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Yahoo Patents Dynamic Page Generator 282

ecampbel writes "This patent should scare many, many different sites. Their specific invention is that they store the live data used to fill in their site?s templates in shared memory that the sub-processes that actually generate the page have access to. This method cuts down on the time it takes to generate their page since quering another server or process isn't necessary. What does Slashdot and the readers of Slashdot think of this new patent?" Thats it! Nobody is allowed to cache data in shared memory space any more! Slashdot actually runs really close to this, although I cache the custom Slashboxes in httpd child memory space, not in shared memory owned by the parent Apache (hey, is there a shared memory module for perl? :) The abstract is attached below, anyone have any opinions on this one?

Here is the abstract of their patent: United States Patent 5,983,227 (Nov. 9, 1999)

Dynamic page generator


A custom page server is provided with user preferences organized into templates stored in compact data structures and the live data used to fill the templates stored local to the page server which is handing user requests for custom pages. One process is executed on the page server for every request. The process is provided a user template for the user making the request, where the user template is either generated from user preferences or retrieved from a cache of recently used user templates. Each user process is provided access to a large region of shared memory which contains all of the live data needed to fill any user template. Typically, the pages served are news pages, giving the user a custom selection of stock quotes, news headlines, sports scores, weather, and the like. With the live data stored in a local, shared memory, any custom page can be built within the page server, eliminating the need to make requests from other servers for portions of the live data. While the shared memory might include RAM (random access memory) and disk storage, in many computer systems, it is faster to store all the live data in RAM.

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Yahoo Patents Dynamic Page Generator

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  • Maybe, but making paople pay me for the ability to have sex would be a lot more money for me in the long run. I'd charge by the minute, plus charge licencing fees to use the patented "tools" each year. I better not talk much more as I might give Gill Bates an idea. (nice avoidance of defam lawsuit there huh?)
  • so if the date on IPC::Shareable is more than 1 year over the patent date, it obviously falls into the prior art clause. hopefully nullifying the yahoo patent

    --"oh dear" said god, "i hadn't thought of that" and vanished in a puff of logic--
  • how bout a dunce cap with the caption "really obvious sh*t"

  • Check out patent #5,253,341 []. TechSearch LLC (a group of lawyers which buys patents so they can sue the bejeezus out of everyone else) claims this covers the retrieval and display of graphical and/or audio data from remote servers, which seems to include the entire web.

    It looks like the usual scam - there's enough prior art to sink this if it was ever fought but they're hoping people will find it cheaper to pay the $80,000 protection money they're asking than the legal fees to fight it. The letter their lawyers sent listed several large companies that are being sued and asserted that many other companies have already paid for licenses.

    I think the whole industry is starting to be challenged by those lusers. Outside of suing the US Patent Office for negligence, I think we need something like John Walker's PATO [], where software companies could pool their resources to defend against these leeches.

  • I'm not contributing a lot to this conversation,
    but I am getting some good answers (like Ed Aus')
    to my questions. Just how the hell[1] do you
    patent a gene? I've got about a bunch(tm) in my
    body. Am I infringing on someone's patent?

    It seems to me that the human genome project
    id discovering what we're all made of. I cannot
    see how this is patentable. We've been around
    for a few hundred thousand years. Is this not
    prior art? If any one has any links to how
    this is being justified I'd love to see them.

    [1] pardon my french

  • Any method, process, set of instructions which produces directy or indirectly results in any new or original patents.

    This way I can claim royalties on every patent out there.

    (Please Moderate me as "lame".)
  • Often, you patent something to prevent others from patenting it and then charging you and the rest of the world money.

    True. I believe Volkswagen (I know someone did this, may not have been VW) patented the seat belt, but let everyone else use it free of charge. If this the the route Yahoo wants to take with this patent, then by all means let them, and hail them as the protectors of this technology.

    They'd have to be really stupid to try and patent something like this with the intention of mass lawsuits, IMHO... but who said big businesses were intelligent?

  • It's here: tents/ []. Credited it simply to 'slashdot' as it touches on ideas brought by many people here. You might like Ideas For Fixes [].
  • This is ridiculous. I think it is about time to start a bit of Civil Disobedience: everyone should just ignore stupid patents like this one. Just make the patent system go away by simply ignoring it in Thoreauean fashion.

    Yes, I realize that this idea needs work because it is not 'realistic'. Is there a way to make this suggestion realistic?
  • Reading about all recent *silly* patents stuff I thought a simple rule that could be used:
    the patent request should be *invalidated* if someone else can prove (documenting the matter)that the process isn't a real innovation, having discovered/experimented/used it *before*.

    Isn't it a moral issue?
    Think about Marconi VS Bell.
    Think about Micro$oft too, the "freedom to innovate"

    * You could be the next one! *
  • Use the Encheferizer [] to get a totally unique, non-obvious solution to your problem! Look how it saved my latest web application:

    LinkResult More Coupons...Clear patent violation Mure-a Cuoopuns ...
    Bork! Bork! Bork!Looking good for my *own* patent
  • Any high performance db will attempt to cache and share data in memory when it's appropriate. It's the obvious thing to do to enhance performance. Yahoo's only feature seems to be that they also cache the per-user view of the data as well. As the general principle of cache/don't recompute is always an option that can speed up access, there's little original here.
  • Use the Encheferizer [] to get a totally unique, non-obvious solution to your problem! Look how it saved my latest web application:

    Link:More Coupons
    Result: A Clear patent violation

    Link:Mure-a Cuoopuns ...
    Bork! Bork! Bork!

    Result: A wholly unique, non-obvious application of technology! Looking good for my *own* patent

  • At barrapunto we have a "patentes" topic. Check out the section logo []. It plays on the simplicity of the device and on the Spanish phrase "The Law of the Funnel" (the mighty always do what they want, the meek always suffer the consequences of both the mighty's actions and their own).
  • When I see some new outrageous effort to censor the net, I know the EFF (which I recently joined) will be leading the fight against it.

    When I hear about some new attempt to force the church into the state, or to decrease protections against arbitrary search and seizure, I know the ACLU (of which I am a card-carrying member) will coordinate efforts against it.

