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Patents

SBC Getting Aggressive With Frames Patent 444

mpthompson writes "Aspects of the SBC patent shakedown were covered previously on SlashDot, but the following article has more details including the royalty fee schedules on the two patents that SBC is seeking to enforce against web sites that utilize frames in their design. In short, SBC has asserted that it is the exclusive owner of a technology for "structured document" browsing - the use of frames to provide hyperlinks to documents displayed by a browser. Apparently the strategy by SBC is to set precedent against small web sites that will presumably capitulate before going after the big guys. Based on the fee schedule, SBC seems to be pretty serious about this whole patent thing and may not go away so easily."
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SBC Getting Aggressive With Frames Patent

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  • Browsers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @05:57PM (#5848061)
    Web sites don't use frames. Web browsers use frames. Web site author doesn't know how it will be renderred.
    • Re:Browsers (Score:5, Funny)

      by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara,hudson&barbara-hudson,com> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @05:58PM (#5848080) Journal
      You shouldn't have posted this as an Ac. Their patent is defective specifically because of this.

      If they go after you, plead innocense - say "I've been framed!".

    • Re:Browsers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara,hudson&barbara-hudson,com> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:04PM (#5848154) Journal
      quote from the patent:

      b) automatically displaying a plurality of selectors in the user interface of the browser and not in the document, the plurality of selectors automatically configured to correspond to respective sections of the document regardless of what section of the document is being displayed;

      Sounds more like bookmarks or menus (displaying in the user interface of the browser and not the document) than frames. Methinks their patent is too broad to stand up. After all, software has been using bookmarks in the UI for decades. Think of outline editors, for example, or windowing interfaces.

      • Re:Browsers (Score:3, Funny)

        by Randolpho ( 628485 )
        Too broad to stand up? Heh... you must not be overly familiar with the U.S. Patent system... :D
      • Re:Browsers (Score:2, Funny)

        by haystor ( 102186 )
        Just out of curiousity, is "plurality" a required word in patents?
        • Re:Browsers (Score:5, Funny)

          by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Thursday May 01, 2003 @12:58AM (#5850587)
          Just out of curiousity, is "plurality" a required word in patents?

          Yes. I've been involved with several patent applications. The process basically consists of paying some attorneys $200/hr to read your design documents, reformat them in a monospaced courier font with line numbers added, edit your diagrams to replace all text labels with numbers, insert one of these index numbers after every noun in the document, and, most importantly, insert the phrase "a plurality of" in front of every plural noun.

      • Re:Browsers (Score:5, Interesting)

        by satch89450 ( 186046 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:52PM (#5849452) Homepage

        Actually, it sounds like this patent description is describing the outline display used in Adobe Acrobat -- you have navigation on the left side that doesn't change (much) as you work your way through the document in the right-hand window.

        Now there would be a fight.

      • Cases like this should get a vote from the people in the technical community. If over 90% say this case is bullshit, the plaintiff should be publicly humiliated, stripped of their assets, and forced to leave the country.
    • Re:Browsers (Score:5, Funny)

      by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:05PM (#5848165) Homepage Journal
      "Web sites don't use frames. Web browsers use frames. Web site author doesn't know how it will be renderred. "

      Mp3 files don't use the MP3 codec, Mp3 players use the MP3 codec. The .MP3 author doesn't know how it will be played back.

    • Re:Browsers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:14PM (#5848263)
      "Web sites don't use frames. Web browsers use frames. Web site author doesn't know how it will be renderred."

      This sounds 'informative' util you think about it. The author is intentionally implementing the feature in question. He knows very well what he's doing to the browser because he's intending for that to happen. You don't just use frame code and cross your fingers that it'll do what you have in mind.

      This patent is silly, but this reasoning isn't helping.
      • Re:Browsers (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Alan ( 347 )
        Not that I want to start a flame war here (well, I do have karma to burn) but isn't that like saying
        "you should charge everyone who manufactures handguns, because they are intended to kill people, and that is murder"?

        Just because something is designed to do something (ie: render in a frame, kill something) doesn't mean everyone who uses it will do it that way. What if the world all used text browers (not links), you could have frames on your site but they'd never get rendered or used, would that exclude y
      • Re:Browsers (Score:3, Interesting)

        by angle_slam ( 623817 )
        But if the web designer didn't create the actual tool, are they infringing?

