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Doubleclick's Banner Ad Patent 216

Black Art writes "This Wired Story has information about Doubleclick's new patent on net banner ads. Yet another example that the patent office has lost all touch with reality. " Described as "Method of Delivery, Targeting, and Measuring Advertising Over Networks". Now might be an amusing time to mention that the Free Banner Ad Server AdFu me and some of my cronies have contributed code to (Specifically Nate, Pater and Vroon) should have a patch out soon that you can already see in action on Slashdot: it integrates mod_perl, Adfu & Slash to allow ads to be served without Layers or IFRAMEs. (the old functionality is still in place if anyone needs that, but this way is much faster). Hope it doesn't violate any patents. Note: None of us have ever seen or used any of Doubleclicks stuff ;)
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Doubleclick's Banner Ad Patent

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  • I agree.

    I also think the case has problems with 'prior art'. When does DClick claim to have invented it? My guess is that these guys just copied it from 'prior art' already in the public domain. So they are not entitled to a patent! Everything in the public domain constitues 'prior art'.
  • It would be interesting if someone could come up with a way to bill the holder of a bogus patent for more than the cost of proving it bogus in court. That would promote both better searches and a cottage industry of shooting holes in bogus patents.

    Might not be a good thing, though. It would also give the big guys more ways to make it tough on the little guys.

    One thing US jurisprudence really needs is a "loser pays" allocation of court costs, reasonable attorney fees, and perhaps reimbursement for other damages resulting from a lost suit. That would provide a financial disincentive for bogus lawsuits, and might be extended to damages resulting from the attempted enforcement of bogus patents, providing a financial disincentive there, too.

  • Hey, this is a great idea. However I am a little foggy on the implementation. How do you specify the .com part?

    Will localhost www.doubleclick.com doubleclick.com


    I guess I should just try it...


  • Maybe they need to change it so that the loser of a case pays costs.

    So Doubleclick gets lame patent. OK, it takes someone $40K to get into patent court to argue the invalidity of the patent. Someone wins. Doubleclick owes that person for his/their courtcosts.

    Doubleclick wins? Same.

    At least for software patents.

    You or I can create software algorithms up the wazoo without breaking a sweat and having our hands tied behind our backs and the only thing it costs us mainly is time.

    Not as easy for you or I to create a new drug (process), for example.
  • I hate animated ads. Period. If the ads were static images, they could stay in my browser, but as it is, they're gone...

  • > You can't override names in Windows the way you can in unix Yes, you can. Just doing it this way right now.
  • Well, the targetting doesn't always work :)
    I searched for the band "Miranda Sex Garden".
    Guess what sort of links I got?
    Yup. Soft pr0n.
  • Just add an SOA to your DNS configuration for
    doubleclick.com and alias it to

  • Accurate counting of hits, since the GIF isn't cached like the rest of the page (might be).

    We do this at the site I work for (Don't click unless you want to see a really bloated site [prosieben.de]) to collect accurate statistics about which parts of the site are more (or less) popular. These are then used to make decisions about what to keep and what to toss, as well as how much to squeeze the advertisers for...

  • Let's not overreact. Doubleclick is not Big Brother. They may suck, but they aren't the thought police. If you are a paranoid freak, you can still make the Internet a very private and anonymous place for yourself. I, for one, do not care that doubleclick _knows_ that I bought a Kid Rock cd and a portable player. I may have to look at ads for Eminem and Dr. Dre for the rest of my life, but there are worse fates.

    BTW, the economy won't crash because of impulse items and accumulated debt. Remember, Wal Mart does more business in one day than the entire Internet did in a year. This will change, but the retail economy is an elephant, and Internet sales are mere hairs on its ass.
  • by LT Grant ( 371 )
    I wonder when people/corporations will realize that there are better ways of helping themselves out than by patenting or copyrighting things. In some cases they do not even invent the new things, but only help to bring them more to the forefront of peoples view in the net world. Just the negative vibes send out from slashdot readers today toward doubleclick can't be financially good for them, even though now, they can claim all mighty supremecy over all banner companies worldwide. sound a bit like a company who didn't invent, only led the OS race for a while.

    (sorry, this rant got a little screwed up as my mind wandered and my interest wained)
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @09:58AM (#1684130) Homepage Journal

    Idea: Since Slashdot's page is generated dynamically from a user profile anyway, how about letting people buy the option of having an ad-free page?

    Most of us who filter ads aren't doing it because we want a free ride; it's because the ads are annoying. The graphics just suck up bandwidth uselessly, they don't cache, they are usually animated and distracting, sometimes they delay renderring of the rest of the page, etc. If it's a matter of "supporting Slashdot", there are better (and more efficient!) ways. Rob just hasn't tried 'em yet.

    Have a Sloppy day!
  • Now this is one patent I like. Block doubleclick.net and boom, no more adverts at all :-D

    I think I could live with that.
  • I think this frivolous patent already infringes on the frivolous patent by The Thinking Media
    briefly described here (oddly, all news about this patent is now missing from The Thinking Media's page):

    http://www.internetnews.com/IAR/article/0,1087,1 2_11861,00.html

    And which I discussed briefly here:

    http://lpf.ai.mit.edu/Patents/comments-thinking- media.html

    My phrase "E-Data Mentality" applies to the DoubleClick patent, as well...

  • Accurate counting of hits

    This should read:

    more accurate counting of hits etc.

    I don't think there's actually any truly accurate method to count hits (as in number of times a page is loaded into a browser).


  • I didn't find junkbuster too effective so I wrote my own. It actually looks at the HTML and edits it on the fly. I find this is much more powerful than just looking at URLs. It is not finished yet but you can try the current version at:

    http://www.ucalgary.ca/~nascheme/python/proxy.tg z

    Editing the HTML was an original idea of my, search for proxy3 to find my inspiration.
  • Yeah, and for apples and oranges too. I've even seen ads for electricity here, in Israel. Electrical Company had launched ad company "It's better with electriity" - like at least 80% of population are constantly using only kerosene lamps and open-fire heaters. You can advertise anything, provided you have money and your media colnsultant wants them.
  • I agree wholeheartedly with your statement. Ads suck wherever they are. Ad people seem to think the world would end without ads mucking up the scenery. Wooohoo for www.junkbusters.com !!!
  • Actually, HotWired invented it in 1994.
  • How can Doubleclick enforce this patent? They have no case! What does it matter that the patent office issued it? They still have nothing. My guess is that these guys just copied it from public domain sources which were already in place. There is a good case for 'prior art' from the public domain!