    There is widespread agreement that software patents are evil. But who's binding and guiding the outrage? The only name that keeps coming up is the LPF, but there doesn't seem to be much more there than a name - I can't even join or send money through their web site ( []).

    Don't look at me - I'll give money, and write letters, but my organizing and people skills are zero. Maybe that's the problem, the old canard about how organizing geeks is like herding cats.

  • People, this is getting rediculous. Please, call and write your congressmen and demand that the patent system be reformed. Any lawyers on slashdot? Draft a bill and send it to congress! My God, this system is stuck in the late 1800s! Hell, even copyright law was reformed in the 70s... is about time patents be changed.

  • In all seriousness, I think that the more that silly patents like this are discussed, the more the eggheads in DC will get a clue as to what they are actually approving. This, and the McDonnel Douglas y2k patent, etc.. should not become the intellectual property of the filing parties; it just doesn't make sense. By leveraging the collective eyeballs and knowledge of people like /. readers is a good way to debunk these "ideas". If there were a section on /. that addressed this issue and became known to people in the patent office, then maybe that would prevent things like this from happening.
  • What would be the effect for free software interests of the inadvertent weakening of intellectual property itself? One cannot cynically trust the legal system to always reward the rich and punish the poor and disenfranchised (as seen by the recent antitrust findings of fact). Supposing this mechanism ends up in court cases where intellectual property is drastically weakened because judges or juries won't accept patentholders clubbing 'the little guy'? This could seriously weaken the usefulness and relevance of patents in general. Surely it's a bad idea to assume (out of some sense of teenager hip cynicism?) that such abuses of the IP system can just happen without consequences to the abusers? Again, I question whether this may be weakening IP in general, since patents are being granted that are clearly in error and unworthy of such status. That considered, what would the implications be for free software if the millenium saw a collapse of the significance of intellectual property- for instance, picture this patent mess and also the ludicrous behavior of the music and film industries on behalf of intellectual property. If all that ended up 'pushing it' too far and breaking the usefulness of IP, one might envision a Sampling World where everything is copied from everything else, perhaps with a layer of obscurity, perhaps as openly as mp3s of commercial music are traded. Picture software being similarly used, with the 'rules' of IP and patents so convoluted that nobody can ever in good faith keep informed on what they might be infringing on. In a world of such information fluidity, would this be an arena where free software would thrive, since it is primarily suited to maintaining information flow in situations of severe _restriction_? Perhaps it would grow like kudzu vines in the newly boundless environment :)
  • This invention seems to be a reinvention of report generation from a database according to a template. For example, in a large bank, the tellers have many terminals, all displaying different account information based on a customers' profile. The account database is live,
    being updated constantly as checks clear, ATMs
    are used to withdraw cash, etc. The account
    display can have additional fields or pages that
    appear depending on which services that customer
    has (checking, savings, loans, etc.).

    I don't see what is new and un-obvious about the
    Yahoo patent.
  • A long time ago I was reading through some GNU software and they were pushing another organization called "The League for Programming Freedom". I managed to find their web site at [] However it looks like the organization isn't doing to well. "Getting a domain name might not be a priority until the LPF has an actual committee to take it forward". The organization really is a good idea and we really should be pushing to turn it into a decent lobby organization, or perhaps the EFF [] should branch out. Though for letter writing/emailing you get your representatives address info here []. I'd really recommend sending them something. Remember to be polite and to include the address you're registered to vote at. (If you're not registered you should be.) On the list of recent news that had this little tidbit "02 Sep 99: Lucent gets patent on sine/cosine table lookup" Hmm... hasn't that one being done by hand since, say shortly after sine/cosine were invented? diane
  • Is there a link to the patent database? I only trust spoon-fed info so far...
  • You might as well patent Fortran Common areas...early example of a template potentially shared by other processes.
  • by Dom2 ( 838 ) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @06:08AM (#1542800) Homepage
    This is a subject coming up more and more frequently on slashdot. I think it's time that we contacted somebody at the patent office for the weekly interview. You never know, it might make a difference. At the very least, they might tell us how we can make a difference.

  • This is incredibly vague, but hell, even QLink on the C64 did stuff like this back in the mid-80s. And they got a patent on this?!
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • Give it a coupla years and somebody will patent "fire" and the damfool PTO, ignoring prior art, will let em do it.
  • This is kind of unbelievable. This is such a standard technique -- used by many, many systems, including I'm sure ones written by the readers here.

    I vote for oversite on all software patents!

  • Since the US patent office are completely clueless, it is in EVERY company's best interests to try and patent every technology they use. If they don't, someone else will. We all agree that the patent office is out of control, but as long as they are, patenting your work is a no brainer in order to protect yourself.

    What we need to watch is whether the companies who are granted these insane patents attempt to use them as clubs against other companies, or whether they're only getting them to avoid being sued themselves. I worked at a company that held at least one fairly silly patent that could have been used against several other companies, but never was. We had it just for our own protection, and I can tell you I would have quit at the first hint of our company actually suing someone over it. But it never came up, except jokingly.

    So don't get mad at Yahoo for patenting this, only get mad if they try to use it as a weapon.
  • We need to make a "No Bullshit Patents" law.
    Who's with me?
  • In the Ideas For Fixes:

    It may be that the ideal approach to the problem is to flood the Patent Office with prior art of every conceivable sort, in a form they can quickly and easily use to test patent applications.

    A possible better idea, inspired by the above, is to simply flood the Patent Office. It's relatively cheap to get a patent through the patent office if you don't care about its validity or usefulness, so it would probably be practical for the programming community to churn out a few hundred thousand junk patents per month.
    Would that be enough to clog up the process ? Would it bring the patent office to their senses ?

  • This is not about the word 'more' but about a technique
    to use fvwm-style or Xfree86-style virtual window management, but with visible bars to indicate the function.
    A definite improvement over the fvwm and X feature as far as I'm concerned.
  • You can try the IBM patent database [] or the US Patent and Trademark Office []. I usually use the former.
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • As far as I can see, it's about a specific application of a very specific OS feature: SysV Unix shared memory.
  • Also intersting to note - Yahoo are currently being sued themselves over patent violation, Wired have the article.

