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Patent on P3P - W3 Seek Prior Art 70

Mindphunk wrote to say " Just saw this request for prior art over at the W3C. World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today announced that it is investigating the status of a patent claim which threatens open access to privacy protection technology known as the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P). To aid in its investigative efforts, W3C is calling on the Web Community for help in locating "prior art," technology whose existence could be relevant to the validity of the patent. "
There are growing incompatibilities between patents and open standards; the trend towards filing patents in areas where standards are already underway is cause for both concern and action," stated Daniel J. Weitzner, Technology and Society Domain Leader of W3C. "The Web and developer communities can be instrumental in providing the evidence required to render questionable patents invalid, thereby maintaining an open Web. "
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Patent on P3P - W3 Seek Prior Art

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    The specifics on the prior search can be found at http://www.w3.org/1999/04/P3P-P atentBackground.html [w3.org]

    For instance:

    Intermind's patent is entitled "COMPUTER-BASED COMMUNICATION SYSTEM AND METHOD USING METADATA DEFINING A CONTROL STRUCTURE." Intermind has said that

    The essence of Intermind's top claims are that two nodesa sender and receiver have persistent storage, communicate over a network, and exchange a control structure defined by metadata (e.g. an XML file) which describes: 1) how to transfer updated information from the publisher to the subscriber, 2) how to transfer feedback information (and updates to that information) from the subscriber to the publisher, and 3) how to process the exchanged information by reference to the control structure. In addition, at least the receiving device must be able to process the metadata using instructions external to the control structure, i.e. process instances of a communications object.

    "About Intermind's Communications Patents," http://www.intermind.com/materi als/patent_desc.html [intermind.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The patent seems extremely vague to me. What's a "control object", and what's so special about having methods outside of it utilize it?

    Can anybody explain why the following is not prior art?

    Transmission Control Protocol, the TCP in TCP/IP. My fuzzy memory tells me it works like this: a sender breaks a message up into packets, each with a sequence number. Packets go to receiver. Receiver puts packets together using sequence number, makes requests for any packets that didn't get there. The sequence number (7 of 12 or whatever) seems like a "metadata control object" to me. The receiver and sender share this metadata, the receiver makes requests of the sender based on this data using the TCP code, "methods external to the control object", data is shared and updated appropriately. What am I missing here?

    Actually, who says client and server have to be internet hosts? How about any version control system ever? When you sync up your Palm Pilot with your PC, what's going on there? Hell, how about subscribing to a mailing-list? Does anything say the client feedback has to be automated? How about content negotiation, built into HTTP since the early days, where a browser tells the server preferred language, MIME types, etc., and the server responds appropriately? Actually, what about customizing slashdot!?

    You could probably argue that a casual conversation between two people is covered by this patent, do the client and server have to be computers?

    You get the drift. This is why software patents are stupid. Perhaps some intellectual property lawyer can explain to me what make's Intermind's stuff so new and unique. Then again, perhaps not.
  • Right...

    A network system or architecture where a client (such as a browser) and a server exchange information using a control structure defined by metadata (e.g. expressed in XML) which describes

    Now, define the client window in the X server to be the client, and the server to be the client process on the host machine (trivial change in terminology -- this changes nothing). They transfer information using a control structure defined by metadata (instructing the X server what to do with the information it receives -- since it isn't just pixelstreams. The metadata is binary encoded, but still metadata.)
    1. how to transfer updated information from the server to the client.
      Obvious -- the client process (the server) must be able to inform the X server (the client) what the updates refer to, and how the information is transmitted
    2. how to transfer feedback information, and updates to that information, from the client to the server, and
      X server to client transmissions -- nuff said.
    3. how to process the exchanged information by reference to the control structure.
      As mentioned above

    Additionally, the receiving device must be able to process the metadata using instructions external to the control structure. All that crap in the X server (i.e. the client) that actually puts the stuff on the screen.

    For the sake of a few more -- consider JAVA applets, the NeWS system, where the clients use postscript to extend the server.