        Let's say the patent covers a browser that implements frames. You are a web site designer that uses frames. Why should you be held liable? Analogy: If Sears stole a wrench invention and I used bought the infringing wrench and used it to change the spark plugs in my car, why should I be held liable?

        Of course, an inventor of the wrench would not go after me, they would go after Sears, the deep pocket. It seems that SBC wants to go afte

    • by phorm ( 591458 )
      In such a short comment, you've come with an astonishly and surprisingly easy arguement against such a court action.

      It brings about the arguement: Where do HTML elements come from. Is a frame a component of
      a) A website
      b) A browser
      c) The HTML standard

      In reality, I think that (b) is the best answer- [since not all browsers do frames - , and (c) is a close second.
      I mean, really, if you look at it. The website simply throws out a bunch of codewords to a client. The codewords are written in HTML format.
      • If you can't make money by selling then make it by litigating. I believe that frames don't meet the patent requirement of "nonobvious." Your point about frames existing prior to the Internet pretty much locks up the argument. That's a pretty critical requirement to qualify for a patent. It's depressing to see corporations get away with this kind of crap. That said, using frames is not a very good method of site design anyway. Can't wait until some jerk patents breathing.
    • by angle_slam ( 623817 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:26PM (#5848372)
      Here are links to the the actual patents in question: 5,933,841 [uspto.gov] and 6,442,574 [uspto.gov].

      Claim 1 of the first patent claims, "a browser for viewing documents having embedded codes . . ." The other claims also seem to be specific to browsers, not documents (a web site designer creates documents, not browsers).

      At first glance, it does appear that SBC should be going after Netscape and Internet Explorer. Of course, Netscape is owned by AOL/Time Warner and IE is owned by Microsoft.

      • Hehe, given both of those companies bank accounts one'll probably just buy SBC and ruin the other.
      • Re:Is this legal? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @07:32PM (#5848894) Journal
        Frames are an open standard by w3c. [w3.org]SBC does not own it since they did not develop it. Is this tactic that SBC is using legal?

        The whole point of the wc3 existance is to prevent this and encourage innovation and a level playing field on the web.

        Sbc claims sounds borderline fraudulant.

        Its like the equilivant of me pointing at your car, claiming ownership and then demanding you pay me to use it or i will sue. You can not claim something unless you developed it or bought it. No exceptions!

        Patents are designed to protect investments of bussinesses who do R&D as well as encourage arts and sciences of individuals. Since no R&D happened at SBC they should of not been granted a patent. If there is no law on this then we need to talk to our representatives on this. Because someone can claim anything they like and if they have big pockets then they legally (steal) it.

        SBC also is the assh*le who is corrupting our state governments for deregulation and screwing our tax dollars. The other baby bells are mostly silent. They are being paid for by the government and our tax dollars to install fiber under our streets and they will not turn it on unless the market is deregulated and all competition is wiped out. They are the Microsoft and the RIAA of the telecommunication industry.

        They are using our own tax dollars to screw us over and monopolize communication.

  • so use tables. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @05:57PM (#5848066)
    Tables nearly always work better than frames.
    • by Hayzeus ( 596826 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:04PM (#5848146) Homepage
      Tables nearly always work better than frames

      Yes -- and you'll find that MY royalty fee schedule is MUCH more reasonable than SBCs.

    • Frames suck. Especially since your page usually gets fucked up when indexed by search engines -- the engine will normally see your main page and link to it outside of the frame, requiring some pain and suffering to detect and undo.

      Frames are also one of those things that has been ruined by idiots using a poor implementation. So many people use bad frames that, for example, render with a scroll bar or something else annoying.

      And nobody uses them these days -- I see a site using frames and think, "Six yea
    • or use CSS (Score:4, Informative)

      by yintercept ( 517362 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:13PM (#5848259) Homepage Journal
      ...as tables were designed intended for tabular data, the W3C would prefer to see people use CSS.
    • Actually, ArcWeb, a famous free web browser for RiscOS couldn't render tables but easily rendered frames. :)
    • Re:so use tables. (Score:3, Flamebait)

      by ncc74656 ( 45571 )
      Tables nearly always work better than frames.

      CSS works even better, as long as you use a browser with a decent CSS implementation. (A browser that doesn't grok CSS [browser.org] can still do an acceptable job with the site if the underlying HTML is clean enough...that's why separating content from layout is a Good Thing.)

