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Patents The Internet

URLs Patented, Domain Registrars Sued 650

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the getting-worse-before-getting-better dept.
theodp writes "A newly formed company is suing Network Solutions and Register.com for infringing on its e-mail and domain naming patent, which covers assigning each member of a group a URL of the form 'name.subdomain.domain' and an e-mail address of the form 'name@subdomain.domain.'"
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URLs Patented, Domain Registrars Sued

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  • Not as bad as SCO. (Score:5, Informative)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Thursday January 15, 2004 @07:41PM (#7992991)
    According to CNET, these were the people responsible for launching the .md TLD in the USA to represent "medical doctor" when in reality, .md belongs to the Republic of Moldova. [checkurl.info] These people are definitely not scared of ruining Internet conventions when they stand in the way of a quick buck.

    However, the one thing we can relax on is that this doesn't affect .com, .net, .org, .edu, .us etc., just .name because what the patent covers is selling a 3rd-level domain for web use that equates to a username on the 2nd-level domain's mailserver. (If the registrant of john.doe.name gets the john@doe.name e-mail address... and an unrelated jane.doe.name gets jane@doe.name, and the registrar of .name is keeping doe.name, smith.name, jones.name, etc. for this kind of reselling... that's what the patent covers.)

    So, this isn't exactly a sky-is-falling situation, but it's shysters trying to make a quick buck off of patent law....
  • Prior Art Anyone? (Score:2, Informative)

    by jmt9581 (554192) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @07:44PM (#7993027) Homepage

    Here's a link to the patent. [com.com]

    So, anyone have a website log or e-mail from before November 23,1999?
  • WTF? (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdot@NOSpAM.uberm00.net> on Thursday January 15, 2004 @07:44PM (#7993031) Homepage Journal
    What is claimed is:

    1. A method for assigning URL's and e-mail addresses to members of a group comprising the steps of:

    assigning each member of said group a URL of the form "name.subdomain.domain"; and

    assigning each member of said group an e-mail address of the form "name@subdomain.domain;"

    wherein the "name" portion of said URL and said e-mail address is the same and unique for each particular one of said members such that an only difference between said URL and said e-mail address for said member is that in said URL the "@" symbol of the e-mail address is replaced with a "." and wherein said "subdomain" portion of said URL and said e-mail address is the same for all members of said group.

    2. The method of claim 1 wherein said members of said group comprise members of a licensed profession.


    Now... I'm going to try to remain calm here but HOW THE FUCK WAS THIS PATENTED?! Nothing is *invented* here, it's a method of organizing a system which ALREADY EXISTS (email and DNS). This just further shows the US Patent Office's stupidity.
  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Thursday January 15, 2004 @07:50PM (#7993109)
    The patent's more specific than that... their patent is a TLD operator selling people not true domains, but instead 3rd level web domains paired with matching 2nd level e-mail services. It's a specific product that they developed for .md that seems to have been duplicated by .name... the good news is that this only effects those who hold .name addresses, .com, .net, .org, .us, etc. can still go to sleep tonight...
  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by bssea (79248) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @07:53PM (#7993136) Journal
    Actually.. to file a patent you don't have to *invent* anything. You just have to show "the use of an idea for a process, machine, item of manufacture, or composition of matter". The mere writing it down is considered the "invention".

    On a side note.. the idea is also supposed to be "novel, useful, AND, nonobvious". This topic fails on at least two of the cases. It's neither novel, nor nonobvious. This is U.S. Patent Law. If you don't like it, talk to your congressman.

    --sea

    Credit of quotes: class notes (Computers and the Law.. yeah who the hell needs to look stuff up?)
  • by Nakito (702386) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @07:53PM (#7993144)
    Just a reminder of the standard that must be met:

    United States Code, 35 USC Section 103:
    Conditions for patentability; non-obvious subject matter
    (a) A patent may not be obtained . . . if the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains.

    So -- is this a trivial, obvious extension of the prior art?
  • by RT Alec (608475) * <alec@NOspaM.slashdot.chuckle.com> on Thursday January 15, 2004 @07:54PM (#7993150) Homepage Journal

    From the patent documentation:

    1. A method for assigning URL's and e-mail addresses to members of a group comprising the steps of:


    assigning each member of said group a URL of the form "name.subdomain.domain"; and

    assigning each member of said group an e-mail address of the form "name@subdomain.domain;"

    wherein the "name" portion of said URL and said e-mail address is the same and unique for each particular one of said members such that an only difference between said URL and said e-mail address for said member is that in said URL the "@" symbol of the e-mail address is replaced with a "." and wherein said "subdomain" portion of said URL and said e-mail address is the same for all members of said group.

    This is the precice format for e-mail addresses in DNS zone file, for the SOA record. See RFC 1034 [faqs.org], section 3.3. Date of prior art, 1987.

  • by TekPolitik (147802) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @07:57PM (#7993193) Journal
    MailBank (Now NetIdentity) has been doing exactly this since 1996 [netidentity.com]. I don't see these cretins getting very far.
  • by reality-bytes (119275) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:02PM (#7993239) Homepage
    The Patent [uspto.gov] was issued on November 23 1999.

    Somehow I don't think its going to take a miracle to find prior art here.

    I think the USPO could really do with being staffed by people with Common Sense(tm).

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Akai (11434) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:13PM (#7993348) Homepage Journal
    The thing is that ISPs have been selling these kind of things to customers for over 10 years now, so prior art is going to be hard to determine.

    The first ISP I worked for offered customers:
    www.customer.ccnet.com
    and customer@ccnet.com
    from about 1995 or so.