  • Okay, does anyone else read those specs and think "shar"?
  • Posted by Forrest J. Cavalier III:

    INN has a file called overview.fmt. This states the order of fields received during an XOVER request, which provides information about the currently available articles in a newsgroup. So this could cover:

    The control structure (metadata)

    how to transfer updated information from the server to the client

    how to process the exchanged information by reference to the control structure

    Additionally, the receiving device must be able to process the metadata using instructions external to the control structure.

    The information transferred back to the server from the client is in the form of Usenet messages, which is not related to overview.fmt.

    What about MAPI [mibsoftware.com]? or SNMP for that matter? Lots of RFCs back to 1988 or earlier, but I only feel qualified to comment on NNTP.

    Forrest J. Cavalier III, Mib Software Voice 570-992-8824 BRThe Reuse RKT: Efficient awareness for software reuse: Free WWW site
    lists over 3000 of the most popular open source libraries, functions,
    and applications.

  • Posted by Forrest J. Cavalier III:

    Yes, I had some typos....

    INN has a file called overview.fmt. This states the order of fields received during an XOVER request, which provides information about the currently available articles in a newsgroup. So this could cover:

    The control structure (metadata)

    how to transfer updated information from the server to the client

    how to process the exchanged information by reference to the control structure

    Additionally, the receiving device must be able to process the metadata using instructions external to the control structure.

    But it doesn't match the claim:

    how to transfer feedback information, and updates to that information, from the client to the server
    (The information transferred back to the server from the client is in the form of Usenet messages, which is not related to overview.fmt.

    What about IMAP [mibsoftware.com]? or SNMP for that matter? Lots of RFCs back to 1988 or earlier, but I only feel qualified to comment on NNTP.

    Forrest J. Cavalier III, Mib Software Voice 570-992-8824
    The Reuse RKT [mibsoftware.com]: Efficient awareness for software reuse: Free WWW site
    lists over 3000 of the most popular open source libraries, functions,
    and applications.

  • Just wondering...

    On topic: the reason that I would consider this a long shot, is that

    1. Making that many 'abstract' definitions will not go down well with a judge.
    2. the prior art (as mentioned somewhere else) needs to satisfy nearly all of the claims listed -- where nearly means within obviousness of the patented apparatus.
    Its not as simple as saying that 'this bit has this bit, and that has that' -- it has to be clear prior art.
  • I think it's very likely that almost any client-server design qualyfies within that definition.
    SAG-CLI (Language independent client for SQL), ODBC... both use

    "
    A network system or architecture where a client (such as a browser) and a server exchange information using a control structure defined by metadata (e.g. expressed in XML) which describes

    1.how to transfer updated information from the server to the client
    2.how to transfer feedback information, and updates to that information, from the client to the server, and
    3.how to process the exchanged information by reference to the control structure. "

    Change XML for SQL and you are defining both.
  • it is a far better thing that an OPEN standard exists which allows for scrutiny and will (hopefully) follow the wishes of the users.

    The standard is open, and that is good. It is a standard for an evil mechanism; it does not answer to any user's need, and it certainly does not increase privacy.

    the open-source version of this technology will have a button that says "don't use P3P in any way."

    Certainly. You use that button at your own peril though. You won't get into Yahoo or Hotmail or Amazon or Ebay or MTV anymore if you click on that sucker. Remember, you read it here first.

    --

  • Please don't help these people. P3P deserves to die a horrible death. Here's why:

    P3P essentially means that you enter all your personal information (name, address, age, profession, hobbies etc.) into your browser, and then specify a policy which says which sites are allowed to access which parts of this information. Those sites can then pull that information from your browser when you visit them without your further intervention.

    This does not increase your privacy one bit. Right now, if you don't want to give out personal information, simply don't fill out that form or insert bogus data. Once P3P is in place, lieing will be a lot harder since you will have to change the database in your browser whenever you want to switch between truthful and false information. Refusing to give out data will also be harder: after a while, sites will simply require that you give them access to your P3P database, just like many sites now require that you allow them to place cookies on your disk.