      • This is off topic except for the parent's sig. Please excuse the spelling errors, and the use of paranthethis (I like 'em!)

        I like your sig link. It made me think, especially the part about reversing the number of Muslims and Jews. I do not think that it would be an exact opposite, but I do think that the prevalence of democratic vs. dictatorships would reduce the level of violence considerably. Of course these assholes (the dictators/kings/etc) do not want to give up their power. I just can not figure
  • Netscape (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Pres. Ronald Reagan ( 659566 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @05:58PM (#5848072)
    Netscape Navigator 2.0 first implimented frames as we know them today. If Netscape infringed on SBC's patent when they "came up" with the idea for frames, then shouldn't they be the ones held responsible here?
    • but netscape doesn't have money... they want money... so why not sue the people that use the feature offered to them? welcome to america, party of 1.
    • Re:Netscape (Score:5, Informative)

      by signe ( 64498 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:12PM (#5848244) Homepage
      Actually, seeing as Navigator 2.0 was released in February, 1996, and the patents have invention dates of May, 1996 at the earliest, Netscape seems to be prior art.

      -Todd
      • I thought frames weren't part of the browser until 3.0 came out. If I remember correctly, Netscape 2 had the ultra-ugly 'N' that had the "push in, push out" appearance, and the browser didn't support colored backgrounds or frames. I think I remember when frames came into existance, and I think it was with version 3.

        But I could be wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.
      • > Actually, seeing as Navigator 2.0 was released in February, 1996, and the patents have invention dates of May, 1996 at
        > the earliest, Netscape seems to be prior art.

        Err, IIRC Netscape 2.0 came out in the summer of 1995. And as I was working at Stream at the time, answering calls about Netscape's box edition, it's likely that my memory is correct.

        In any case, googling comp.lang.javascript ought to furnish clear evidence when Netscape first implemented frames in their browser.

        Geoff
      • Re:Netscape (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jonbrewer ( 11894 ) *
        Actually, seeing as Navigator 2.0 was released in February, 1996, and the patents have invention dates of May, 1996 at the earliest, Netscape seems to be prior art.

        In fact, alpha versions of Navigator 2.0 were supporting frames as early as September of 1995 - and I had a number of frames-enabled sites running by the time it released.
  • by otterpop378 ( 254386 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:00PM (#5848099)
    I didnt violate the patent.... I WAS FRAMED!!
  • by bombkit ( 621668 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:00PM (#5848103) Homepage
    In other news, Microsoft patents the numbers 0 & 1, rendering all computer code their sole property..
  • by burgburgburg ( 574866 ) <splisken06NO@SPAMemail.com> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:00PM (#5848106)
    will any big entities threatened by these astonishingly silly actions join together to get this permanently invalidated?
  • Heh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by B3ryllium ( 571199 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:00PM (#5848107) Homepage
    Who uses frames anyways? They are SO three generations ago.

    Current web admins use CSS and positioning.

    Previous web admins (well, me, and I think slashdot and sourceforge and such) use tables.

    Frames are (or at least should be) extinct.
    • Re:Heh (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NineNine ( 235196 )
      Different tools for different jobs. I use 'em in a few places because they're the best solution.
    • Re:Heh (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jkorty ( 86242 )
      Who uses wheels anyway? They are SO three thousand generations ago.

      Simplicity counts for something, you know.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:01PM (#5848117) Homepage
    I thought that everyone had either gone forward to style sheets or back to tables.

    HTML has, but doesn't need, three completely different mechanisms for dividing a page into nested rectangles. This might be a good excuse to dump frames.

    • by coyote-san ( 38515 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @07:01PM (#5848681)
      > This might be a good excuse to dump frames.

      Never let the assholes win. If browsers and web authors dropped frames "because of this patent," then they'll use the same patent to go after tables and explicit positioning and it will be a lot harder to defend against the claims.

      I don't know the wording of the SBC patent, but I can guarantee it doesn't say anything at all about the <FRAME> tag. It refers to some unspecified mechanism for formatting text, combining it from different places, etc., and any decent lawyer can stretch it cover pretty much anything you can name.

      The only way to stop this crap is to make it hurt when someone (corporation or greedy individual) makes excessive claims.
    • I thought that everyone had either gone forward to style sheets or back to tables.