    The other patent (one electronic shopping cart instead of lots as I understand) looks almost as bad. Maybe Yahoo are planning to use their new patent as part of their defense (anything can be patented, so patents are meaningless)

  • Patents like this make you wonder about
    our country. Even if the patent office is
    using fresh-outs stuff like this should
    never squeek by. Any one with a little
    smarts in the patent field have any info
    on prior use?

  • Does anyone know when the M-D patent was issued/filed? Unless my memory is painfully flawed. Good old MS-DOS has been doing that for dates since about 1981 (or at least since the days of 3.1 in about '85). IIRC, any 2-digit date less than 80 yielded 20xx, while 80=year=99 gave 19xx.
  • The US patent office is out of control; the entire software patent issue is the modern equivalent of the Church's indulgences (give me money, and God will forgive your sins... more money... bigger sins!)

    Somewhere at a bottom of a thread someone mentioned a class-action suit against the patent office. Is there any reason why this isn't possible? Perhaps we can use the lawyer pig-dogs against themselves in order to stop this stupidity.

    The fact remains that software patents are all based on a shaky legal interpretation of a late seventies patent that was a hardware/software solution. The fact also remains that the US is one of the few countries that allow software patents (I think it is only US and Japan). The final fact is that software patents are significantly delaying innovation (look into the whole RSA issue and then think of the state of "secure ecommerce").

    Someone really needs to find a good, greedy lawyer and wake up the patent office to stop this madness. Alternately maybe someone can file class action suits against Yahoo et al for even daring to file the patents.
  • The reason they'd lose that case (don't think their legal staff hasn't contemplated it - I would lay odds that they've thoroughly investigated it) is that you can't copyright "look-and-feel". If you could, Microsoft would still be paying Apple for ripping off elements of the Macintosh GUI, or they might both be paying Xerox out the nose for the same.

  • That's almost a reasonable amount of time given that it seems like the net lives in dog years (1 year real time = 7 years of internet time).

    Of course, patents made much more sense even 10 years ago when product development time was measured in years, not months or weeks. Rather than protecting what a company might have put it's entire existance into for five to eight years of development time, with similiar development cycles for competitors, it made some sense to protect physical inventions.

    Now, with product to market leadtimes measured sometimes in hours or days, software patents, particulary those dealing with the net, don't so much protect the ideas as provide a fallback blunt instrument to bludgeon a competitor with.

    Given that patents take months to review and be awarded, by the time the patent is awarded, the time frame the patent applies to has passed. A year is effectively worthless, even in Internet time, since beaurocracy doesn't even seemt to work in "real-time."

    Finally, could anyone point out where on Yahoo's site they said "Patent Pending" to serve some sort of notice to the community?
  • Like the subject says, we need to break out the pen and paper (or keyboard and printer) to write our duly appointed Congressmen -- and women! -- and tell them that the US Patent and Trademark Office is royally screwing things up lately.

    Don't send email -- Congress-people just do not take email seriously yet. (When they do read it, they send a snailmail reply back -- that gives you an idea of how they operate). Even phone calls are not as good as letters, because letters stick around when a phone call is over when you hang-up.

    Congress created the USPTO, and they can modify it as needed. It is obviously not doing what it was intended to do, nor is it benefiting the people of this country.

    We need to get moving, write our Senators and Representatives, and let them know what is going on. If enough people make their displeasure known, action will follow. Put the Slashdot effect to some use, and write Capitol hill.
  • I think i'm going to patent breathing and while i'm at it and make everyone pay royalties for doing it, I'LL BE RICH!
  • It occurs to me that Yahoo's motives in this may not be as broad-sweeping as people are trying to predict... just like Amazon apparently got their one-click patent specifically to sue B&N, I wouldn't be surprised if this were a mechanism designed specifically as a hedge against Excite.

    My Yahoo and Excite start pages already look surprisingly similar; if Yahoo believes they found competetive advantage in how they are putting them together, they may simply be trying to protect that competetive advantage using whatever means they happen to have at their disposal.

    Although, quite frankly, my Excite page loads faster...

    I'm not being an apologist here at all, I am also fundamentally opposed to the concept of software patents. All I'm trying to present is a guess at what might be their strategy behind it.... I will say that it makes absolute-zero sense for Yahoo, a company whose core business is still being a search engine (ok, directory, technically, but nevertheless...), to go after any number of sites they're indexing; it makes a lot more sense for them to target specific competitors building similar portals by attempting to hamstring their technical options.

    This is my opinion and my opinion only. Incidentally, IANAL.
  • That's it...I'm throwing down the gauntlet...

    I'm gonna apply for ASCII text to be my new patent. That way anyone who wants to type anything has to pay me the big $$$'s for each letter they type. Of course, there will be a sliding scale for the fee, letters used more frequently will be discounted, such as vowels and the letter "s". Unpopular letters like "x" and "q" will cost more as keeping that kind of intellectual property around has some overhead attached to it. It'll be just like Scabble!

    Oh by the way, those little smiley faces " :-) " that everyone uses, they're my patent too. Those cost alot to use, so be warned. :-)


    "I'm not trying to insult your intelligence, you have to have some to be offended"
  • I have to disagree with the notion that the Internet will not continue to grow. Just look at the campus of any modern university and you will see an abundance of terminals and a populace utterly dependent on them. In addition Palm like devices with Internet capablilities will only hasten this process.

    As for patents, remember they only last 20 years. The RSA algorithm for public-key encyption is one that is about to enter the publice domain. And as far as these absurd 'everyone's doing it, but I got the patent' patents, all it will take is a company with enough resources who wants to use the technology without paying royalties. I assure you they will be quick to bring prior art to the court's attention.
  • Actually, looking at my server, I see exactly 8 processes currently sleeping known as apache. If my understanding is right, when a connection comes in, all of them are awakened, and the first one to accept the connection handles it. If I had it configured differently, it would use threads.

    As for IIS, I'm quite certain that it uses threads, rather than forking (very seldom does a daemon on a MS OS fork to handle a new connection).