    This is evil technology, and it is favored by marketing types, not by privacy types. (Site operators hate collecting personal information using forms, because many people can't be bothered.) Hopefully, patent law can kill this baby dead.

    --

  • We should fight software patents on prinicple.

    We should also fight for privacy protections on principle. If the two collide, it's up to every individual to decide which principle is the more important one.

    If you want to fight software patents on principle, try to get a law passed that prohibits them. Fighting individual software patents in the courts does nothing to invalidate the concept of software patents in general. I claim that this particular software patent has benefits in that it will slow down or halt adoption of P3P.

    I'd rather have it open than closed

    I'd rather not have it at all.

    In fact, a closed alternative wouldn't be that bad if you think about it: without the blessing of W3C, it wouldn't be implemented in many browsers and marketing types couldn't rely on it being present, which defeats the whole concept. It is no coincidence that the Direct Marketing Association (of junk mail and spam fame) collaborates with W3C in this matter.

    --

  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) on Friday May 07, 1999 @01:36AM (#1901191) Homepage
    OK Folks, we're looking for stuff that fulfills this:

    ---
    A network system or architecture where a client (such as a browser) and a server exchange information using a control structure defined by metadata (e.g. expressed in XML) which describes

    how to transfer updated information from the server to the client
    how to transfer feedback information, and updates to that information, from the client to the server, and
    how to process the exchanged information by reference to the control structure.
    Additionally, the receiving device must be able to process the metadata using instructions external to the control structure.
    ---

    Off the very top of my head, capability testing apparatuses(such as telnet uses to transmit everything from default username to screen dimensions) would fulfill some of these requirements. This is important, not because telnet is prior art, but that there are sure to be systems, particularly "advanced languages" that never made it big, that attempted to expand on what telent began. Some places to research:

    1) Expired patents. Always nice, go to the IBM patent server.
    2) History. As far as I know, "tokens" that allow one-to-one marketing thousands of years ago have been successfully used to fight those patents that appear to place ownership on the majority of uses of cookies.
    3) Computer Languages. Yes, I'm repeating this--it's very likely that a number of languages could be argued to implement features of these styles. I'd poke around specifically for languages that advertised the ability to interface with other languages.
    4) Electronic Commerce Systems. Remember, there have been literally hundreds if not thousands of methods for representing the flow of products and monies. Middleware for converting the protocols of one data flow to another have been around for ages. Lets find specific examples. This is rather powerful, if you ask me. If I remember right, there was a massive move by the industry--DCE?--to move to a standard e-commerce solution. Any solution of this style would have left a wake of protocol conversion software, much of which written by companies as a matter of course. This goes even farther to prove that the systems described by the patent are "obvious to any master of the field".

    That's my "off the top of the head" response to Yet Another Preposterous Patent Situation.

    Once you pull the pin, Mr. Grenade is no longer your friend.
  • The patent to me seems to describe most complex relationships requiring negotiation and feedback between two similar devices to transfer information. Replace "provider," "consumer," and "association means," "transfer," "feedback," and "processing," and it sounds to me a lot like the operation of a hard drive with its controller.

    I really don't see how this patent is novel.
  • Axel, We should fight software patents on prinicple. If W3C has now concluded that software patents are bad, we should encourage them in that conclusion. If you want to fight P3P, that's a separate issue. I'd rather have it open than closed, so that I can write a browser that sends random data or ignores the protocol. Bruce
  • Would an IBM 3270 terminal qualify for this? It had a pretty funky protocol for doing that sort of thing with respects to its window interface.
    ---
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • 1. Video capture cards. The "client" is the program running on the host processor in host memory. The "server" is the controller on the video card. The "network" is PCI/AGP/NuBus/... Metadata is exchanged to determine the size, aspect ratio, frame rate, field dominance and other features of the stream, as well as the capabilities of the "server" and the addresses of its control registers ("feedback").

    2. Videoconferencing is similar to the above.
  • That paper is written by some of my colleagues. It's possible that I could ask them to help, if you explain what they can do. I've emailed you more info, assuming that you receive email to big_head_fred@hotmail.com.
  • Not knowing too much about how NNTP works, but it seems to me to be doing just about what the patent claims. The control structure in this case would be my .newsrc for instance.