    We should focus on that. Getting 'prior art' status to all public domain areas, literature included! It's a good shield agains the hoarding tendancies...a derivative effect of wealth.
  • My proposed solution: every time an invalid software patent is allowed by our government, let's do a class action against the individual government employee(s) who approved it, on behalf of every person who uses computers and who will have to pay higher software prices to make up for legal fees of the companies unfairly targetted by the companies who receive the invalid patents. It shouldn't take long for the government employees to go bankrupt and figure out that next time they should do their job right. Of course we also need to do the same to every company that receives the invalid patents, so that they lose money by doing so. If we all signed up at maybe $1 a piece on each lawsuit, it would surely cover our end of legal fees. Oh, yeah... we need to figure out a way to do lawsuits against the lawyers representing firms who obtain false patents, so they go bankrupt spending all their time defending themselves. Ha.

    (if you consider this to be flamebait, you are one of the guilty parties, and we will also find a way to sue you too!)
  • Isn't there some patent clause against those patents that would be obvious to somebody in the trade?

    Once you pull the pin, Mr. Grenade is no longer your friend.
  • Or Webwasher [siemens.de] (if you use Windows).
  • I want to file for a patent on patenting things that everyone already uses. Granted, there's a bit of trouble with prior art (ie, this entire the article in question), but that doesn't seem to matter anymore, does it?

    So now I can sue anyone who attempts to get a patent on these kind of things.
  • Yes, it's a VERY bad thing. If it weren't for banner ads, then all the sites you go to with banners would either be nonexistent or would make you pay. And more people would look to spam for Internet advertising. That is NOT cool.

    Banner ads suck, but they're a necessary evil. They are one of the few legitimate ways to advertise on the Internet.

  • Nope it says right in it that "you can already see in action on Slashdot...". This would mean that he already has the patch running on /. and that the banner ads you see right now and the way you see them will not change :). My question is why is he still using cgi... has he considered using Mason [masonhq.com] yet.

  • Why dont you change the route to this ip addr?
    If add the route via then your machine will not know how to get there and reply quickly.

  • By golly you're right .. I tried "ads.doubleclick.net" and when it failed I thought I was in the clear for *.doubleclick.net ..
  • The problem with any patent in the extremely volitile tech workplace is the amount of lawsuits relating to technologies that have been copied/developed at another company/imitated. By the time you get the lawsuit out the door, someone else's patent is out the door. When was this doubleclick one filed? It's more than half way through 1999! I remeber avoiding banner ads way before this! ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I am not a patent lawyer but I know ad agencies and banner advertising.

    What DC has patented is their method of targeting, which is tracking where you are and what you view. Then when they have gathered information about your habits and what you like to view they tailor the ads to fit.

    IMHO, of all the ad agencies on line, these guys are as close to the banner ad equivalent of "The Evil Empire". They track you, they watch you, and they sell that information to the highest bidder. In other words, if you don't cover your tracks, they OWN you.

    Most of the others in this market (I will not give them free advertising ;), and to me the most "ethical" if such a word can be used in advertising, target by content of the site. With these agencies the idea is that the content will match the viewers. This can be true, most of the time. But I'm willing to bet that there are some people reading this or /. in general who are investment savy, or doctors, or even construction workers. If DC was handling the advertising for /. those people would be seeing different ads than the geeks, since it is likely that they (may) have been visiting a different variety of sites.

    Even if I was an advertiser, that is f*cking evil, evil, and a little more evil. It is unethical, wrong, obnoxious, and is just as bad as all that government tracking and reading of email.

    Personally I would love to see this backfire. What they are doing is saying they have patented spying on web surfers. Not only have they _admitted_ that they do it, they are now saying that they will charge others to do the same thing!


  • What are the odds that this would get rid of most of the banner advertising on the web? I mean, would that be such a bad thing?

    On the other hand, I'd hate to see Slashdot shut down because of loss of revenue. And I really hate bad patents.


    QDMerge [rmci.net] 0.21!
  • Though, whether or not you have seen any of doubleclicks stuff has no bearing on patent restirictions. The fact that remote ad servers are a simple application of standard engineering practices to an obvious problem *should* matter. How it will remains to be seen.
  • On that subject, there was a reference in the Wired article about 3d pie charts being patented. To my dismay, it's true: the claim is here [ibm.com].
  • ...you can patent anything now, if you happen to get a not-so-bright patent official. Slashdot should patent online realtime news. Linus and the IPv6 kernel team should, well, patent IPv6. Who cares if this stuff is publicly owned and operated? Patent your right to intellectual property!

    It all goes downhill from here, folks. Please leave your copyright at the door. Hey, leave your personal rights at the door, too.... we won't be neding them where we're going.

    This whole thing really isn't good. Maybe our patent guidelines need to be reviewed.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 13, 1999 @11:08AM (#1684168)

    Doubleclick? Doubleclick? I'm trying to remember who they are. Lemme look in my hosts file... oh yeah. They're those guys at whose banners never seem to load correctly. Oh well.

  • unfortunately, what matters is that it was filed some time ago, as the previous response indicates. And, once a patent is granted, it's enforcable retroactively to the time of filing!

    Why doesn't that extend to times before the date of filing, you might ask? well, supposedly, because the technology didn't exist back then. This is a patent, remember; doubleclick invented this technology :) No one could possibly have been using it before they filed for a patent, right?

    Well, of course someone was, because they didn't actually make it up. The problem is, we (someone) has to demonstrate this to invalidate the patent. If you can come up with a description of this phenomenon (ie, banner advertising in this case) which was *published* before the doubleclick patent was *filed*, then that counts as "existing in the prior art" and the patent is invalid.

    That's the real problem, is that the patent clerks don't always know how to check for "prior art." Was there a book about banner advertising published before 1996? probably not; those were the early days of commercial web transactions. Was it published on a web page somewhere? probably. does that count as publication? maybe; i'm not a patent attourney. but the point is, the info has to be out there and the right people have to see it for ridiculous patents like this to be overturned.

  • Its grand that you don't look at the banners or you have a program that makes them not even come up... but when everyone starts doing that look out... we are heading back to the old days where most sites where account driven/pay :) Personally I said that cause I make a living off of creating sites that their only revenue is ads. I think its a great way to have a site. But beyond that I have also found a lot of kewl things though ads... not saying you should or should not look at them but you never know when your going to find something interesting. Usually ads are not there unless there is a good service or product cause they would not be able to pay for the ad space. Just my two cents.

  • I know this is off the topic of patents, but it's on the topic of remote ad servers and why they're a bad idea.
    • Most of them involve the remote serving of images and click-through redirections; alternate text is usually left out.
    • Third party ad servers involve third parties which only serve to cause communication problems regarding important little details like what pages an ad needs to be shown on, etc.