    I'm not sure because I haven't looked at the /. code, but Rob may want to examine it to make sure that it does not violate this patent. Seems to me that the Slashboxen could be considered "real-time" data obtained from other servers.
  • LPF is at (no www).


  • No, you now have one year to file for a patent on your idea. If you don't, someone else can. If no one else files within one year, your idea will safely be in the public domain.

    - John
  • I'm sorry, but when it comes down to it, if you program it yourself using your own code it should not be patentable. I can understand copywrite issues put on software (ie. you hack our system, steal the code and use it for youself and make gobs of money) but patenting a process of doing something is BS when it doesn't actually create something solid, ie a car. I think I'll patent the method I use to put my pants on in the morning.

    - Xabbu
  • Next, we'll find out that the USPTO has granted a patent to a Fortune 100 company for using the novel technique of authoring their HTML in a new Web Authoring environment called "vi" which is somehow integrated into the UNIX operating system.

    Serious comments:

    The more patents they grant on these sorts of processes, the less enforceable all patents become. Recent developments indicate that the USPTO is totally out of their depth when it comes to the Web.

  • You might also want to look at IPC::MM, which implements a hash in shared memory using C code. Should be faster for apps with a lot of read/write access.
  • 2. Using a page server, a method of providing real-time responses to user requests for customized pages, the method comprising the steps of: [etc., rest deleted]

    I have a cold today, so my virus-addled mind may be missing something here, but it would appear that this claim really amounts to a description of a data-base view on a transactions-oriented database that just happens to be executed over-the-web? Or does the claim hinge on the notion that the view was "user-generated" (also pretty weak, given current DB products)?

    Presumably the idea of a database view cannot be patentable these days given a metric buttload of prior art, but is the "mere" webification of such an idea legally patentable, given the theory that it wasn't trivial to do since database-backed web sites didn't exist from day one?

    If so, I note that this patent was filed on June 12, 1997, and I am therefore virtually certain it is invalid due to the specific prior art of Philip Greenspun's online version of the bookDatabase Backed Web Sites [], which originally appeared on the web before it's 1997 publication, and was republished as Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing in 1999. Chapter 10 ("Sites that are really programs") and Chapter 11 ("Sites that are really databases") being te most relevant pieces.

    Really, I think Greenspun's prior art tells you exactly how to achieve the central claim of this patent, so I would be very interested to see somebody argue how the Yahoo claim holds any water at all, even in the "we webified it!" sense.

  • In order for there to be an infringement on claim 1, there must be:

    a plurality of user processes, one process per user accessing the server system;

    This does not appear to apply to Apache, because Apache uses a single process to handle multiple requests by different users.

    Does anyone know enough about the internal workings of IIS to know if it allocates one process per user, or request? If so, then this patent claim may only be infringed on by sites using Microsoft software.

    Claim 2 appears to be infringed on by all web servers that use user logons for any purpose, including slashdot, and that store any user preferences locally.

    If so, then the rest of the claims are irrelevant, because it appears impossible to construct a useful web server without infringing claim 2.
  • by JPMH ( 100614 ) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @07:20AM (#1542862)
    Read the patent []. (Key paragraphs below).

    It is much much worse than a claim on use of shared memory. The real killer broad claim is #2, which is an attempt to claim ALL pre-compiled user-specific template pages.

    Use of shared memory (#4), server-farms (#5), and cacheing (#6) are additional claims over and beyond the basic claim #2. Claim 2 applies whether these other claims are implemented or not.

    The nitty-gritty of claim #1 is just a fallback position, which protects Yahoo's detailed process in the event that Yahoo's other claims are ruled too abstract. Claim #1 does not apply unless you specifically generate lists of relevant sports teams and weather reports from user postcodes. The real horror is claim #2.

    Claim 2

    2. Using a page server, a method of providing real-time responses to user requests for customized pages, the method comprising the steps of:

    obtaining user preferences, wherein a user's user preferences indicate items of interest to that user;

    obtaining real-time information from information sources;

    storing the real-time information in a storage device;

    combining the user preferences for the user and a template to form a template program specific to the user;

    receiving, from a user and at the server, a user request for a customized page customized according to the user preferences;

    executing the template program specific to the user using the real-time information stored in the storage device as input to the template program to generate the customized page; and

    providing the user with the customized page, wherein the steps of executing and providing are performed in real-time response to receipt of the user request in the step of receiving and wherein the customized page includes at least one item of real-time information selected from the storage device.

    Claim 4

    4. The method of claim 2, wherein the step of storing the real-time information in a storage device is a step of storing the real-time information in a memory having a capacity to simultaneously contain all of the real-time information that could be required for execution of the template program.

    The term "template program" would appear to cover any per-user pre-generated page which includes ASP or PHP or Javascript to fill in the blanks. Bespoke formats in which the user template contains just field names instead of script fragments might also be considered "programs", executable by the web-server plus appropriate module.

    Very, very nasty.

  • Ater reading a gob o' comments, it seems like most semi-aware folks are disgusted by the blithely ignorant ways of the US patent office. Few, however, have ideas about what to do. Lobbying is good. Opening the eyes of the mainstream media is good (the ABC News (I think) coverage on gene patents the other day was fantastic). But it's not enough.

    But how about more focused public discussion? Tossing these up on /. is somewhat constructive, but it seems to me that that's a step short of a public discussion forum dedicated to discovery of prior art. Instead of lamenting about how bad the patent process is on /., howzabout a place where every article is a ridiculous patent, and the typical reply is "check out XXXX and YYY which both did this years before LudicrousPatentFiler Inc did." Moderation categories could include "prior art," "common knowledge," "other patent infringment," "nonoperative," or -- god forbid -- "valid."

    The mere existence of such a community-led patent debunker might make the average company a bit more careful about throwing several thousand dollars at a patent that gets invalidated in an hour or two.

    Where did that /source go, anyway? Think I could run such a thing on a 384k dsl line?

    Jon (xeno*wolfenet!com)
  • ...Yet another US Patent Office Run Amok Story!

    What next? A patent for bold and italic fonts?

    The way they give out patents right and left, it ought to be pretty easy to patent the concept of shared memory itself. Then sue Yahoo for patent violation!