      Actually, frames are more useful today than ever: In today's world where web pages are more like application interfaces than information displays, frames are a great way to avoid reloading things, because they encapsulate the frame content as a separate URL. DOM/CSS/JavaScript/XSLT and the like will make frames more, not less common. Check some of the more davanced uses of these technologies, and you'll find them wrapped
  • by Christianfreak ( 100697 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:02PM (#5848131) Homepage Journal
    IANAL of course but wouldn't it seem that these suits against small websites should be thrown out because they didn't create the technology, they simply used it, under the presumption that it was safe since it was released by Netscape for free.

    SBC should sue AOL Time Warner as the current owners of Netscape, there is no way that anyone else should be liable for using a technology that was released to them.

    Stupid patents.
  • by redheaded_stepchild ( 629363 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:03PM (#5848134)
    A representative claim of SBC's '574 patent, independent Claim 7, recites a method for navigating a document having multiple sections. The claimed method comprises the steps of: (a) displaying a document with a browser comprising a user interface; (b) automatically displaying a plurality of selectors in the user interface of the browser and not in the document, the plurality of selectors automatically configured to correspond to respective sections of the document regardless of what section of the document is being displayed; (c) receiving a selection of one of the plurality of selectors; and (d) displaying a section of the document that corresponds to the selector selected in (c). So in other words, if I have any kind of navigation on my page, I'll have to pay SBC? This looks more like a patent for webpages, not just frames. And did anyone else notice the lawyer-troll's name? It's Petty. 'nuff said.
    • Actually (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fluxrad ( 125130 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:39PM (#5848481) Homepage
      Reading that, it does look like "name" and "target" tags would also be covered.

      My only question is this: what separates the "user interface" from the "document" portions of the browser?
    • It also looks like any one of a number of help systems may qualify, including Apple Help and Microsoft Help. I remember the old MSDN CD's which would show a table of contents to the left and the document you selected in a large right-hand pane. There was even a search facility. Sounds a lot like what is being covered by this patent. Prior art out the wazoo.
  • GO SBC! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:03PM (#5848139)
    While I would generally complain about a company wielding its patents in this way, I can't help but think that SBC has nothing but honorable intentions. Their fee schedule clearly shows they don't want anyone to pay and merely want to rid the web of that evil known as "frames." GO SBC!
  • usually (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland@NospaM.yahoo.com> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:04PM (#5848149) Homepage Journal
    they will go after a big guy, settle for a dollar, then use that as 'proof' that there patent is valid.
  • by cob666 ( 656740 )
    Isn't frames actually part of the HTML specification? If so, then it would seem like they should try to have the HTML specifications modified to remove frames. I don't see how a concept based on what can be done with HTML can be covered under copywrite law!
    • No, frames are part of the web browser. This is stupid, SBC is only going after the websites because they have the money. All the websites are doing is distributing HTML and some images. HTML has something like "Some other stuff" in it. Now if you can extort millions of dollars from a company for using the word "" then there is something REALLY messed up with the patent system in the U.S.

      I mean really, small companies should not even have to bother going to court over something trivial like this! They shou
  • then again... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by backlonthethird ( 470424 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:05PM (#5848166)
    ...is the end of frames on the web a bad thing?
    • Re:then again... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Wakkow ( 52585 ) * on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @07:10PM (#5848750) Homepage
      Has anyone actually LOOKED at the site [museumtour.com] that got the letter from SBC? They don't use frames.. The term "frames" according to SBC means more than you might think.. Here's a quote:

      The letter suggests that any website which has static, linked information (top banners, menus, bottom banners) which are displayed while other sections of the page are displayed as non-static (the area where products appear on most websites) infringes upon the patents they hold.

      Doesn't that pretty much cover ALL websites?

  • a-HAH! (Score:5, Funny)

    by bravehamster ( 44836 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:05PM (#5848170) Homepage Journal
    Now I know who to blame for that horrible frame nesting experience of 1997. 12 frames deep, with a blink tag and a java applet loading over a 14.4 baud connection from Japan. I've been scarred ever since. I think I have grounds for a lawsuit against SBC.

  • by PD ( 9577 ) * <slashdotlinux@pdrap.org> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:06PM (#5848176) Homepage Journal
    It's about having navigation links on all the pages of a site that don't change, but part of the page does change. For an example of this, see slashdot.org where there's a list of links on the left side, but the rest of the content changes. CNN does the same thing.

    This patent is evil.
    • It's about having navigation links on all the pages of a site that don't change, but part of the page does change. For an example of this, see slashdot.org where there's a list of links on the left side, but the rest of the content changes. CNN does the same thing.