    It's a silly patent.
  • by ophix (680455) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:19PM (#7993397) Homepage
    might there be some prior art?

    when setting up a zone file with bind you specify an email address of the admin in charge of the domain in the SOA record.

    an email address of joeuser@somedomain.com would be written as joeuser.somedomain.com. admittedly its not a direct prior art, but i can definately see someone making a jump from this to what the patent is about.

    just my 2 cents

    Ophidian
  • by skavj_binsk (595517) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:25PM (#7993465)
    India is by no means the only contender for the "who invented zero" title.

    Maybe Iraq could get a leg up on reconstruction by contesting that claim [andrews.edu] in an X-TREME CRADLE-OF-CIVILAZATION *SMACKDOWN*.

  • by saden1 (581102) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:44PM (#7993590)
    I'm sure some university way back used the same naming convention.

    This is beyond belief. I don't know to be upset with these idiots that filed the suite or the US patent office which uses the same naming convention (most government agencies do). I've heard they have Ph. D. working at the patent office but come on...who signs off on their Ph. Ds?
  • Re:Patent the patent (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 15, 2004 @09:56PM (#7994202)
    This joke is in every single thread with the patent icon.
  • by matman (71405) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @10:00PM (#7994229)
    I used to have a site in 1997 at matman.megaepic.com. My email address was matman@megaepic.com. Woooo.
  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @10:33PM (#7994445)
    ... entrepeneurs, as scum-sucking bottom feeders seems more appropriate

    Indeed. In the article they're described as "Javaher and Weyer were part of the original group that launched the .md domain in the United States in 1998. With the .md domain, physicians could register URLs ending in .md, such as www.janesmith.md."

    No mention that ".md" is just another of those small countries (Moldova in this case) who've signed away rights to some scumbags who think that they can pretend the letters stand for something else. Similar ones: .la (Laos, pretending to be Los Angeles/Latin America (!)/Lousiana), .tv (Tuvalu, pretending to be television). Hopefully all these idiots get burnt when the national governments cancel their domains without compensation or unilaterally multiply the fees.

  • by CaptainFrito (599630) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:28PM (#7994924)
    having been through the patent process a bunch of times myself, it is safe to say you know little about it, or you have but work for a really big rich powerful company.

    The USPTO seemingly triages patents based on the law firm and the assignee. Joe Schmoe inventor gets pulled through knotholes ("office actions" in the jargon) while patents from big corps sail throught on "first action allowances" all the time.

    I know several inventors, one in particular, who have had dozens of patents with big company names as the assignees that sail through no questions asked. This one person decided to patent another invention privately and it was five years of office actions, but finally it issued. He swears he'll never do it again as an individual.

    So based on true personal experience, an individual or small company using a good but small lawyer or firm get a patent issued, it's probably a good patent. It takes years, so what may have been cutting edge when it was filed may become obvious (or revealed and then popularized during the prosecution phase). Then when it issues, there exists the legal basis to seek judicial remedy if the infringers do not agree to terms. That's the system.

    Big companies, on the other hand, can patent anything and get away with it. The irony is that they can afford legal teams that that can turn bat turds into caviar. I'm speculating here, but I think that if the boot were on the other foot and M$ were suing the browser plugin guy, the guy would never have had the resources to unearth some ridiculously obscure document to assert prior art disclosure. It always comes down to this: money=right.

  • by Znork (31774) on Friday January 16, 2004 @04:07AM (#7996193)
    Of course, the history of the lightbulb is another great example why patents stink. Edison was, in fact, not the inventor. The working lightbulb idea came along in 1809, and various models were developed over the next 65 years. The patent was filed in 1875 by Woodward and Evans, but they couldnt finance the product development. That ended up with Edison (read, the 'more established and well financed company') buying the patent, finalizing product development and reaping the benefits.

    The original inventors didnt benefit, the lightbulb would have happened with or without the patent as the surrounding technology had reached the point of making it practical.
  • by haadot (137567) on Friday January 16, 2004 @07:17AM (#7996828)

    I propose an IPR-based world domination plan:

    1. Relax your own restrictions for patents and other IPR, start accepting any bogus patent application, business model patent application, etc in your own country. Build up a large amount of bogus IPRs for your country with your lax policy.
    2. Push other countries hard (through WIPO and other means) into tightening their IPR protection laws while making sure they still accept your lax IPR, too.
    3. Profit! This would provide a great 20 to 30 year plan for dominating the global IPR market for the country who does this first...

    Oh wait! the USA started implementing this plan already a decade ago...

    Here is one example of what actually does happen when this plan is in action: When someone tries to apply for a real, innovative, detailed patent in another country, say EU for example, it will be rejected by the EU patent office because of an existing over-broad US "patent" which "covers everything". Perhaps patents from overly lax countries should be considered less valid by default?

    P.S. Here's my prior art contribution for this bogus patent: IKI.FI, a non-profit society, has been doing since 1995 what they claim to have invented in 1999. I wrote a page about this at http://www.iki.fi/iki/faq/boguspatent6671714.html [www.iki.fi] so it's easy to find when googling with the patent number.

  • by operagost (62405) on Friday January 16, 2004 @09:29AM (#7997487) Homepage Journal
    Besides the fact that the naming convention used in this patent is obvious, it should also be invalid because it is technically incorrect. It refers to "name.subdomain.domain" as a URL, when it is a fully-qualified host name. A URL would be "http://name.subdomain.domain" or "ftp://name.subdomain.domain".
  • Re:I Smell MS (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2004 @03:04PM (#8001370)
    Oh my god, would you people learn how to spell "ridiculous"? There is no freakin' E in the word! Must be a Slashdot thing. whew, feeling better now...

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