  • by Matts ( 1628 ) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @04:24AM (#1542878) Homepage
    IPC::Shareable can (and is) used for this technique on mod_perl sites. I've used it myself. I haven't read the patent yet, I guess I'll go check it out.

    See the modperl archives for many other people using this method for caching data (templates and other stuff). I guess it could be argued that anything using a <perl> section or in modperl is using a similar technique.
  • by Pascal Q. Porcupine ( 4467 ) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @04:25AM (#1542881) Homepage
    Hm. In trying to find the patent in question, I did a search on 'yahoo' in the IBM patent database... US patent 05896132 [] is even more unbelievable than this one. Apparently IBM tried and succeeded patenting using the word 'more' for flipping through multiple pages of text:

    Scroll bars conventionally used in a graphical user interface are replaced with "more" bars at each edge of a display bordering a direction in which more information is available for viewing. Actuation of a cursor on one of the more bars scrolls the display in the direction of the more bar. The more bars provide an intuitive mechanism for controlling the display of graphical user interface.
    That does it, I'm nuking the USPTO...
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • According to the last sentence in the abstract, shared memory includes disk storage, not just the "conventional" shared memory. This would include databases as well. Ouch. I wonder what would have happen if an artist were to patent their brush-stroke technique, or patent the fact that they used cubes in their paintings. As I see it, artists patenting these types of things are very similar to programmers/corporations patenting the way they develop apps. So sad.
  • No. Vignette StoryServer caches page fragments to disk. Of course, if it happens to be caching to a filesystem that itself is cached in memory, pretty much the same thing is happening.

    However, good old GroupLens, the personalization server they bundle, does cache user preferences and such to memory. Of course, these aren't page components. But plenty of other systems do that.
  • by mindslip ( 16677 ) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @04:28AM (#1542892)
    I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it, not that it would make much impact.

    Any idea or expression which can be thought by more than one person by sheer coincidence should never be allowed to be protected.
    Expression is not an entity to be hoarded. Implementation may have its merits in the varying methods used, but the thought processes which led to those methods are ultimately responsible, and come from varying sources of inspiration which law can neither protect, enslave, or induce.

    Research which truly *is* research, could be protected, certainly, as one protects the fruit of any labour (although for moral reasons, medicine, science, etc. they often shouldn't be). But clever programming tricks, methods that are already taken for granted, or legal wording of common-place procedures written and submitted for the purpose of making a buck... that's not justice, that's not even moral.

    Patents fall under law, law is imposed to promote justice, and a capitalistic greedy move like this on the part of a bunch of Yahoo's does no justice to anyone.

  • by josepha48 ( 13953 ) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @04:28AM (#1542900) Journal
    The abstract is a abrief description of what a patent does. Just because your system does what theres does does not necessarily mean you may infringe. What do the claims say? It is the patent claims that are what needs to be worried about. Does anyone have a patent number here?

    Suggestion /. with all the patents coming out that deal with hardware/software like this one ie shared mem, maybe it would be a good idea that when someone submits an article for a patent, they are prompted to also send the patent number, and a link to where they got this info, and all that jazz. Rather than just the abstract.

    I mean really the abstract is just that 'abstract'. IT is supposed to be a 1 paragraph summary of the invention in less than 150 words.

    flames > /dev/null
    moderate -1Million

    send flames > /dev/null

  • Netscape's Server-Side Javascript (formerly known as Livewire) is a buggy, sloppily-written engine for running compiled web apps in a memory-resident manner. In other words, the templates are kept in RAM, and have been since late 1995.

    Since the version in their 3.0 webservers, it has had decent server-level object support, too. Which means, yes, data cached in memory at the master HTTP process level. A common tecnique is to populate an array element at the server level when a piece of content is first retrieved, and only hit the data source again for records that aren't present, or which have aged.

    Even more fun, I'd be glad to show interested lawyers an application I architected at a past employer that's been in production use for almost 3 years now. It's a distributed custom-email delivery system that caches content data both at the server level and at a spoke client level, in RAM. The clients request and use the cached data to assemble outbound messages.

    As for using OS-level shared memory for this sort of thing, I'm sure some database and high-performance filesystem vendors are having a good laugh right now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 1999 @04:28AM (#1542907)
    the full patent is here []
  • Netcenter and t.o both have "themes" for web sites that customize based on user preferences. Im sure prior art would negate this anyway.
    "We hope you find fun and laughter in the new millenium" - Top half of fastfood gamepiece
  • One thing to keep in mind is that many patents are self-defense patents. Often, you patent something to prevent others from patenting it and then charging you and the rest of the world money.

    So it's probably a self-defense patent. So what?

    The very fact that self-defense patents are obtained and used (despite their cost) shows that the patent system has broken down.

    And if the big guys have a portfolio of self-defense patents, where does that leave the little guys who can't afford them? At the mercy of every peredatory lawyer in the employ of a big guy whose product is threatened by competition from the little guy's invention.

    Maybe the current administration of the company really intends to use the portfolio defensively. But gore their successors' ox and those "defensive" patent portfolios can become offensive in very short order.

    Maybe the EFF needs to start collecting patents and giving free liscense to them to prevent this. Maybe have a patent fund that patent authors can donate their patents to under the condition that they are liscensed freely.

    Or perhaps used against anyone who attempts to enforce bogus patents? Or who goes after a little guy at all?

    Now there's an idea! A common-defense patent pool for the little guys! B-)

    (It could even be self-funding, as part of the settlement when they bring their guns to bear.)

  • OK, I'm just wondering - how often are Yahoo going to be able to find out whether someone is using such a system? I mean, I could program a system to do that tomorrow - but unless I make the code available, nobody is gonna be any the wiser.

    Of course - that is a real issue for the /.'s and other Open Source developers of the world, but for developers who are creating custom systems for clients, such a technique is surely impossible to detect.

    Secondly - can they prosecute someone for using a program that contains such code, or does the patent only cover writing code to implement such a system in the first place?

    Finally, can Yahoo use such a patent - originating in the US - against companies in other countries, or does the patent only cover US applications development?