    Would some expert care to comment?

    Lars
  • Whenever you need "prior art", look in the archives of old research mailing lists, like the working groups of the IETF. They take into account all sorts of distant possibilities when designing protocols, etc.

    Look in old newsgroup archives, at dejanews.

    Everyone who posted an idea here, make sure you email your ideas to patent-prior-art@w3.org!! They won't get it if you just post a comment to Slashdot.

  • There are plenty of ISO standards (most still in the works, but quite old) related to letting systems exchange data via EDI. STEP comes to mind (product data exchange) as a possibility.

    Another candidate I'd think would be PICS ( the child-protections stuff ). Didn't that have metadata that controlled what your browser displayed, and what it didn't (based on who you were)? Anybody know when PICS was first specified? IIRC it was 95'ish, sometime just before the CDA.

    What about ODBC? The metadata on the client describes how to connect to a data source, there's arbitration involved in what methods to use to update each other...hmmm.

    Thoughts?
  • Here is a paper by a guy in the UK about using a similar process to update a spatial database.

    Spatial Database Update
    A key to effective automation

    http://www.laser-scan.com/papers/sdbupdate.htm

    I will quote two sections.

    "Update processes include both information refinement and enhancement as well as the incorporation of new information. Metadata,
    reflecting the status and quality of information, is key to managing database update.The creation and preservation of data integrity is crucial."

    and a second quote...

    "Since the version holds an explicit record of all changes made in the transaction, the merge method can readily summarise the changes for the purposes of management information and for transmission (in digital form) to other update processes. The merge methods can also update any relevant metadata records within the database, to record the status of any changes made, and create any history objects that may be required to enable recover of
    previous states of the data."

    It seems to address a few points, as in using metadata to address a structure and control and update information.
  • IANAL, but in looking at the requirements of getting a patent (esp a utility patent, which would apply in this case), the two primary requirements are that the invention being patented be:

    (the definitions quoted here are from an overview on patent law at: http://www.nolo.com/PCTM/3overview.html)

    1. Novel. "That is, a new development in at least one or more of its constituent elements--as of the date the inventor conceived it or when the patent application was filed."

    This is where prior art would apply.

    2. Non-obvious. "If the PTO determines that the invention was novel, it then must make another more difficult decision: was the invention nonobvious? To make this determination, the PTO asks this question: Would someone who was skilled in the particular field as of the invention date consider the invention to be an unexpected or surprising development?"

    Judging from some of the responses here, it would seem that this patent would fail the non-obviousness test, by the fact that the technique involved is not considered to be an unexpected or surprising development in this field.

    Since IANAL, it is possible that there is some aspect to the definition of non-obviousness that I'm missing, but on the face of it, this patent does fail in this regard.

  • I think NeWS fits this.

    NeWS( Network Extendible Windowing System) Basically spawned Java, since they both came
    from Goslings mind. There was the tNt ( the NeWS
    toolkit. )

    Also what about tooltalk ?
  • www.geocities.com


    ;)
  • DCE and Corba are network computing architectures that use control structures defined by metadata (the IDL/ACF files).

    Both DCE and CORBA have defined protocols (DCE uses DCE-RPC and CORBA may use one of many protocols including DCE-RPC and IIOP) that define how data should be transfered (marshled). Further, both have the concept of in/out data (parameters).

    Both DCe and CORBA IDL (the metadata) can contain user defined data structures (control structures?). These data structures tell the middleware how data should be sent over the network. For example, with DCE IDL, if you have a structure that contains a field of that same structure type, the DCE runtime assumes that you are sending a NULL terminated linked list. Further, the DCE ACF file can be used to change the way data is sent through the interface (metadata).

    Does this work - or am I way off?
  • The Intermind patent claim 20 seems like an exempt from old SNA protocols specs to me. It may really be a good idea to dig there. Unfortunately I no longer have them around ;-(

  • The metatata is the ticket. And the rest is just a kerberos authenticated service (for the simplest V4 case).