    I think this here is a strong case for web site owners to use software for serving ads that runs on their own web servers. This way, third parties aren't needed to track click-throughs and impressions. And a point of failure (manifesting itself as the third-party ad server) is removed.

    I admit that I don't really understand the value of third-party ad servers, but I'm sure that this value can be achieved by other means, which probably involve the creation of standard protocols for repors and things like that.

  • Don't television companies, or radio stations, have better (not that I agree!) claim over this than DoubleClick? :)
  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Monday September 13, 1999 @12:57PM (#1684176) Journal
    But it has to be obvious to a master of the trade who hasn't been shown the solution. The "Oh, of COURE!" style of obvious doesn't cut it. The classic case of this is patent on the "sealed in steel" dry-cell battery.

    Back in the old days, the outer case of a dry cell was a cardboard tube wrapped around a zinc cup, and that zinc cup was the battery's sacrificial negative electrode. If you didn't throw out the battery before discharging it put the first hole in the zinc (i.e. while the flashlight still lit up just fine), the corrosive electrolyte paste would leak out and eat your flashlight.

    Well Ray-O-Vac had a long-running R&D project to improve on that, and it had no luck. One day a member of the team came home in a blue funk and his wife (while cooking dinner) asked him what was wrong. He described the problem, and she says "Why don't you seal it in a steel can?"

    Well, DUH!

    So they tried it. And it worked. And Union Carbide (Everready), who had run similar but UNsuccessful long-term project, sued because it was "obvious".

    So the judge asked the defense how long it had taken them to figure this out (I don't recall how many years). Then he asked the plaintif, and got a similar response. And he threw out the suit.


    The REAL issue is not whether it's obvious to a worker in the field, but whether the judge THINKS it is. So the game is to try to get it in front of the right judge. (For a long time patent challenges were always filed in the federal court district that tries its cases in Chicago, because there was this one judge who thought that EVERYTHING was obvious... B-) )

  • What is intellectual property? I don't think even Shakespeare had such a vocabulary. People today, and especially people with conquering minds, make up the funniest things. Idealists say that you can't own a tree, because it is a living thing. Yet people sell trees in the rain forests. Or better yet, occupy the land that less equipped/hostile people live on. Then it is chopped up and sold to others as "properties". World of wonder. I have lost enough faith in man kind to grasp the thought of being a proprietor over a tree or a dog (even though it is fundamentally sickening). But I have yet far to go to understand how any group of people can own somebody elses intellect.

    Let's put it into calculation. Five people own a "company". This company, or these five people help eachother make money by contributing in various ways. Two persons write software code. One person handles the bills, and the remaining two sell the software. Who owns the software? Or should I say, who owns the fruit of the programmers minds? Before you go about answering this swiftly according to laws and all those legal matters, ponder it. I am sure it will amuse you as much as it does me.

    I hope this spins off a good discussion.



  • I think I'll file a patent for "a process of filing patents."
  • The federal government gives immunity to such suits to officials doing their jobs. The law dates from the "Reconstruction Era" after the Civil War, when states and their citizens tried to stop federal officials by suing them under state or federal law.

    There are a VERY few exceptions - such as for malicious violation of civil rights - but not for mere incompetence.

  • Then a malicious attack on the civil rights of computer geeks it is! ;-)
  • Sorry, but I think patents on algorithms have been around for quite some time now. Like, the RSA algorithm is patented, right? And the patent is running out soon, right? So that means it was granted way before 1990, let alone filed before then.

    Now, the issue becomes "What's the difference between an algorithm and software?" Well, everything and nothing: on one hand, a software program is nothing but an implementation of an algorithm, so they're the same, but on the other hand, an algorithm is present in every *possible* peice of software that implements it.

    See why "software" (actually, algorithm) patents are so wicked? Because they don't just say "hey, we made up this [LZW, RSA, take your pick] program to encode data," it says, "we own the rights to all possible programs that also do this."

    Scary stuff, I think.

  • To save without an extension in notepad use quotes:

    save as

    forces no extension... if you dont use quotes it will tack an etension on for you... or just use edlin....

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The application process for many Federal agencies includes a "public notice and comment" phase in which the applicant must describe what it is applying for in a publication and give interested parties the right to send comments to the Federal agency supporting or opposing the application. I believe that the patent applications have a similar phase. Does anyone know whether any of the free/open software organizations have put any effort into systematically trying to obtain notices of software patent applications and, if the applications seem invalid, filing comments to object to them -- for instance, by bringing to the attention of the Patent Office the existence of prior art in the area of the proposed patent?
  • by GeorgeH ( 5469 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @12:58AM (#1684185) Homepage Journal
    How about just looking at the ads? It's cheaper than going out and buying software, and you are supporting Slashdot, which I think is very important.

    My opinion is that if you don't want to look at the ads, don't waste Rob's CPU time and bandwidth. Keerist, do people think they're entitled to anything and everything without having to have ads on pages? Its either ads, subscription, or go out of buisness.

    Just because you CAN get rid of ads, doesn't mean you should. I can't understand why people are so against keeping websites like Slashdot in business!

  • I needed to wrap text around figures, and the older latex package wasn't cutting it (losing the figures, but still giving them numbers).

    So I set off to alta vista (still on it's DEC promo mission), and did a search for something like "latex and wrap"

    It took me a while to figure out why I got inundated with porn . . . seems LaTeX is spelled with the same letters as that funny rubber. But why people would develop a sexual fetish for it . . .
  • Is there anyone out there besides me who realizes that a lot of the questionable patents could be weeded out if the patent office wasn't badly understaffed and undertrained and if they weren't under pressure by Congress to handle applications faster?