    Also intersting to note - Yahoo are currently being sued themselves over patent violation, Wired [] have the article.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Thursday November 11, 1999 @04:32AM (#1542922) Homepage Journal
    It took me a few times of reading it to work my way through the excess verbiage. Yahoo must have hired Sir Humphrey Appleby as a legal consultant.

    As I understand it, what they're saying is that they pre-allocate a large chunk of memory per user (rather than dynamically allocate what's needed), and then fill it with whatever that user is doing.

    In addition, live data is regularly polled from other servers and stuffed into shared memory, thus removing the need to access the servers at the time of request.

    This would seem to give Yahoo a 2-tier caching system:

    Servers --> Shared memory --> User Cache --> User

    This may or may not be efficient, depending on how it's set up. It certainly means that the data from real-time data sources stops being real-time, and can be as old as the time-out on the shared memory cache.

    As for being innovative, well, that is arguable. There is certainly prior art for cache heirarchies (nlanr, the makers of Squid, have an entire network of web caches, for example, and Squid is built for exactly that kind of work). Using shared memory as a caching system is a trivial derivative of traditional caching, and wouldn't pass muster on it's own.

    Using a heirarchy inside a single system, to link multiple servers, is perhaps slightly more novel. I don't recall seeing that being done before.

    However, the patent could be considered a non-issue. If you use a heirarchy of -dynamically allocated- cache spaces, you automatically have something that is distinct from the system described in the patent. Also, if you have an N-ary graph of caches, rather than a simple tree, you would avoid the patent by using a distinct structure.

  • *Evil Grin*

    How about this? Patent the idea of linking search engines to stock information. That should easily slip past the patent office. THEN sue Yahoo. :)

  • by 1010011010 ( 53039 ) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @04:37AM (#1542931) Homepage
    ASP's Session and Application objects have done this for years. I use it to cache weather, stock quotes, news items, etc. Microsoft might do something good and sue the crap out of yahoo for this...
  • by JohnG ( 93975 ) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @04:37AM (#1542933)
    Alot of people over the years have predicted that the internet is a fad and will die out. Most of them people have already ate thier words, and maybe rightfully so. I think the internet will be around for ever.
    What I doubt though is that it will continue to grow. We will never have a reality such as in Star Trek, or some of the worlds the Sliders go to. We will never have a world with terminals in every room of every building hooked up to the internet linking the whole world.
    I say this because all these internet patents are scaring off lots of people that could be developing the websites that would make such a thing feasible. Linking the world together is nothing without the content that would be needed. Think about it, there is no more one-click shopping without a royalty be paid to Amazon, so E-commerce sites will have to do things the longer, harder way. If they do not do it the hard way they will have to develop a new concept which if history shows they will run out and patent and leave the followers in the same boat.
    The bottom line is for all these internet businesses is all about the Benjamins, and the world has never benefited from greed alone. These people claim to be "innovators" of the internet, as far as I'm concerned they are all just a bunch of greedy bastards holding the world back.

  • by werd life ( 94886 ) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @04:38AM (#1542937)
    rob, you should add tents

    but what would the logo be?

  • by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <> on Thursday November 11, 1999 @04:40AM (#1542943) Homepage

    This just illustrates how inappropriate patents are for software. Even if this were an original idea (and as others have pointed out, it certainly isn't), it wouldn't be worth granting a patent on it, because it would restrict competition far too much and subject developers to legal harassment. It's also merely a combination of existing ideas - filling in templates, and caching data in memory - that would be obvious to any skilled programmer.

    Of course Yahoo are free to copyright the code they are using, and that makes sure that they can get a good return from their effort. But allowing companies to patent particular ideas and then sue other developers is bad news both for the software industry and for consumers.

    The paper Against Software Patents [] is slightly old, but a good introduction to why granting patent monopolies on software techniques is a bad idea.

    It's not too late to stop software patents being introduced in Europe - check out [] if you live in the EU.

  • I tell you something that really bothers me about this - somehow I can't see Jerry Yang being really into the idea of broad software patents like this.

    Does anyone have his email so folks can (politely) ask him about this policy? Maybe we can convince him to pledge to not use the patent, but hold it open for community use?

  • See for the
    anti USPTO T shirts. Also take a look at and join
    the LPF ( If enough people
    join it starts making a difference

  • This? []
  • by adimarco ( 30853 ) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @04:43AM (#1542950) Homepage
    It is becoming rapidly apparent to me that the Patent system as we know it is in need of serious modification. I'm open to argument about what exactly is wrong (IANAL), but if something like this can actually get patented then *something* is definitely wrong

    I suspect the patent office clerks (or whoever actually reviews and issues these things) lack the technical knowhow they require to properly evaluate (or, hell, even understand) these things and look for prior art. This unfairly allows those with $$ to take advantage of their ignorance and engage in the kind of frivolous litigation we so love here in the U.S.

    To my understanding (and again, IANAL. do we have any lawyers here on Slashdot? any care to comment on the basics of patent law?) patents are basically a legal monopoly for a set time period to allow the inventor of a particular 'technique' to profit from his labor, at least in an intellectual sense. Generally speaking, this is a reasonable idea, imho. I seem to remember that the time period allotted is 7 years (someone correct me please?), and while this may be fine for real world (meatspace) inventions, that's simply aeons in computer time. It's like a 200 year patent in the real world. Perhaps we should consider some modifications to our patent system to account for the rapid pace of modern technology?

    Has this type of practice always been common in patent litigation? A lot of it seems blatantly sleazy and deceptive. I've only noticed it recently, but then again, I've only been paying attention recently...


    Segmentation fault (core dumped)
  • by Sorklin ( 88002 ) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @04:45AM (#1542952)
    I think we will soon hit critical mass with patents. Couple of nights ago, one of the major evening news magazines (like 60 minutes or 48 hours -- side note, why do they always use a number as the first word in the title?) was doing a story on human genome patenting. They covered the fact that several institutions cannot even screen for Alzheimers or breast cancer, because the genes were patented. The doctor made it clear that the tests were not patented, just the genes, making *any* test that screens these genes subject to the patent.