      I think books do that too. Ever notice that the page number shows up in the same spot on each page (well facing pages usually mirror, but still)? And the navigational elements along the headers and footers, things like the the name of the book,

  • by MisterMook ( 634297 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:06PM (#5848181) Homepage
    SBC actually stands for Syrian Biologicalweapons Command, a terrorist organization. They also have plotted to kill Ashcroft's dad, made deals to sell their nuclear frames technology to Osama Bin Laden, and are behind recent cat disappearances in Des Moines. Boy, I'm sure glad the Patriot Act is in effect. I bet in a few hours those guys will fall off the map forever without a trial.
  • Generally, I find frames to be abhorrent, so I'm wouldn't be concerned, except that Eclipse uses frames [eclipse.org].

    Hopefully, this will cause the eclipse folks to re-think this piece of "architecture".

    This is, of course, discounting the point that others have raised that browsers use frames. Web servers just serve up code that is not rendered in any particular format until a browser hits it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:09PM (#5848216)
    Robert X. Cringely, the PBS Tech columnist [pbs.org], has already refuted this patent. See his article: "We've been framed." [pbs.org]
    • Refuting the SBC patent claims in an article is one thing. Refuting the claims in a court of law is quite another. This is going to cost small sites like museumtour.com real money to fight. If they capitulate and pay the damn licensing fee to SBC then precedent will be set and it will cost that much more for the next round of victims. And so on, and so on...

      The game SBC is playing creates a pretty pernicious circle that works to the benefit of those with deep pockets. The best we can hope for is that
      • by Anonymous Coward
        If they capitulate and pay the damn licensing fee to SBC then precedent will be set and it will cost that much more for the next round of victims.

        museumtour.com cannot set a legal precedent- only a judge can do that. No matter how many people caved and paid off SBC before going to court, if a judge finds that the patent is invalid, then it is invalid. Whether or not museumtour.com capitulates has no bearing on the legality of the patent.

    • by phillymjs ( 234426 ) <slashdot@st[ ]o.org ['ang' in gap]> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:33PM (#5848436) Homepage Journal
      ...columnist Dave Barry [davebarry.com] has sued Robert Cringely for the unauthorized use of the sentence "I am not making this up" immediately following a statement whose content is patently unbelievable but is, in fact, true.

      ~Philly
  • The choice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jmv ( 93421 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:13PM (#5848251) Homepage
    That means that site will have the choice between:
    1) Give money to SBC
    2) Get sued
    3) Stop using frames

    Guess which one's simpler (hint, 3)? I don't think they'll make a dime out of it because unlike gif (at least at some point) or hyperlinks, it's not an essential technology for the web.
    • Hint Hint (Score:3, Informative)

      by recursiv ( 324497 )
      Look at the web page. The slashdot writeup is wrong. They're not using frames. What SBC objects to is their use of static header info at the top of every page. (pretty much every web page)
  • Hold up, wait... this might just be a blessing is disguise. No more frames.. w00t! And such a good reason.

  • Prior art (Score:2, Informative)

    by hamsterboy ( 218246 )
    Some quick googling turns up these facts:

    Sounds like more Rambus gouging goodness.

    Hamster

  • Not just frames (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NukeIear ( 307760 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:20PM (#5848322) Homepage
    From Museum Tour [museumtour.com]

    "The letter suggests that any website which has static, linked information (top banners, menus, bottom banners) which are displayed while other sections of the page are displayed as non-static (the area where products appear on most websites) infringes upon the patents they hold."

    And indeed, Museum Tour is being sued and does not use frames. Thus nearly any site that uses templates is subject to litigation.
  • Both patents cover a "structured document browser" having an invention date at least as early as May 1996...

    If this patent really covers frames - as some already has suggested it don't - wasn't the FRAME-tag a part of the HTML-spec before 1996? I made my first website in the fall of 1995, and I'm fairly certain I recall using frames on that one... Anyone has some solid info here?

  • This stuff makes my blood boil. Perhaps someone could start a non-profit organization to combat these abuses. If they sold annual memberships at $25 they might be able to get enough geeks to join (I know I would), and enough private donations from real innovators in the technology industry, to hire a couple of people full-time and to get some real legal expertise.

    Helping defeat these patents would be a public service of real and immediate benefit to us all.