    A little reality check here: the number of people working as patent clerks who have a strong background in high tech fields is probably very small. These people don't get paid the kind of money that can be made in the industry. And they're under a lot of pressure to get applications processed as soon as possible. How many of you would honestly be willing to take a job with the Patent Office? If it meant you could do something concrete to regulate what gets patented and what doesn't? Or what about lobbying to get more and better trained people working at the patent office and give them more time and resources to research patent applications? There's too much money invested in the system to expect it to just go away, but that doesn't mean the system can't be used properly.
  • Though I don't agree with bannerads - to clarify your point - thirdparty ad servers are usually used by agencies - they gain the advertisers, and give you a licence to show their ads on your site for a fee... kinda like a recruitment agency licencing an employee to a company and charging fees - saves the client from finding the employee (and yes, I know the jargon is wrong ;) )
  • by Anonymous Coward
    they have a fond place in my IPCHAINS file: [...] ipchains -A input -i $EXTERNAL_INTERFACE -s -j REJECT [...]
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Monday September 13, 1999 @01:15PM (#1684194)
    Actually, that's rather ingenious :-)
    (Those of you that are windows users, get
    "TweakDUN" and modify the host cache to
    point ad.doubleclick.net to
  • by kuro5hin ( 8501 ) on Monday September 13, 1999 @01:15PM (#1684195) Homepage
    ...and on the whole they're smart people. BUT. The way the system works enforces a weird kind of tunnel vision, which I suspect is responsible for a lot of these silly patents. Basically, the first patent application is always denied. That one's just a rubber stamp. If you're examining an application that's already been denied once, then you check the documents for correctness. If one comma or period is out of place, it's denied again. The third submission get checked for conflict with existing patents. If there's no conflicts, then the situation's more murky. The application can be rejected for a lot of reasons, still, such as insufficiently demonstrating the originality of the process or item, etc etc. Or, if it seems fairly original to the examiner, and it's never been patented before, it might be approved. But basically, patent examiners aren't required to do any broad cultural thinking. If it's something that is simply ridiculous to patent, like "Dirt" or "The Act of Respiration," that'll obviously be denied. But there's nothing stopping something which may seem, to specialists in the field unpatentable from getting patented anyway. What might seem like an obvious idea to us is still only obvious in a fairly well-defined field. The other thing to keep in mind is that patent examiners are generally not experts in the particular fields they're examining for. The ones I know all have science BS's (chem, bio), and are examining mainly electronic and mechanical patent applications.

    Basically, this isn't all that surprising. And anyway, if the USPTO allows a patent, it can still always be thrown out in court. They don't really see themselves as a judiciary office. They're much more paperwork-oriented.

    We all take pink lemonade for granted.

  • If you have to look at banner ads, wouldn't you rather see ads that you actually might be interested in? Ads are annoying, but if they were actually targetted to me, they might prove worthwhile occasionally. Of course, this ignores any privacy concerns regarding Doubleclick's user profiles.
  • Penumbra is to politics as digital is to computers as New World is to Cisco.

    You just can't have a discussion on this topic without it, you see.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research(and Cisco ;-)

    Once you pull the pin, Mr. Grenade is no longer your friend.
  • Things are obtaining patents now, it's worse than I thought. It's a fairly old concept. Things also tend to band together in order to obtain patents and then use said patents to harrass the rest of the world in an attempt to garner money and power. Up here in Canada, we call them lawyers. c.
  • But were those GIFs created with properly licensed software? :-)
  • Anyone else appreciate the irony in storing the patents in GIF format?

  • Does the ISO scene count as prior-art here?

  • I'm glad to see the strategy of submitting patent applications for any and every obvious idea you can come up with occasionally pays off.

    I should join the Patent Lottery and see if I can get a similar patent for something like making a Tom Collins, linked lists, or breathing.

    On the other hand, maybe algore can get a patent for the Internet.
  • /sbin/ipchains -A output -p TCP -d -j REJECT

    enough said.

  • From the Slashdot main page:

    IMG SRC=",649,606349 4" WIDTH=1 HEIGHT=1

    What are these 1x1 pixel GIFs used for? Ad tracking, I presume?
  • The USPTO awards patents. The decision as to what can or cannot be a valid patent is supposedly based on rulings by US Federal courts. In some instances, decisions by the USPTO are overturned by said courts. These rulings sometimes get appealed to a higher court.

    This type of procedure is similar to Congress passing laws. Some of their laws are overturned by Federal courts.

    People here complain about some (all?) of patents that get awarded with respect to computer related technology. Much of the problem is that many of these issues are still unresolved because they are so new. What will eventually happen is that a few key test cases will be contested in Federal Court. The ultimate ruling (Supreme Court?) will then set the standard for later rulings.

  • Apparently the GIFs on the website are rather hard to read..... for those that enjoy reading patents (you know who you are!) can check out read the full patent (in pdf nonetheless) at this URL [shoebox.net].

    I think i'm allowed to post this... If not then... hmm... i'm sure someone will email me. =)

  • by JamesKPolk ( 13313 ) on Monday September 13, 1999 @03:18PM (#1684224) Homepage adfu.blockstackers.com

    Obviously lots of slashdot readers do this, because slashdot's gone to using an ip address for the ads... I guess I'll have to look into junkbusters or whatever it's called.
  • No, there is no requirement to put a "patent pending" notice. Supposedly it means "hey, we've filed a patent but we want to start selling this thing now, so don't bother trying to patent it yourself first." Maybe manufacturers get some satisfaction from putting it on, but it's just about completely meaningless.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    cache busting
  • adzapper is a little program that prevents ads from being loaded-- it turns them into transparent (or solid colored) GIFs. it's similar to Internet Junkbuster...


  • As far as I know the ad servers work when someone "clicks through" an ad, not when someone loads the image. On general principle I refuse to click through any ads on any site. So I'm just helping save bandwith by not loading any ads.

    When you watch a TV show you really like, do you make sure to watch all the ads too? Do you make sure to buy all the products advertised?

    Some may say I'm getting a free ride on Slashdot, and maybe that's true. I like to think I contribute by moderating, posting on-topic and informative material, and generally being a good user.

    If the Slashdot powers that be disagree, they can feel free to block my access or ensure that I generate money for them in order to access the site. But I think that goes against the general idea of the values that Slashdot tends to represent.

  • Maybe Link Exchange was, but I definitely know
    that Commonwealth (something that riddler.com
    started) was around in 1995/1996, as I used it
    for a brief time on my own pages. (I refuse
    to do ads myself anymore unless I control
    how they are displayed).
  • I can understand why they are doing it too. That does not mean that I condone it. That would be like saying, "I can understand X's reasoning behind murdering Y, so I forgive X completely, no charges". It just shouldn't work that way. It's unethical to patent something obvious. The fact that they did so to grant themselves a monopoly does not improve their standing in my eyes one bit.
    As for Beanie Babies, it's not as if they were the first bean bag animals around. I remember bean bag snakes and lizards from years before I ever heard of Beanie Babies. True, they had a lot of imitators trying to cash in on the phenomenon, but some of those Mom & Pop shops had been selling similar toys before the craze. Even if Beanie Babies really were the first ever bean bag animals, they certainly wouldn't be worthy of a patent anyway. Simply changing the material used to stuff stuffed toys should not be considered unique enough. Maybe if they came up with a really unique way of making the toys, then the process could be patented, but that's it.
    It's the same way with banner ad patents. Now, I'm guilty of not having read the article very well, and I certainly haven't read the patent, so I'm not very qualified to comment on it, but that doesn't seem to be stopping anyone else... The article says that the patent is described as: "Method of Delivery, Targeting, and Measuring Advertising Over Network". I can't really tell from that whether that encompasses banner ads in general, or if they're defining a very narrow system. In any case, banner adds have been around for longer than this patent. Methods of targetting advertising have been around forever, and applying them to a slightly different medium should not be patentable. As for measurement, gathering statistics about where and when, etc. banner ads were delivered by the server is hardly novel and original.
    So, anyway, regardless of their motivations, their actions appear to be unjustifiable (unless the scope of the patent really is much narrower than the story leads us to believe.
  • I know and understand that many sites, including our beloved slashdot, require banner ads to run. However, maybe something like this, along with some additional (gah) self-regulation can fix the problems with banner ads.