    Patents like that -- where there is a direct detrimental effect on people as a result (who are unable to even get a test done!) might push the patent reform to front and center. Perhaps then, we can push the absurd software patents to the forefront and try to get some good ole fashioned reform going ("Its a good ole patent lynching, mama").

    The need for reform *is* coming to the consciousness of the mainstream. Lets make sure that software patents are not forgotten when that happens.
  • Unforunately for you poor non-Statesmen (non-americans), patents are usually respected internationally. So, it may be a problem of our legal system, but it affects everyone .

    Cheerio and all that sort of rubbisn, eh mate?
  • Graphic ideas for a new "Intellectual Property" Slashdot section:

    A brain with a padlock on/through it.

    One of those zombies from Night of the Living Dead.

    A rubber-stamp and a pair of handcuffs.

  • I am not a lawyer, although I've been known to play one in my consulting fees.

    Slashdot ran an excellent article [] on the basics of patent law a few weeks ago. It's reposted on Advogato [], the new community site I'm starting for free software developers. I'm hoping to collect a solid set of patent resources at Advogato over time, among other things.

    Hope this helps!
  • The worse the patents get, the better the odds of software patents being thrown out en masse.

    Consider: Government powers explicitly derive from Constitutional assignment. Clause 8 of Article 1 grants the following:

    Clause 8. The Congress shall have Power To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

    Promote, eh?

    The patent office has expressed gross incompetence in its assignment of software patents--indeed, it may not be possible, due to the rapidly iterative nature of software development, to correctly apply standard patent methodologies to software. (As I've argued before though, lots of unwarranted patents make for a rich Patent Office and very rich Patent Attorneys! So I don't particularly believe the overworked and underclued patent examiners are being overworked or underclued accidentally.)

    For whatever reason Software Patents are completely failing their Constitutional mandate, there is widespread consensus that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has long since wasted away any shred of legitimacy when it comes to the realm of software patents.

    Without a legitimate claim to the constitutional powers they derive their right to regulate from, all their powers dissipate, and the software patents already assigned become null and void.

    Comments? I have more to say, but I'd like to hear what you think about this.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research

  • That is patented? Jeeze. Oh well, I have lots of ideas on improvements of the system (like adding in various dithering and resampling to improve the large-scale image quality), so maybe I could one-up that guy. :) Oops, nevermind, I just divulged that idea to the world at large - which means it can't be patented at all. How about that, folks. ;)
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • IMO, Patents, as a general concept, are a good idea. If done correctly, they reduce trade secrets, allow the inventors to profit from them, but after a while, everyone benefits. Patents were designed to promote free access to information, and the designers understood that businesses don't just give stuff away, they need a quid pro quo hence, the exclusive access for a time period.

    However, the implementation has screwed up royally. It doesn't protect the small inventor, trying to challenge a granted patent, even if it is "obviously" wrong is expensive. They are now used as weapons, bargaining chips, and the time peroid in a fast moving industry is too long.

    Many patents that get posted here for discussion on /. are torn to shreads, with prior art examples, obviousness, etc. But, at that stage, they are granted, it's too late. So, what about making all patent applications public upon filing? Then allow a time period where people can object, and send in examples of prior art etc. to the patent office. This would not require a court case to reverse the decision, and hopefully it would then make it less likely for stupid patents to get through. The PR for a company trying to patent obviously would also be harmful, acting as a deterrent.

    Also it would eliminate the worst type (IMO) of patent - the submarine patent. Imagine what would happen if a new technology (eg XML) that was touted as "open" was massivly deployed, then it was discovered to be patented? Think of style sheets, and it's definitly a possibility.

  • Thanks for the link. An interesting debate, but if /.ers would actually take the time to read (hahahahaha) the full patent, they would see it's not that big a deal. It's a very specific process and not a broad (let's patent swap space) patent.

    I think Yahoo has tried to scale the dynamically generated, customizable web page beyond it's current boundaries, and that is why a patent was filed. Better mousetrap, old mouse.

    I'm not saying this will hold up in court, but it deserves more of a look than "bomb the patent office!"
  • Yes, but he was an examiner for the Swiss PTO, not the USPTO. The Swiss PTO would never let patents like these through.

  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @05:32AM (#1542994) Homepage
    Here's another idea, what about having the GNU foundation create a patent fund. People could donate money to it and then the fund would go to try to collect as many patents as possible. Then these patents could be made available to GPL software for free. Another twist on this could be establishing a prior art repository so that if somebody wants to free their idea, they can put it there and be safe in the knowledge that nobody else would be able to get a valid patent on it.

    Another possibility is that this fund could be used to pay the royalties in bulk for all GPL software. So, for example, somebody from GNU goes over to Unisys and offers to pay them a lump sum to permit royalty free use of the patent for all software released under the GPL.

    This would have two effects:

    1) It would provide a way for people developing free software from having to pay royalties on something that they might not make money off of in the first place.

    2) It would encourage more people to use the GPL because they could write their software without having to pay various royalties that they might otherwise be committed to.


  • ...before we can plug lawyers into a Doom interface, and take out the bad ones? :) Maybe we could do this with patents?
  • Right fscking on man :) My previous post [] covers basically the same points. We (the people ;) should be looking to do a major overhaul of the patent system in the coming years. It is becoming more of a hinderance than a help in its current incarnation.

    I'm sure serious discussions of this are already underway. Anyone got pointers or recommendations for these kinds of resources? I saw a link on an earlier post to a T-shirt [] designed by Alan Cox at which I found simply delicious :)


    Segmentation fault (core dumped)
  • In this particular case, what does Yahoo!s patent really mean? Not Much 1) If another site wanted to use identical technology in their code to increase the performance of their access, how would anyone (including Yahoo! and the Federal Government) know? The only way would be if there was an inside informant who squealed. 2) If the other site was known to be using a similar set of programs, so what? Copyright law provides protection (supposedly) to prevent copying of code. There is some (very) limited protections against backward engineering a piece of software. But if someone wanted to develop, say, a new word processor that looked just like Microsoft Word, Bill Gates would have a really hard time seeking any recourse in the courts. "Look and Feel" cases haven't done well. As for the garbage that we see getting patents these days... don't get me started.
    Mike Eckardt
  • by MrP- ( 45616 )
    Now, I don't know about yahoo. This patent presented is a least a Good Thing for performance. By reading /. more people know about it - maybe some websites get faster over the next months...;)

    where is your logic? if some sites do get faster over the next months, they will be sued by yahoo and be slow again, or shutdown completly.