    Either that or start kidnapping some USPTO offi

    • This is what bugs me about the human race... everyone expects other people to do things for them.

      Here's an Idea. *YOU* start this NPO. If you have paypal donations, I will become a member, and donate $75.

      I would, but I'm in Canada, and our patent law isn't insane, not to mention that it's not my idea.
  • by randomned ( 669691 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:22PM (#5848338) Homepage
    SBC's patent doesn't just include frames done by the <frame> tag, it includes any web page that has a static menubar, header, etc...including slashdot, any page created with M$ FrontPage (although why someone would I don't know...but that's for another topic)...virtually every page on the internet, is potentially covered...scary, thought doubtful that SBC will get anywhere with it...
  • The second web site I wrote used this amazing technology. I wrote it in 1995.

    I don't see finding prior art on this one to be that great of a problem. The patent was applied for in May of 96. Netscape 2.0 went beta in October of 1995. Every introductory tutorial on frames used this application as the primary example.

  • by Ja-Ja-Jamin ( 661760 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:25PM (#5848357)
    You guys don't get it, they patented navigation that constantly appears on each "page" of the "document" - regardless of how it's rendered. This also covers SSI, DHTML, etc, and even just simply copying and pasting the navigation to each "page". Can we sue the Patent office for destroying the Internet? -- If you think open source caused a stir, what until OpenData(TM) catches on!
  • lots of prior art (Score:5, Informative)

    by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:25PM (#5848363)
    There is so much prior art for this that it isn't funny: lots of document browsers, WYSIWYG text editors, etc., had user interface features that provided this kind of navigational support.

    The HTML Menu package version 4.7, announced on USENET in January 1995 [google.com] contained support for generating frame-based navigational elements.

    HTML 3.0, published in 1995, may not have standardized frames, but it did standardize the LINK element, which also constitutes prior art for this patent.

    Of course, this isn't even a question of prior art, it's a question of obviousness.

  • ...that this patent is legal, or infact actually even exists. For one thing. it's like saying a large corporation who didn't develop photography technology patents the B&W photograph after people have been taking photos for 100 years with cameras the company doesn't even produce (and then charging the amateur photographer a fee for every picture he takes!). The article states:

    SBC Communication's claim of ownership for a common Web site formatting tool is based on a pair of patents, U.S. Patent No.
  • Anybody here who is an SBC customer should seriously consider sending them something like what I just sent to them:

    This is a complaint.

    How can SBC consider itself in the right in this matter?

    Your actions may lose you a customer due to clear bad-faith actions by your legal department. Please cease this madness immediately!

    http://www2.museumtour.com/sbc.html
  • PriorArt (Score:5, Informative)

    by stevenp ( 610846 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:33PM (#5848438)
    >> SBC Communication's claim of ownership for a common Web site formatting tool is based on a pair of patents, U.S. Patent No. 5,933,841, having a grant date of August 1999, and U.S. Patent No. 6,442,574, which issued three years later in 2002. Both patents cover a "structured document browser" having an invention date at least as early as May 1996, which is the filing date for both the original application that matured into the '841 patent and the continuation application that resulted in the '574 patent.

    In related news:
    >> February 1996
    >> Netscape Releases Netscape Navigator 2.0
    >> Netscape Communications recently released Netscape Navigator 2.0, a major new version of its popular client software for the Internet. This official release version runs under Macintosh, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows NT, and X Window System operating environments.

    The Netscape Navigator 2.0 which allows the use of frames is released 3 months before the SBC-s applications are filed. The filing for the patent happens even 3 years later.
    What are they thinking???
  • by akiaki007 ( 148804 ) <aa316@ny[ ]du ['u.e' in gap]> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:34PM (#5848445)
    as in the <frame> tag that most people are referring to. The patent in question is about more than 1 web-page using a "static" menu which makes it look like part of the web-page does not change. That part of the page is called a "Frame." Also, this article is rather old...check this. [kslaw.com]