    The biggest problem (or benefit if you are the advertizer) is that these ads are the perfect combination of television ads (push technology - you can't refuse the ads *AND* they're animated!), and individualized marketing. And in neither case, unless you really know what you are doing, can you *AVOID* either. I'm surprised with all the privacy concerns of late, that no one has flamed off at double click for collecting user profiles, and you cannot disable that unless you set up the appropriate proxy or host redirect as mentioned elsewhere in this thread.

    Furthermore, the ad designers are getting trickier in their techniques - Java, ActiveX scripts, FORMs, Javascript -- you name it, I've seen it. Not only do these slow loading of pages, but all you need is a script kiddie getting into the ad server, and *BAM*, the ad distributor has suddenly allowed that kiddie to access a large number of user's computers. And this can be done unobtrusively -- wedge the code in tight enough, and no one will notice till it's too late.

    What can be done about ads? It's a necessary evil for many of the non-corporation, non-profit sites to run with good bandwidth, but it will get out of hand shortly. I've got my own suggestions:

    • Introduce a new HTML block element, <AD>, such that anything inside that element is condisered an ad. Old browsers will ignore the code and display the ad as normal, while newer browsers can do whatever they want (based on user's prefs) with it. Problems with this are that HTML tags are mention to reflect the document structure and shouldn't be as specific as this, and that ad companies will fiercely complain if even a free, open-sourced browser comes out that strips the ads clearly. Thus, this approach is not very good and will be hard to get accepted.
    • Limit the content of the ad banner. It should be a simple IMG or a MAP tag, and the total bytes transmitted should be under 20k. This would require self-regulation on the ad designers' part, as well as the necessary coding in the ad distributers' part, but would be the best.
    • Get the ad distributers' to post privacy notices and opt-up statements on their sites. I doubt that many ad distributers' have any privacy states (Because, duh, they serve the person paying for the ad, not the people that it's pushed to)

    If there was an ad company that did any of these things, and did not to targeted advertizing beyond what I specify for my site (For example, my MST3K page, I would allow movie ads, sci-fi related ads, etc, and nothing else), I may consider banner ads again. But until they become less of a bear, I refuse to use them, and hope that this 'patent' will force others away from them, just as the Unisys LZW patent has done for GIFs. It can only make the web a better place.

  • This article [latimes.com] was in the LA Times today. Apparently some company has "patented" the idea of renting and selling movies over the internet. Mainly talks about the big boys, Disney, WB et al and the potential problems they face but it seems as though just about anything is patentable these days. Now if only I had patented the idea of selling naked pictures of "teens" I'd be "almost" as rich as BG.
  • At the moment, I just use cookie blocking software (Cookie Pal [kburra.com]), as I figure that if they don't have cookies on my machine, they can't track me. The amount of banner ads I download doesn't really worry me as I'm on an unlimited ISP account.

    I don't block the servers using a host file, even though I do have TweakDUN, because then the sites I visit don't get the revenue from the impression at all. I mean, if everybody set the ad servers to, all the sites that rely on ad revenue, and that's most of the good ones, would probably go under, and I don't want that to happen.

  • Ok, something to know and understand here is that the USPTO has taken a lot of crap over the last 30 years. Repeatedly the courts have blasted and reversed decisions by the USPTO office. I personally know of two a case where patents were denied, the USPTO was taken to court, and the plaintiff won. Not only did the take up USPTO time, but it also whittled away at the authority the office holds.

    In addition to the effect that the courts have had on the system, the number of patents has been growing at an incredible rate. I mean you have to realize something, prior to computers and programming it was a big hassle to develop something new, build it and then prove it worked. Now days you can write a few lines of code, do something new and different, and then file. This means the USPTO has seen the same increase in users and fillings that the NYSE has seen. Computers have brought the actions and powers previously open only to the few to the masses.

    The USPTO used to require that if something new was "devised" you either had to build it and prove that it worked. Or, develop detailed drawings and have engineers and others review them for "accuracy and operability". Now days it is hard to find and hire enough well trained programmers who are willing to spend their time just reviewing code.

    So what does this mean? Well, quite simply the USPTO is tired of being reversed it court and flooded with administrative issues in the middle of the largest increase in fillings in history. So, they have turned the power to review patents over to the courts to decide. The USPTO rarely even checks patents to see if they are repeats or overlap others. This is the responsibility of the filler- and if he/she screws it up, then they have to pay up (in court). While the USPTO has removed most all of this administrative review functions- they have passed them along to the courts. So, if you file for something that already exist, it may be "covered", but you will be required to defend it in court.

    Now, true some reviewers of patents simply refuse the ridiculous and ludicrous- especially in the trademark office. However, if the item is technical in any way they just let the individuals (or corporations) battle it out in court.

    So, the real issue here is not that Doubleclick got a patent(s) for their design(s)- but whether or not they can hold on to and defend the patent(s). Most likely they will lose- not only do you have to be first, but you also have to prove that it is not "similar" to an existing media advertising form. That could be very difficult to prove- and thus the Doubleclick thing seems silly.

    IMHO someone at Doubleclick said- "lets give this a try, if nothing else we get a lot of good frontage coverage (read advertising) on the web and in print. More than likely this thing will be challenged in court, by one of the heavy weights. Doubleclick will fail in its defense (if there is even one) and things will be back to 'normal'.

    Just my 1½ cents
  • by craw ( 6958 ) on Monday September 13, 1999 @04:24PM (#1684256) Homepage
    Once Upon A Life, I used to debate competitively. You must have been a master debater (sorry, old joke).

    I've replied earlier, and have re-read what you have posted. You (at this moment) have a high score. This to me illustrates some of problems with the moderation as you present no real arguments but resort to long words. This then tells me that the average /. moderator has a limited vocabulary. Additionally, you present the USPTO as some idealitic world far removed from any contraints.

    I have already responded to your incorrect argument about the USPTO and their authority.