    $mrp=~s/mrp/elite god/g;
  • This is what I figure it's about.

    It's all to do with portal type sites, not templates and not just shared memory. The idea is that when a user comes into a portal site for the first time his/her preferences are loaded not into the current (CGI?) process out of the database, but into a shared memory cache. The next page they view doesn't have to fetch them from the database - just from the cache.

    Seems still pretty universal - although the patent does specifically talk about user preferences in portal web sites, so anyone whining on about using shared memory in their PDP-11 application can stop now. However anyone who's developed a portal-type (and yes, this applies to slashdot) web site that caches user preferences in shared memory then this affects them. I don't believe slashdot is affected - it calls the database every time for its user preferences.
  • Yahoo's patent seems to be the work of, well, some dumb yahoo. The concept of caching content locally to cut down on server load (and network traffic) has been around for decades.

    Slashdot, yesterday, carried an item about Hotmail joining the spam Black Hole list. It seems to me that one way to put an end to this patent silliness is to do the same thing: block email from known patent abusers. Block,, etc.--and give the software patent enthusiasts the option of continuing to abuse the system or be able to connect to the rest of the world.

    I have already blocked from my network, due to the GIF nonsense. (Not without pain--a major client uses Unisys A-series and Clearpath servers.) I'll block too if it turns out that they have any dream of enforcing this.

    As Arlo Guthrie once pointed out, if just one person does this they'll think he's crazy. And if two people do it they'll think they're both [well, we'll just skip what he said, since it ain't considered genteel these days]. But imagine, my friends, imagine if dozens of people, hundreds of people block domains that use software patents. Why, they'll think its a movement....

    Write an HTML page that explains why you won't permit connects to Yahoo, post it, and redirect any Yahoo links to that page. The power of the boycott is the most effective weapon you have.
  • God, I didn't intend for this to be moderated as funny... I had no idea I was making a joke, either.
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • Yes, and the things he examined the patents for were physical devices, not this current deluge of "well duh" things.
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • And isn't proof of prior existence all that you need to call a patent stupid and null it? Or am I just rambling because it's so early?

    More or less, but since you have to present that proof in court, you'll need a truckload of money to go with that proof.

  • Is it not time to really do something about the whole patent/trademark issue?
    I lost count long ago over all "This should never have been patented"-stories. Every time there are the usual replies about how evil the system is and the "what if i patent _this_"-posts.

    C'mon You are supposed to be more creative than this! Can we think of a system that:

    • Protects the guy who really spent years of research coming up with something novel. He/she really should have the chance to make something of it before he is overrun by the Big Evil Company.
    • Stops the same guy from blocking the whole market for decades if the invention succeeds.
    • Lets me protect the name of any product I might sell.
    • Doesnt sent lawyers on me when I happen to use a name similar to something the Big Evil Company has TM:ed
    • Doesnt require me to scan every business area in every country for names that might sound similar to mine
    • Somehow deals with the situation where two local businesses suddenly meets over the net.
    • Actually is more suited for inventors than lawyers
    It is obvious that the system is not working right as it is. Please be bright!
  • OK, I know nothing about the US Patent Office (or whatever its called).

    But don't they do any research in the area of the patent to find out if it is in fact a new creation?

    Why can't they ask some computer body (IETF?) if this is in fact something that should be patented, or if everyone else is using it already?

    And is this patent worldwide? (If it is, then surely other countries should have some say in the matter).

  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Thursday November 11, 1999 @05:25AM (#1543026) Homepage
    I had an idea that I came up with when I discovered that apparently the concept of an on-line Auction is patented. What I'd like to see is a patent fighting fund. Basically you set up a website where a listing of really bad patents are available. If you see a patent you absolutely detest, you can whip out your credit card and donate a few bucks to a legal fund to fight it.

    You bring in a few patent attorneys and having a standing arrangement that they give a price tag for the battle and when they get that much money in the coffers, they can go out and start taking down the patent. If not enough money is collected after a given period of time, then the money would not be charged to the credit card and the patent would go on its merry way.



  • They`ve also applied for the patent in Europe (EP0889421) and Australia (AU6991598) as well as worldwide (WO9857276). The application no. is EP19980304651 19980612. As far as I can tell, these haven`t (yet) been granted.

    This I got from esp@cenet [], which holds a searchable database of the last two years of patent applications from several countries.
  • Several people have pointed out that patents like these not only won't stand up in court, but that they're not even intended to. I'd like to expand on that a little.

    I remember reading somewhere that a patent-office official had publicly admitted that they couldn't keep up with the flood of applications and were as a matter of policy allowing dubious patents through in the hope that the courts would sort things out. Whether the admission was real or just a figment of my imagination, this is clearly what the patent office is doing.

    Patents are supposed to be (a) innovative, and (b) non-obvious, among other criteria. This patent is obviously neither, and there are enough other companies with enough legal muscle to ensure that it's never enforced, so I don't think it's much to worry about. The danger comes when a patent is granted on something obscure and the only people who care are little guys who don't have the resources to fight it successfully in court by themselves.

    This brings me to my other point: patent fights. It's very common nowadays to respond to an accusation of infringement by pulling out a few of your own. "Oh yeah? Well, you're infringing our patents X, Y, and Z. Are you sure you want to take this to court?" That is what's really behind a lot of the "preemptive patenting" to which several other posters have referred. One of the tools of the high-tech business is developing a patent portfolio not so those patents can actually be used to club others over the head, but to avoid being clubbed oneself. Companies have been bought just to pad patent portfolios. It's sick, I know. I'm not defending the practice, just reporting it.
  • Make them last 2 years maximum. That would probably make Yahoo's patent already out of date, but at least if gives people a chance in the ever moving internet world. On second thoughts, make it 1 year. :)

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.