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IBM Patents Web Page Templates 420

Posted by timothy
from the patent-office-crack dept.
jalefkowit writes: "More follies from the US Patent & Trademark Office ... now IBM has been awarded US Patent #6,304,886 for software that automatically "generates [a] customized Web site without the Web site creator writing any HTML or other programming code", based on "a plurality of pre-stored templates, comprising HTML formatting code, text, fields, and formulas" that are then customized through the process of asking the user a few questions. In other words, they've patented the ubiquitous wizards found in FrontPage and other newbie-oriented HTML editors. This was submitted to the USPTO on June 19, 1998 -- surely someone out there knows of prior art for this?"
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IBM Patents Web Page Templates

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  • Typical IBM (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Red Avenger (197064) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @10:09PM (#2439624)
    IBM espouses so much about being an open company and promoting open things. And then they go and pull something like this. I seriously don't get this company. I really want to like them but more and more I can't.
  • My templates (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Foxxz (106642) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @10:12PM (#2439634) Homepage
    are HTML with perl variables in them that get filled in when executed. so do i have to pay money? i think not. lets see them try to collect.

    -foxxz

  • Re:Prior Art (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zontar The Mindless (9002) <plasticfish@info.gmail@com> on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @10:14PM (#2439642)
    How about any text editor with a sufficient number of macros?
  • Re:Typical IBM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bandman (86149) <.bandman. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @10:18PM (#2439658) Homepage
    The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    If they can smack Microsoft around for making Frontpage, then I'm all for it. If I was IBM, I'd do it just to see MSFT squirm...
  • Re:Typical IBM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gnomish (168308) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @10:18PM (#2439663)
    This speaks more to the Patent Office than IBM. IBM's success, in part, is a function of developing new things and getting the rights to sell them exclusively.. and if you had your own IBM you'd be doing the same thing. The Patent Office, on the other hand, is woefully inept at identifying unique things. In addition, they bear none of the consequences for granting a patent when no patent should have been issued.

    Realistically, I doubt IBM would even bother to enforce this patent. It would behoove them nothing.
  • uhhhhhhhh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dr. Awktagon (233360) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @10:18PM (#2439665) Homepage

    wouldn't this cover any program that has a "save as HTML" option?? That lets you create HTML without typing any HTML codes, and somewhere in the guts of the program are some HTML templates, right?

  • Re:Typical IBM (Score:2, Insightful)

    by John Miles (108215) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @10:23PM (#2439686) Homepage Journal
    The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    Uh huh. That kind of thinking is how we ended up with the Taliban.
  • Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrBlack (104657) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @10:25PM (#2439693)
    IBM seem to be pretty good about this. Remember both IBM and Unisys held patents on LZW compression (IBM's application was filed 3 weeks BEFORE Unisys), but it is Unisys that tried to extract all the money from it. IIRR IBM have released may of their patents to the public domain.
  • Re:Sorry IBM (Score:1, Insightful)

    by jallen02 (124384) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @10:35PM (#2439736) Homepage Journal
    Go read the patent, not even close to what they have patented. Slashdot spin+ignorance = irrelevant comment.

    Jeremy
  • Re:Typical IBM (Score:2, Insightful)

    by macinslak (41252) <macinslak&mac,com> on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @10:46PM (#2439774)
    What if the person that they finally decide to chase after doesn't have the money or resources to put up with IBM's legal department? Old unknown patents are really dangerous (scenarios like GIF and MP3 come to mind).

    IBM isn't holy, these are the same people that want to put hardware copy control on your hard drive. Though at the same time, I doubt they did this on purpose. There's probably an idiot in some idiot somewhere in IBM who honestly thought this was a new thing.
  • Re:Based on the (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spy Hunter (317220) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @10:58PM (#2439803) Journal
    if you don't patent it someone else will,

    What? That's what prior art is for! If you don't patent it no one else can, because you have prior art.

  • Simple... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sanity (1431) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @11:11PM (#2439843) Homepage Journal
    Because they are not financially motivated to do so.

    People should stop complaining when organisations do what they are designed to do - namely make money (in the Patent Office's case, this means granting as many patents as possible). Don't bitch about the RIAA when they push for freedom-curtailing laws - THEY DON'T CARE - their job is to protect the interests of those who pay their salaries. Don't bitch when a for-profit corporation exploits dumb laws to increase their profit margins - THEY ARE DESIGNED TO DO THAT.

    Instead, bitch about the stupid laws which allow and encourage them to do this, and the customers who keep them in business (of course, very few of IBM's customers are likely to take a stand on this issue - but IBM does seem to care quite a bit about its reputation among the Open Source community these days).

  • Re:Typical IBM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by penguinboy (35085) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @11:12PM (#2439844)

    If they can smack Microsoft around for making Frontpage, then I'm all for it. If I was IBM, I'd do it just to see MSFT squirm...