    What things can obtain a patent? How about traditional business models that have been extended to the computer industry? Have you looked at any patent applications? Hint: The patent applications have many references to prior patents. The new patent is simply an extension of prior work. However, many ppl here don't understand the limitations and potential of this.

    Patents are usually very specific in terms of thier applicability. What some ppl hope to benefit from patents is by obtaining one that is vague and all incompassing. This one is close, maybe. I say this because IANAL.

    I know that this is unpopular with the normal /. crowd. I also know that patents and IP are not popular subjects. But, consider this. I have a great new concept for the internet. MS then figures that they also want this.

    My good idea is gone. MS now has extended and embraced my idea.

  • Basically it comes down to capitolism. They make XXX amount of money from the people that pay to advertise. THat was all fine and dandy a year ago when there were only a few places out. Now, it seems, EVERYONE is trying to do these banner ads, so they feel threatened by it and attempt to stop this all with a patent. Granted, Im sure it will be re-examined and thrown out, but you do have to look at it from their view. Also, like someone else said, this may lead to a decrease in banner ads on the net. Its possible, though unlikely. Just how do you prove they werent using their strategy/code/etc? Change a few lines in it, add a few bytes here, voila.. New code. Companies do this type of stuff all the time. Beanie babies became HUGEEEEEEEEE, what happened? All of a suddent these little mom&pop shops began making similar products and selling them too. So, while possible, its unlikely that any of this will lead to less ads on the net. Face it, the power of the almighty buck follows the masses, and right now the masses are following the net. Does this make any sense to anyone? I need sleep. Nite. Judg3 [judg3.net]
  • by Ian the Terrible ( 11944 ) on Monday September 13, 1999 @11:22AM (#1684262) Homepage
    My suspicion is that they're not trying to patent the concept of a banner ad, but rather the nefarious method they use to deliver them.

    They distribute ads to hundreds of sites, and they set a persisent browser cookie, thus (sort of) bypassing the fact that cookies can only be returned to the server that issued them.

    Since the cgi that delivers the image and sets the cookie is on a doubleclick server, they can track someone through any or all of the client sites. That's how they develop "user profiles". Their cookie mechanism is pretty much the equivalent of a browser history file. It's just a history file that only includes sites that use the doubleclick system.
  • by Blue Lang ( 13117 ) on Monday September 13, 1999 @11:24AM (#1684264) Homepage
    You wanna know what burns my booty about so many of these patents? The things that people get away with calling 'technology' are just the same crap we learned how to do in any basic programming class.

    For instance, these kids are going on about how their 'technology' 'targets' ads to certain sites based on who views what, blah blah blah. As tho databases and simple statistical analysis were something that no one had ever heard of..

    I vote that no new patents be issued unless someone writes a whole new method of doing every single part of whatever it is they're doing, AND that new method is 34% faster on comparable hardware. ;)

    Or, of course, unless they write it as an apache module.. yum.
  • Geocities pages will become a lot less annoying very quickly.
  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) on Monday September 13, 1999 @11:30AM (#1684269) Homepage
    Oh, I enjoy this.

    Once Upon A Life, I used to debate competitively. A common procedure was to take some argument of the opponent and extend it to its "natural conclusion". Often these conclusions would be quite silly, and would be degraded as an example of Reducio Ad Absurdium(Reduction To The Absurd).

    Saying that free software means that all programmers will starve to death would be a good example.

    Saying that these programmers, in their hunger, will trigger a nuclear war that will destroy the earth is a realistic, debate world example. (I sh*t you not.)

    Relevance, you ask? The absurd reduction of the concept that the patent office has the power to expand its own domain is that it will eventually allow ownership over the, well, patently obvious. An abusive debater would argue that government never, ever chooses to decrease its power, only to increase it(thus the use of counterbalanced powers--this way, one branch of government steals from another, and not from the overall pool of freedom), so the patent office would only limit its power grabbing up to the point where the courts would stop it.

    Now, watch this. Since the patent office is the legal mediator between the "inventor" and the "infringer", it is ostensibly the objective expert in the matter of what makes a fair patent.

    Courts defer to the experts. That the patent office possesses an extreme conflict of interest--it becomes more powerful(and rich) based on how much falls under its penumbra--is completely ignored.

    So, given all that, the abusive debater would reduce the patent office into an agency that would apply patents to as much as it could possibly get away with, which would grow larger and larger with the passage of time, the deference of courts, and the greed of claimants.

    Only what's funny is, as silly as this conclusion should be, we truly *are* seeing Reducio Ad Absurdium patents in widespread use. The concept of slapping a graphical advertisement on a virtual "page", just like one does with *gasp* real pages--this is not particularly inventive.

    Neither, incidentally, is the exploitation of the most obvious security hole in cookie design. Nor, for that matter, naming your own price for a product and hoping somebody accepts it. (Ever been to a flea market?)

    The general theme seems to be, if it's something common put online, it's automatically new and patentable. Not only is this an absurd conclusion, it's *debate* level absurd.

    That basically means, from a philosophical point of view, one is ignoring every single piece of contravening reality to come to some conclusion that you desired in the first place. Amazingly, this pretty much describes what the patent office is doing.

    But there's some beauty in all of this--remember when I was talking about counterbalanced powers? One agency of government has built up a pretty decent power base through its greed, but its completely unsecured. There's no "legitimacy value" to this power, so the potential exists to a) extract large amounts of campaign funding and b) get prestige and national name recognition(Americans love seeing corruption exposed, much like they like moving flower pots and seeing the insects writhe in the sunlight.) by going after the patent office.

    In other words, greed will counter greed.

    The more ridiculous the patents get, the more exposed businesses small and large become. The more exposed, the more willing to support a "champion" to defend their rights.

    The Patent Agency is contributing to its own emasculation. This latest patent is just more of the same.

    Run Lemming Run!

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research

    Once you pull the pin, Mr. Grenade is no longer your friend.
  • by Wanker ( 17907 ) on Monday September 13, 1999 @11:30AM (#1684271)

    Back in the Good Old Days (e.g. before about 1990), one could not patent software, according to the book "Patent It Yourself", third edition. I believe the logic was that software was simply too flexible to be reliably patented-- it was prohibitively difficult to verify that it was indeed a new unique process.

    I'm not sure when the change was made to allow software patents, but I believe we can all now see the wisdom in disallowing them before. The Patent and Trademark office is clearly over its head when things like this are granted patent status. How hard is it for them to adjust their bias towards rejecting patents?

    Keep in mind that the whole idea behind patents is fundamentally the same as Open Source Software. In exchange for a limited monopoly, people get full disclosure of how the patented process works. This knowledge can then be used to stimulate others' creativity, leading to new processes that might never have been created had the original process been kept secret.

