shopping would suck! Yay NCR.
  • by geoff lane ( 93738 ) on Thursday February 13, 2003 @05:29AM (#5293440)
    that the US patent office appears to equate original to "I, the patent officer, don't know this already."

    The US patent system is being used as a land-grab operation. Companies that are unable to actually create anything for themselves just patent any old idea and then wait for the license fees.

    There should be a return to the old days. If you want a patent, turn up at the patent office with a working example of your idea...

On a clear disk you can seek forever.

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