    And this has existed befor the internet has gone public ;-)


  • Just from a brief glance, wouldn't various database replication technologies cover many of the points in the patent?

    -Samrobb
  • Agreed! I just wrote them up a note on NNTP, pointing at web copies of the RFC (which are dated Feb. 1986, for those of you keeping score), and suggesting appropriate "translation" of some of the not-so-techno-babble in the patent.
  • I don't consider myself an expert, but it seems like most any communications protocol would apply here.

    Of particular interest, I would think would be ssh. The metadata being the public and shared keys, the processing being done would be the encryption and decryption and communication. Indeed, through the ssh config files and sshd config files both sides can specify and control what data is exchanged (do they do public key authentication or password authentication?) And for the kicker, ssh is particularly used for privacy issues.

    The main question that I have, and wasn't able to find off the top of my head and a quick search of some likely sites, is; is the ssh specification prior to what they are claiming?

    Can anyone fill that in?

    Jeff
  • I'm not trying to be facetious in this response, but I don't see
    the words of Claim 20 describing something much different than
    how USENET news and NNTP senders/recipients communicate, especially
    when IHAVE/SENDME is employed. There is also the variation of the
    protocol where the consumer (downstream sites) communicate back
    up just which newsgroups have been read, and so tell the provider
    (upstream site) which newsgroups are needed. The objects are less
    granular than those described by Intermind, but Intermind is only
    proposing a variation on the theme.

    Sprinkling a description of the above system with the words 'metadata'
    and using the word 'said' liberally achieves something awfully close
    to the verbage used by Intermind.

    In my mind, the PTO was wowed by the application to "Channels" and
    the Web and the concept of "object".
  • Somebody's (Halcyon??) patent on the waterbed was invalidated by a description of same in an old Robert Heinlein novel. That's the classic example of a patent invalidated by an SF reference, there may well be others.

    I don't know that anybody even tried to patent the geosynchronous communications satellite, since that would have been invalidated by Arthur C. Clarke's 1945 paper describing same. (And if Clarke had patented it, the patent would have expired by the time the technology was capable of launching same, although I think there is/was some proviso in UK patent law such that you can't patent things that are beyond current technical capabilities.)
    (However, some sat com companies have tried to patent specific other orbits!)
  • WHAA? it is a far better thing that an OPEN standard exists which allows for scrutiny and will (hopefully) follow the wishes of the users.

    i know for a fact that the open-source version of this technology will have a button that says "don't use P3P in any way."

    if it's NOT there, i'll write it myself. THAT'S THE POINT.

    if the technology is owned by these patent mongers, i won't have that choice.

  • No two nodes on a network can communicate without some sort of "agreement" (i.e., protocol). If you want "metadata", almost any configuration file provides that. The X window system and Sendmail comes to mind as more complex examples.

    Can anyone explain the lawyerly mumbo-jumbo? What exactly is supposed to be novel? How does a Netscape cookie (for example) not qualify?

  • I really don't see how this patent is novel

    I don't think anybody here would consider this to be novel... but
    that's not the problem - the problem is that the patent office doesn't
    employ people who have computer backgrounds, and so (no matter how
    bright they may or may not be,) they go ahead and approve it anyway.

    The patent doesn't have to sound novel to you, it just has to sound
    novel to the patent office.
  • While general art discussing the technology may be useful, the killer reference will be one describing each and every limitation of the claims of the patent. Accordingly, care should be taken not to paraphrase too much the claim language. One illustrative claim is Claim 20, defining:

    A computer-based communication system comprising:
    • a provider memory storing information including provider information;
    • a consumer memory storing information including consumer information;
    • association means for
      • creating metadata associating portions of said information and
      • defining a control structure for processing at least at said consumer memory to associate with said metadata processes for controlling the communication of said associated information,
      • said metadata including data exchange metadata associating a process for controlling the transfer of feedback information,
      • said feedback information including at least a portion of said consumer information,
      to said provider memory;
    • transfer means for transferring said information, including said metadata defining said control structure, from said provider memory to said consumer memory;
    • feedback transfer means for transferring said feedback information from said consumer memory to said provider memory; and
    • processing means for executing instructions external to said control structure to perform said processes to control communications of said information.
  • Sure. Where is the association means in this example?
  • The patentability standard for unobviousness doesn't mean what you seem to think it means. It is not sufficient merely to say, "aw, that would be obvious, even to an ordinary guy." In particular, it is impermissible to use hindsight -- you must show what existed before and account for how to put it together to make precisely the claimed invention.