    Patents are a Good Thing, though it's sometimes hard not to lose sight of this when patents on widespread and overly generic processes are granted.

  • While I myself have never filed a patent, I do know some people well who are extremely familiar with it (as engineers and entreprenuers). According to them, getting the patent through the patent office is easy, and has always been. Making it stand up in court is a different issue.

    This is not to say that there isn't any room for improvement. Or even that USPTO reviewers aren't really qualified to review many applications. But rather, the patent system has served us pretty well despite its flaws. The flawed system is certainly better than no patent system at all. Of this I am absolutely convinced.

    That being said, however. The nature of patent fillings, the number of, the type of individuals/corporations filing for patents is changing rapidly. It is not so much that the patent office is changing, as it is that the internet (and a couple other choice industries) are creating new patent 'markets', if you will. The percieved barriers to entry are lower, and thus more people who are inexperienced with the patent office are bumping against it. These internet patents might prove to be a stumbling block for those providing certain services or developing internet content. As the internet tends require less capital to make a presence than previous ventures did. These individuals who don't even have the status of a startup company, may find it difficult to defend against a frivolous law suit. Likewise, individuals are also finding more things they can patent as the internet 'innovation' is more tangible for the average user, than say a patent on some complex piece of engineering. The combination of unsophisticated users on both ends is creating this friction.

    I do think that most of these 'internet patents' are silly, as there was no investment, no risk, no real skill involved in bringing these 'innovations' into fruition (if they even indeed brought them about). However, I don't think the internet is as big of a thing as people make it out to be. It's still but a small sliver of our GNP. Nor are these issues as traumatic or earth shattering as many on /. make them out to be.

  • by rudedog ( 7339 ) <dave@@@rudedog...org> on Monday September 13, 1999 @02:27PM (#1684279) Homepage
    Doubleclick? Doubleclick? I'm trying to remember who they are. Lemme look in my hosts file... oh yeah. They're those guys at whose banners never seem to load correctly. Oh well.

    This is very ingenious. You should patent it.

  • Its grand that you don't look at the banners or you have a program that makes them not even come up... but when everyone starts doing that look out...

    I don't have to look out, but you do, because you will be out of a job then. More and more people are ignoring or filtering out ads, click-through rates are going down fast. How sweet it is! Even better that even TV ad filtering is now possible with Tivo.

    Personally I said that cause I make a living off of creating sites that their only revenue is ads. I think its a great way to have a site.

    Sure, put on your site whatever you want, but never EVER presume that you can use my modem connection and display stuff on my computer screen that I don't approve of. I'm in control of my hardware.

    Usually ads are not there unless there is a good service or product cause they would not be able to pay for the ad space.

    Funny, my position is just the opposite: if it needs advertising, it must be some crap that nobody wants nor needs. Everything that is genuinely useful doesn't need advertising; people will search for and find it themselves. Ever seen an ad for potatos?


  • By default, the file is onle a "sample," called HOSTS.SAM. It has comments in it, to explain to the uninitiated. The location is different in Win95/98 and WinNT, but that's what Find Files is for, right?

    Edit it with Notepad, and save it. Rename it to HOSTS. to remove the extension. (Note, some versions of Notepad won't let you Save As without an extension.)

    It works as you should expect... it checks this before asking a RHCP or registered DNS server, and it's pretty good about rehashing itself after you modify it.
  • by copito ( 1846 ) on Monday September 13, 1999 @05:30PM (#1684284)
    as you present no real arguments but resort to long words

    And you do no better, except for the long words part. (Here I make the same mistake that you do, initiating my argument with an attack).

    have already responded to your incorrect argument about the USPTO and their authority.

    Yes I read your other post, and yes the Federal Courts do hear patent cases. This refutes the main thrust of the argument pertaining to a power grab by the USPTO, but it does not absolve the patent office from fufilling it's duty to make sure that the patents it grants are not obvious.

    I had the most problem with the next paragraph.
    What things can obtain a patent?
    Things are obtaining patents now, it's worse than I thought.

    How about traditional business models that have been extended to the computer industry?

    How about them? I would think that most people would characterize such an extension as obvious and hence not patentable. Business models as a whole are only recently patentable. As you point out this is a court decision, not a patent office one, but it is a bad decision in any case.

    Have you looked at any patent applications? Hint: The patent applications have many references to prior patents. The new patent is simply an extension of prior work.
    The tone here is a little combative for my taste, but the point is clear enough. New patents tend to extend old patents and are seldom revolutionary. While this is true, the change should be novel and not obvious to a skilled practitioner of the art in question. It should never be enough to simply extend an old patent with no ingenuity.

    Patents are usually very specific in terms of thier applicability. What some ppl hope to benefit from patents is by obtaining one that is vague and all incompassing.

    An additional point that you might have made, but didn't, is that the claims on a patent always begin with absurd generality in the expectation that only the most specift claims will be accepted. Such a point, had it been made would have explained the apparent contradiction.

    But, consider this. I have a great new
    concept for the internet. MS then figures that they also want this.

    My good idea is gone. MS now has extended and embraced my idea.

    Ok, you have just made the point that patents are good for the holder of the patent. This is clearly true, otherwise there are millions of masochists and corporations that love losing money out there filing for patents left and right.

    The issue is not what is good for the patent holder, or rather it is a means to an end. The issue is using law to maximize the societal benefits of innovation. Patents are a legal monopoly granted by the government in order to incentivize the production and publication of new ideas and technologies. They are not a right of the inventor. The only right the inventor has, under any reasonable conception of natural law, is to not have his actual property stolen, and to have his agreements with other parties adhered to. Patents allow the inventor to sell his product without worrying about enforcing individual non-disclosure agreements with each party. In this way they add to the efficiency and profitablity of invention and production.

    The balance that must be struck is the encumberance that patents place on other inventors, every bit as inventive and productive as the first, who invent the same or similar technology or who wish to encorporate such a technology in their work, which in it's own right is beneficial to society. In the extreme patents might slow innovation to a halt as patent holders have no incentive to allow the transition to a better technology. While this is not the case, it is more of a threat the faster technology progresses. In the internet arena, patents should, at the very least, be drastically shorter than they are in the automotive hardware arena.

  • I know that there are many sites out there cataloging bizarre inventions...

    But recent developments, patents like this one and other similar ones we've all read about lately make me wonder...

    Is anyone out there cataloging the truly stupid or genuinely obvious "intellectual property" patents that has been granted, either recently, or over the span of time?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It was filed back in "Oct.29,1996" according to the IBM patent database. http://www.patents.ibm.com/details?pn=US05948061__ You can also nominate it for the dumb/obscure patents gallery http://www.patents.ibm.com/vote/report?pn=US059480 61__
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Monday September 13, 1999 @11:36AM (#1684299) Homepage Journal
    Slashdot should patent "A method for posting and peer review of articles and news online."