    Of course, FrontPage existed, IIRC, in 1996 if not even earlier - which looks like solid prior art. I'm as much for smacking MS around as the next guy, but not without a legitimate reason. Bogus software patents, of course, with years of prior art, aren't exactly legitimate reasons.

  • What can be done? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rothfuss (47480) <chris.rothfuss@gmail. c o m> on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @11:16PM (#2439851) Homepage
    This is just the latest in a *long* line of trivial, abusive patents that have been discussed on Slashdot. They all make a mockery of what intellectual property rights are intended to protect, which is innovation.

    What, other than making sarcastic comments about 1-click shopping, can actually be done to effect change on how patents are granted?

    Who's e-mailbox should we all slam with requests for reasonable IPR laws?

    Anyone?

    -Rothfuss
  • by Speare (84249) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @11:17PM (#2439859) Homepage Journal

    Patents exist.

    There are two things that patents do:

    • let you sue someone who copies you, and
    • protect you from being sued by someone who copies you.

    One is a sword, one is a shield.

    If IBM doesn't use the patent as a sword, then who should care? Nobody. If they start charging royalties for those who "infringe," if they start trying to attack other companies who have since done the same obvious thing, then you can sound the alarms of righteous indignation.

    Until then, STFU. Please.

  • by homer_ca (144738) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @11:49PM (#2439942)
    Probably not. IBM doesn't really have a history of shaking down people for royalties RAMBUS or Unisys style. It's probably a defensive move to keep someone else from filing it first and using it against them offensively.
  • by pedro (1613) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @12:13AM (#2440009)
    Might it not make sense that IBM, (now a good open source ally) is now actively, and proactively plugging holes in the anti-open source dike?
    After all, we've often discussed on this very site the notion of patenting everything we think of, as a community, as a hedge against the multinationals!
    Big Blue could very well be on our side here. God knows.. given all of the support they've supplied, and how severely entrenched we are so far, pissing us off NOW would be a Bad Business Move(tm) on their part. They have everything to lose, and very little to gain if they actually think this patent is truly enforceable.
    I vote a Benefit of the Doubt for IBM.
    Who's with me?

  • Re:Typical IBM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Derkec (463377) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @12:55AM (#2440082)

    IBM is way too big to have everyone on the same page. Just because some over-proud techie asked legal to patent something doesn't mean the CEO looked over it and made a strategic decision.
  • Questionable? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SenorChuck (457914) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @01:30AM (#2440141)
    If I'm not mistaken, wouldn't something like the /. user preferences be under the wing of
    this patent? After all, the preferences allow you to customize the html presented to
    you without the need to actually write any html on your own -- it asks you questions
    about how you want it to be presented, and you get what you ask for. How long has this
    system been in effect? Can any /. ops answer this one?
  • by Tord (5801) <tord.jansson@gmail.cAUDENom minus poet> on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @01:38AM (#2440148) Homepage
    The problem here is not that IBM uses a screwed up patent system to their advantage, the problem is that the patent system is screwed up in the first place.

    What if it wasn't IBM that got this patent, but somebody who would use it more like a sword? What if IBM in ten years changes their policy and starts to use patents for attacking? What if IBM indeed intends to use it as a weapon against somebody?

    I think most of the aggression here was pointed against the patent office and not IBM in particular. The patent system has just become one big machinery who's main goal seems to be to sustain itself and all the lawyers working with patent issues. It simply doesn't protect and promote innovation anymore the way it was meant to, at least not in the fields of software and business models.
  • by BitwizeGHC (145393) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @04:39AM (#2440396) Homepage
    The responsibility they have to their shareholders to make as much money as possible precludes any moral compunction they may have. Violating the latter gets them bitched at by a few Slashdotters. Violating the former gets them fired and possibly sued into the poor house.
  • Re:Simple... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by armb (5151) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @04:47AM (#2440408) Homepage
    Since I have no moderator points, and because it's possible you really are a clueless fuckwit (like whoever moderated you insightful), not a troll, I will try and explain it simply.

    There are laws _against_ murder and rape. These laws do not "allow and encourage" murder and rape.

    There are laws _requiring_ companies to maximise shareholder profit (as much as they legally can, consistent with their declared business). Taking out dodgy patents is not illegal and may increase shareholder profit. Those laws do allow and encourage dodgy patents.

    Now do you see the difference?
  • by garver (30881) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @06:31AM (#2440572)

    You missed Sanity's point: They don't care about their moral responsibility.

    Besides, "moral responsibility" is a vague and relative term. What you consider immoral, I may consider ingenious. Does that mean I'm wrong? You think so. Does that mean you're wrong? I think so. Where does that get us?