    Also, to the person that said that the browser is the thing that uses frames, what a silly statement. Clearly you didn't read the patent either, and the comment should be modded down. Again, the patent is on using static content (such as a menu) which remains through a series of pages (more than 1) where by simulating what one would call a Frame. <frame> is just an easier way to do this, which is why it was created and used.
  • by havaloc ( 50551 ) * on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:35PM (#5848448) Homepage
    Read this article [fortune.com], and see if you still respect SBC (if you still did). Selected highlights...
    • 2 1/2-hour meeting, he chided the commissioners for forcing him to rent his phone network to competitors at cut-rate prices. Their actions were ruining SBC's profits and diminishing its ability to compete, he said. In his trademark unhurried Texas cadence--and with his trademark directness--Whitacre explained that their actions would come back to haunt them. Keep the rates low, he warned testily, and SBC would be forced to start firing its Michigan employees. Within several quarters, the telco might even be bankrupt.
    • one-man crusade to repeal federal rules that require SBC to resell its network at deep discounts. He decried the regulations in speeches to investors and trade groups. He sat with federal policymakers, members of Congress, and newspaper editorial boards. In each meeting he trotted out the same stats: SBC was losing over 12,000 customers a day, revenue had dropped more than $1 billion in the first half of 2002, and the company was cutting jobs--20,000 of them in 2002.
    • "The FCC ruling sends a terrible message to businesses across every sector. It simply isn't fair," he says. "But they'll say I'm whining."
    • Something tells me that SBC probably has an Enron, Qwest, or Worldcom size financial scandal hiding in its books somewhere.

      I sure hope these assholes go down, nothing like a little accounting and securities fraud.
  • Prior Art (Score:2, Interesting)

    by drmike0099 ( 625308 )
    I've actually contacted the company mentioned in the article (museumtour) to let them know that I have prior art. Frames were around before that time, and I actually was translating old Hypercard programs into web pages (and maintaining their look and feel) while using frames. They responded that they were evaluating their legal options and I haven't heard from them since.

    SBC is really sticking their neck out, and is using their legal slush fund to try and wrangle something they shouldn't have in the fir
  • Kim Jong-il: Ooh! Ooh! We use frames! We use frames! Look at us, damnit! We've got tons of pages with frames!
  • There is prior art, in early mainframe systems ... help file or client record stayed in one frame (area of the screen) while navigation fields were in another. You had to tab to the field, but that's because mice had not been invented yet.

    If I look at a site with code for FRAMES with a browser that does not support them, I do not see the frames. It takes a combination of the various BROWSERS and the HTML CODE from the site to make this so-called infringing applicaiton show up.

    Maybe they should sue Microsoft forenableing the infringement by having MSIE support frames.

  • by blunte ( 183182 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:53PM (#5848606)

    God will roast their stomachs in hell...

  • OpenDoc. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcrNO@SPAMmac.com> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @07:28PM (#5848869) Journal
    What's the date on the patent? Seems to me OpenDoc was doing something pretty much like HTML frames by the early 90's.

    -jcr
  • The wrong idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @07:45PM (#5848992) Homepage
    I'm tired of seeing everyone freak out about the cost of lawyers, etc... on Slashdot. First of all, courts base decisions on laws. If you have obeyed the law and someone was harmed most of the time the other party can't do anything. With patents, if someone brings a claim against you, you simply show that their claim is not valid based on the law.

    With patents, here's where the hard part is: being able to communicate exactly how a particular patent is obvious or has already been invented. In SBC's case, I think they will have a hard time as the "framed" interface has been around for almost as long as the VT100 terminal.

    At the end of the day, most patent actions I've seen fall into this pattern:

    * Big Company A sues Little Company B
    * Company A's stock jumps 1.0 points because they made news that might involve making money in the future.
    * Company A spends a large ammount of money building their case.
    * Company B spends relatively little money building theirs.
    * Company B wins on summary judgement as the patent is quickly invalidated after the judge rules that the patent in question is either not novel or is not a new invention.
    * Company B then threatens company a with a malicious prosecution suit unless they pick up the tab for their lawyer.
    * Company A executives, now pissed at their lawyers pay the legal bill for Company B and go home to pray the analysts dont hose their stock in the morning and try to figure out how to hide their misguided suit from their bosses/shareholders.

    Having a patent is easy. Having a valid patent that will stand up on it's own is more difficult. My guess is that this one will cost SBC's stock about 1.25 points when they lose.
  • by hazem ( 472289 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:06PM (#5849154) Journal
    I read the decription on King & Spalding:

    A representative claim of SBC's '574 patent, independent Claim 7, recites a method for navigating a document having multiple sections. The claimed method comprises the steps of:

    (a) displaying a document with a browser comprising a user interface;
    (b) automatically displaying a plurality of selectors in the user interface of the browser and not in the document, the plurality of selectors automatically configured to correspond to respective sections of the document regardless of what section of the document is being displayed;
    (c) receiving a selection of one of the plurality of selectors; and
    (d) displaying a section of the document that corresponds to the selector selected in (c).