    I bet they could get it...

  • Use either lynx or Internet Junkbuster [junkbusters.com] and you will never see another evil (patented or otherwise) banner ad again! BTW, I invented AND patented dirt, grass, and cheese. Pay up, folks! :) --Ben
  • by the_demiurge ( 26115 ) on Monday September 13, 1999 @11:42AM (#1684303) Homepage

    It seems that this kind of patent is just creating hassles. The only use for it is for Doubleclick to sue some other ad company for infringment. That's going to cost lots of money on both sides (and cost the government money in the process) and there is a high probablility that the patent will just get struck down anyway. There needs to be some kind of stricter patenting process that weeds out overbroad patents like this.

    One of the problems with the wide use of computers and the internet, is that new things are being done everywhere, and in lots of different ways. Some one on another continent could be trying to solve the same problem as you, at the same time, and it seems a shame that only one would get a patent on it. (reminds me of Newton and Lebnitz[sp?])

    1. Think of what is Right and True -- Miyamoto Musashi

  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) on Monday September 13, 1999 @08:44PM (#1684312) Homepage
    Interesting response. Entirely outside of what I expected.

    For instance, you claim the following:

    "you present the USPTO as some idealitic world far removed from any contraints."

    Far from it. Rereading my post, I find that the federal courts are predisposed to favor the opinion of the official government body for determining patent fairness, the USPTO, when judging a patent infringement lawsuit. Such is the nature of the courts--stick to precendent, stay consistent, defer to experts.

    My point was that the patent office is not an impartial judge of proper patentry, and as a method of power aggrandization will eventually attempt to usurp more and more power over obvious monopolies.

    Again, I fail to understand how you could possibly claim that I believe the patent office exists without constraints; rather, I think that the primary constraints against it aren't truly counterbalancing, due to the expert deferrance. I also think new constraints will form as more and more money gets extorted from large companies.

    While the ability to utilize patent extortion is a powerful source of leverage for many large corporations, the exposure possible from being extorted is so vast that we will see significant reforms on this front, if only because it will be cheaper to pay to get the law changed than to deal with the continual flow of frivolous patents.

    Economics [doxpara.com] at work.

    Lets look at some of the things you said. Could be fun.

    This to me illustrates some of problems with the moderation as you present no real arguments but resort to long words. This then tells me that the average /. moderator has a limited vocabulary.

    This to me illustrates some of problems with your post as you present ad hominem attacks yet cannot intrepret long words. This then tells me that the average /. moderator would mark this post as flamebait if I didn't limit my vocabulary.

    Hint: The patent applications have many references to prior patents. The new patent is simply an extension of prior work.

    This is not surprising. Here I am, arguing that the patent office is providing patents to more and more obvious things, and you're saying that the patent office is issuing patents related to previous patents.

    The number 0 was novel once too, ya know.

    You also have to consider, if you take a bunch of reference patents, then add something completely obvious(do it online!), you haven't particularly innovated much.

    But, consider this. I have a great new concept for the internet. MS then figures that they also want this.

    My good idea is gone. MS now has extended and embraced my idea.

    We shouldn't be bashing Microsoft. They're standing up to Priceline. Brownie points from this Linux geek for that.

    Lets extend your example into...like, reality. It's much more likely to be the other way around. MS has the money to patent any tiny idea that happens to spooge out in the middle of a board meeting, no matter how minute or obvious. You only patent your brilliance. Unfortunately, your one patent has been superceded by MS's thousands. They own your idea, or at least they threaten you into silence with expensive lawyers.

    If I remember right, MS owns the concept to putting a computer in all those set top boxes that Everyone Will Buy and turning them into a distributed computing environment. Completely obvious to anyone in distributed computing.

    Oh, sorry. Your great distributed computing idea...is now controlled by them. Sorry.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research

    Once you pull the pin, Mr. Grenade is no longer your friend.
  • I just wanted to clarify the above information. Congress specifically passed and modified the patent laws so that software (applications, OSes and everything in between) would be considered assets. That's really the key word here. Assets, like the above author said, are grouped with mechanical processes, or even more specifically, material processes and objects. They are traditionally supposed to be tangible and concrete, held in check by the laws of Newtonian physics. This ruling naturally shook things up to hell from that standpoint.

    So what's the big deal about assets? What you have to realize is that corporations (as opposed to just unnamed groups of people, or individuals) exist to get certain benefits, i.e. for tax breaks/shelters, to facilitate easier growth of capital, etc., etc. One big benefit to a corporate entity is to declare their material ownings as these assets and then have those assets amortize (become liquidated over time) and depreciate (become devalued over time) so they can write all of that off against their taxes. See where I'm going with this?

    This alteration greatly helped out corporations that are heavily dependent on software, especially very expensive software. They buy all of this costly stuff, declare it as an asset and then write it all off. Sure, Microsoft likes it because they know other corporations will buy more of their product, eager to write it all off. It's a pretty tidy arrangement for them.

    In my own opinion, I feel that this ruling is likely to hurt the growth of open source and free software in the business sector because many corporations will be happier to spend on their software and write it off, rather than just adopt software that costs little, if anything at all. In countries where corporations are hit harder by taxes, you'll probably see even more of the corporate base invest in costly (or at least costlier) software... :/
  • A similar case, albeit it by a less reputable source:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why have I never seen a "Patent Pending" notice on the DoubleClick.net site? Aren't you required to place such a notice, so that people aren't tricked into creating their own system? Or notified, so they can present prior-art claims to the Patent Office?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Software was considered unpatentable because algorithms had been decreed unpatentable.

    Then some wiseguy submitted a patent covering a machine (apparatus) which implemented an algorithm. The patent was granted, and the resulting 'apparatus' just happened to be constructed of bits, rather than pieces of metal.

    Thus opened Pandora's Box.

  • by big-papa ( 87916 ) on Monday September 13, 1999 @12:00PM (#1684330)
    Congress passed/modified the patent laws which placed software processes in the same category as mechanical process (e.g., mousetraps). If I remember correctly, there was a very loud uproar from user groups, FSF, GNU, and technical journalists when this was first introduced. But Congress passed the new laws in spite of the objections. Probably because a strong lobby from the likes of Microsoft and IBM.
  • Try searching for 'oscilloscope' or something obscure, and presto! the adverts wants you to but an oscilloscope.

    Targetted advertising seems to getting worse. Today while looking through the Dilbert Zone from my University account I was continuosly presented with a recruting ad that mentioned the university by name.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.