    The question is, should businesses use "moral responsibily" or laws as a code of conduct. "moral responsibility" doesn't work since its open to wide interpretation, everyone would have a different set of rules and the game would be unfair. Laws are a lot more concrete and make a better set of rules.

    The point is, arguing that businesses should follow a moral code is useless. They don't and can't.

  • by mosch (204) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @06:58AM (#2440628) Homepage
    It's immoral to run a company in a manner which ignores obvious and legal methods of generating revenue. It's irresponsible to the employees and stockholders of the corporations. Indeed, it's so irresponsible that failure to maximize profit is an actionable offense.
  • by Anarchofascist (4820) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:16AM (#2440860) Homepage Journal
    To sumarise. "IBM legally f*ks the system for the benefit of shareholders. If you try to stop them, we'll become a third world country." Am I right so far? Then you give us this gem, your only assertion of fact to support your flimsy argument:

    And finally, for those who think that patents are evil or somehow inappropriate for software, processes, and "obvious" inventions,[hey! he's talking about me!] consider this. There is a 100% direct correlation to a country's GDP, the strength of its intellectual property protections, and the number of patents filed by its citizens.

    All dogs have four legs. My cat has four legs, therefore my cat is a dog.

    There is a 100% direct correlation between a country's GDP, the number of people who own TVs, and the number of TV shows produced, therefore TV increases your GDP?

    There is a 100% inverse correlation between a country's GDP, and the percentage of the population who sleep in mud huts, therefore destroy all mud huts!

    A quote from an article on causal reasoning [qmul.ac.uk]:

    People strive to achieve a coherent interpretation of the events that surround them. The organisation of events by schemas of cause-effect relations serves to achieve this goal.

    But whereas with a normative treatment of conditional probability the data D and an event X can be equally informative, psychologically, causal data tends to have a far greater impact than other data of equal informativeness. So much so, that in the presence of data that evokes a causal schema, incidental data which does not fit that schema is given little or no consideration.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @09:21AM (#2441084)
    Who's [sic] e-mailbox should we all slam with requests for reasonable IPR laws?

    Please repeat the following 1,000,000 times:
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.

    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.
    -- hello lameness filter! --
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.
    The government does not care about email. Send your grievance via U.S. Postal Mail.

  • by Black Perl (12686) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @09:23AM (#2441093)
    most patents are much narrower than they seem to a lay reader.

    True, but I've read this one, and it is general enough to cover just about every Content Management System [cmswatch.com].

  • Re:Simple... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tshak (173364) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @09:47AM (#2441209) Homepage
    What's legal is not always ethical, what's ethical is not always legal. A corporation is designed to make money, yes, but in an ethical way. They are not designed to exploit our rights and do everything in their power to make money in an evil and immoral way.
  • by nlvp (115149) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @10:33AM (#2441486)
    What a load of drivel, and completely unjustifiable as a response to the parent post.

    The simple point made by the original poster was that management had a fiduciary duty - enforceable through the threat of removal of the relevant persons from office - that was, on balance, a greater motivator in decisions than the perceived moral requirements of certain interest groups (hence the reference to Slashdotters).

    Taking certain points in your post...

    If the company had no moral compunction, then there would be no reason for them to follow any laws ... you honor laws because you feel it is right to do so, not because you fear punishment

    Not everyone has the same moral compass, and what is perceived as immoral or unjustifiable by some seems normal to others. Society creates rules, some of which are enshrined in law, and others enforced by society, and the laws serve to control the behaviour of people with a moral system not in alignment with society, generally through the use of deterrent force.

    everyday everyone of us has a million oppertunites to flaunt many a piddling law

    Sure, but not all laws are piddling and the penalty tends to be in proportion to the perceived severity of the crime. Get caught speeding and get a fine. Get caught trading on insider information and get put in prison for 2 years at least. Get caught deliberately making decisions that go against the interests of the shareholders you represent and get disbarred from ever being made a director again.

    So, if you have no moral compunction and if your highest motive is profit, then you are obligated to get into teh most profitable concievable business. That business is the dealing of addictive substance (with a relatively low production/conversion cost, no quality control, and a vertical demand curve.)

    The relevance of drugs to patent law and director's fiduciary duties? Anyone's guess, but by this point in your post you were obviously foaming at the mouth. Pretending to take this seriously, I would answer taht you have deliberately ignored the high risk and concurrent cost associated with getting caught. This, to use your terminology, is not a "piddling" crime.

    Do most corporations deal crack? Well, then, I guess there's some fucking morality out there afterall, you dim fucking shits.

    At this point I had to either moderate your down as a troll or go through the motions of replying. I prefer to moderate good posts up rather than morons down, so I replied.

    Study a little law before you spout bullshit like this - with some effort you might even come across as someone who thinks before entering a discussion all guns blazing and coming out the other side looking like a fool.

Lo! Men have become the tool of their tools. -- Henry David Thoreau

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