    That is what this prior art search is all about. We need to find the references (or public uses) of technology that embodies all these elements. If we cannot find the references (or prior uses), then, as a matter of law, it will not likely be found to fail for obviousness.
  • It would be fun, if true. I am only aware of a few patents that were invalidated by works of fiction or references to antiquity. There is a case involving a reference to Hercules and an aqueduct, but that's about it.

    I think it would be fun to argue why a person of ordinary skill would apply the reference, since many geeks are sci fi wonks.
  • Don't limit yourself to expired patents!!!!

    Any reference published on or before the critical date will do. Particularly with this technology, a great deal of relevant patent prior art will not have expired.
  • A patent claim may be directed to an apparatus, a process, an article of manufacture or any new and useful improvement on any of those. 35 U.S.C. s. 101.

    Accordingly, you can find claims directed to any or all of the following:

    • A general purpose computer for doing . . .
      programmed with a fixed store encoded to follow the steps of: . . .
    • A process (or method) for doing . . . comprising the steps of: . . .
    • A magnetic medium upon which is stored a computer program comprising the steps of: . . .
    • A propagated signal encoding a program comprising the steps of: . . .


    • along with any other example that defines an apparatus, article of manufacture or process.
  • I don't see it, but here's how you can prove it. Build a claim chart, which is just a chart with two columns, one for the claim and one for EDS. In the rows will be each element of the claim, on the right, you identify the corresponding EDI activity. If you have a 1:1 correspondence between each and every limitation, you have proved your point. If you don't, you haven't.
  • The message took an interesting twist. I had thought the inquiry was whether patents directed to software would be unconstitutional for First Amendment reasons. I think this is unlikely, as similar issues have been well-litigated under Copyright law, which, particularly because of the fair use exception, is NOT generally deemed to be a law infringing free speech, even though it provides civil and criminal remedies for certain types of speech.

    Patents won't come close to those issues. You can write a computer program in source code without infringing a patent, so long as you don't "make, use, sell or offer for sale" the patented invention. Since a patent cannot be directed to printed matter, it is highly unlikely that the writing and distribution of souce code can raise meaningful infringement, and hence First Amendment issues.

    Running the program, that's another matter. Moreover, the recent Bernstein opinion was expressly limited in its holding -- focusing on the expressive, and not the functional aspects of using source code to share fundamental research. It is unlikely the same result would have occurred had the regulation merely precluded distribution of object code or the execution of object code under certain circumstances.
  • by werdna ( 39029 ) on Friday May 07, 1999 @05:35AM (#1901225) Journal
    Sorry, I hit the wrong key before the post was ready.

    While general art discussing the technology may be useful, the killer reference will be one describing each and every limitation of the claims of the patent. Accordingly, care should be taken not to paraphrase too much the claim language. One illustrative claim is Claim 20, defining:

    A computer-based communication system comprising:

    • a provider memory storing information including provider information;
    • a consumer memory storing information including consumer information;
    • association means for
      • creating metadata associating portions of said information and
      • defining a control structure for processing at least at said consumer memory to associate with
      • said metadata processes for controlling the communication of said associated information,
        said metadata including data exchange metadata associating a process for controlling the transfer of feedback information,
      • said feedback information including at least a portion of said consumer information,
        to said provider memory;


    transfer means for transferring said information, including said metadata defining said control structure, from said provider memory to said consumer memory;

    feedback transfer means for transferring said feedback information from said consumer memory to said provider memory; and

    processing means for executing instructions external to said control structure to perform said processes to control communications of said information.