    SBC might THINK this means frames, but it sounds to me that there are codes in the document that change the user interface of the browser itself. For example, the page you've loaded changes the "back" and "forward" buttons, or adds new ones to the browser.

    I'm sorry, but if you simply have a frame with navigation buttons, this is still a document, and not an inherent part of the browser.

    The Table of Contents of a book is not a seperate document from the book, even though it is different in appearance. In fact, you can hold your finger there and then browse through the book, using the TOC as a reference. But, the TOC is still a part of the document and is not seperate from it.

    What happens if you don't set up the navigation using "frames", but instead just duplicate the navigation section on each page? On a fast enough load, you couldn't tell the difference.

    I really hope these people get squished!
  • by leighklotz ( 192300 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:09PM (#5849183) Homepage
    This takes the cake. I'm not motivated by cost of telco services (as I used to tell the people trying to get me to switch long distance carriers), but I am motived by outrageous corporate behavior. I'm calling ATT right now to switch to their local calling service. Here is the link: ATT Local [att.com] and here is a search for press releases [att.com] that shows you get to keep your phone number (though it does say in most cases).

    ATT may not be perfect either, but at least they're not trying to patent part of my life.
  • Easy Fix (Score:3, Funny)

    by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @09:41PM (#5849699) Journal

    I don't run my website anymore, but when I did I had framed navigation by default, and the option of not using frames. Just give the user two options: 1. pay royalties to these people [mailto] and continue with frames. or 2. no frames. :)

  • by Snart Barfunz ( 526615 ) on Thursday May 01, 2003 @04:42AM (#5851097)
    Time for a little poetic justice?
  • Unactionable (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <gterich@aolBLUE.com minus berry> on Thursday May 01, 2003 @05:24AM (#5851172) Journal
    If the courts have any intelligence whatsoever (and I know this might just be wishful thinking), they'll realize that SBC failed in its responsibilities to protect their own patent. In short, they waited too long to have any enforceable rights under the patents. One of the requirements of owning a patent is that you promptly and vigorously act to protect your rights. If you wait, you lose your patent rights. This is to prevent companies like SBC from waiting until there are lots of high-profile infringers and THEN suing.

    The purpose of a patent is so that you can protect your invention from copycats, therefore protecting your revenue stream from YOUR OWN USE of the technology. If you do not even use the technology in your own patent, then your patent is even less enforceable because it shows that your motives behind the patent are to stifle innovation - which directly contradicts the entire purpose of the patent system.

    For example - say SBC patents frames, but then they do not use that technology nor do they actively offer the technology for sale. They just somehow work their technology into the standard and then sit on it. They don't tell anybody they own patents on it, and since it's part of the standard, people are given the impression that there are no licenses required. After all, it's an adopted public standard. 10 Years later, they get slapped with a lawsuit for $10M for infringing a patent that they didn't know existed, for using an ancient technology that not only isn't widely used anymore, but is downright UGLY to look at, and they don't have a clue what the hell is going on until after their lawyer settles for $1.5M and a perpetual $100K/yr license to use the obsolete technology.

    This is the kind of thing that the patent office needs to form an enforcement body for - to prevent these kinds of things from happening.
  • SBC Needs Money (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stonewolf ( 234392 ) on Thursday May 01, 2003 @12:09PM (#5853133) Homepage
    Last report I read showed that SBC is losing 2% of their customers every quarter. Thats 8% per year, and the rate may be increasing. Their growth was all coming from wireless, but when they started to lose that battle they merged their wireless company with another one to form Cingular. They spent a bunch of money trying to get into broadband Internet and when it didn't grow as fast as they wanted, they backed away from broadband and don't seem to have a clue what they are doing, so they are not getting the ROI the expected on broadband and don't have the buts or vision to move forward.

    All in all, their stock price is down about 50% over the last 4 years and they are doing anything they can to scrape up a few dollars. Recently it dawned on them that they had a huge number of patents that they hadn't really looked at so....

    Expect them to do this more an more and more. The word I hear from friends at SBC is they have formed and entire business unit dedicated to mining their patent portfolio. And, the person in charges is a hungry young executive trying to add to her reputation.

    Of course, I *could* be completely full of ....

    Stonewolf

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