    To infringe this patent claim, one must practice each and every element and limitation reciting in the invention, either directly or equivalently. The absence of even one element or limitation would result in a noninfringement.

    Invalidation of a patent works the same way. To invalidate the claim, a reference should recite or teach each and every element and limitation recited above, either directly or inherently. Such killer art is rare for any patent, whose claims are usually drafted precisely to distinguish the prior art by adding some limitation not present there. On the other hand, two or more references may sometimes be combined to "fill in the gaps," provided that the references have a hint that teaches or suggests the combination.

    If you have something close, by all means report it, because close (while no cigar) often leads to closer. However, you should all know for what you are looking.

  • by werdna ( 39029 ) on Friday May 07, 1999 @07:03AM (#1901226) Journal
    For the same reason that someone practicing TCP/IP, without more, clearly wouldn't infringe the claims of this patent, TCP/IP would not stand, by itself, as invalidating prior art.

    In answer to the qustion, the meaning of a phrase in a patent claim is determined first by the plain language of the claim itself AND by the definition given to that term in the specification. If the plain meaning is not clear and there is no express definition in the spec, the spec is used as a reference to help to understand (construe) the claims.

    The meaning of the patent and its claims simply cannot be understood without first studying the specification. You can find the specification for any modern patent at this page of the USPTO web site [uspto.gov]. There you can also get free printable tiff images of the patent.

    So much of this patent's claim langauge cannot be understood merely by examining the claim -- you must also read, at least, the specification. For many claim elements, particularly those written in the form of "means plus function" or "function means" language, the meaning of the claim element is DEFINED by the corresponding portions of the specification.

    But this doesn't end the inquiry. Taking a single element out of context, say, the "control object," and noting that there existed a control object in another program or protocol isn't enough. The referenced control object must also meet each and every other limitation set forth in the claim and be used in the context described in the claim.

    We nerds are notorious for being way too informal and uninformed about asserting the invalidity of patents. Accordingly, our whinings about the system are generally ignored by the mainstream patent community. It is critical that before we begin to flame on about a particular patent, that we make sure we really have the goods. To do that, we need to read the claims and the specification, and then, and only then, if we really have it licked, use the example to slam the patent and the system.

    This patent may be valid, or it may not be valid. If it is valid, live with it and move on to another. If not, slam the sucker and use it to point out weaknesses in the system. Meanwhile, as a community we can help enormously by assisting in these prior art searches.

    But we do ourselves no good at all, and a fair amount of harm, merely by waving our hands. It is not enough merely to belittle the claimed invention. The question was asked: "Perhaps some intellectual property lawyer can explain to me what make's Intermind's stuff so new and unique."

    But AC's question merely begs the question: No patentable invention needs to be "so new and unique," but merely new, useful and unobvious. No spark of genius is necessary. No fundamental contribution.

    Mere novelty suffices -- and that can be done merely by distinguishing the prior art with subtle limitations. If no reference contains the limitations, the device is novel for patent purposes -- that's all that is required. If the prior art is a chair, a claim directed to a chair with arcuate rockers attached to the bottom distinguishes the art, even though a rocking chair is still a chair. Indeed, the vast majority of patent claims begin by reciting prior art structure, adding specialized limitations as improvements.

    Obviousness simply refers to a "backstop" to avoid granting patents for minor or trivial new limitations, and applies mostly where the differences between the old art and the new combination are such that those differences could be reconstructed from the prior art by a person of ordinary skill in the art. In the rocking chair example, a rocking stool might well be invalidating prior art under the obviousness standard, even though the refernence does not disclose the structure that distinguishes a stool from a chair (probably just the back), provided that the reference is taken together with a reference describing the structure of a chair and it would be obvious to a person of ordinary skill to combine the references.
  • If source code is speech, as was ruled earlier in the Crypto case, then where does that put Software Patents?

    "This patent descibes a story where the hero gets screwed over big time by some bad guys, his love interest gets kidnapped, and he goes after the bad guys with a big gun, killing them, and getting the girl."

    Sorry Hollywood!

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN

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