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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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  • by fname (199759) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:41PM (#7992987) Journal
    Just when you thought they'd run out of silly patents to sue over, here comes another one. According to the good folks at News.com, a couple of Nizzas (the name of their company) have sued Network Solutions and Register.com [com.com]. As Marguerite Reardon so eloquently puts it, "Two Internet entrepreneurs are suing Network Solutions and Register.com for allegedly infringing on their e-mail and domain naming patent." I take issue with the term entrepeneurs, as scum-sucking bottom feeders seems more appropriate, but you get the idea. Basically, they patented the method of assigning an email address of fake@name.com to the guy with the website fake.name.com. This might be the lamest excuse for a patent ever granted; a 2-year old could have come up with this idea.
  • What the.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TypoNAM (695420) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:43PM (#7993006)
    OK since when can we patent how URLs and email addresses are assigned? That is the most bullshit non-sense I've ever seen to this day! Whoever is approving these patents needs to be taken out back of their home and shot!
  • by RobPiano (471698) * on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:43PM (#7993013)
    hen I first saw this, I thought it was a hoax! But its mentioned a few times on google already.

    A brief check on the authors shows that there isn't much on the web about these guys.

    Troy Javaher is listed as being at ICANN 99 here, and the other guy here [216.239.37.104].

    Dotmd is a strange site [dotmd.com]

    Either way... When did the business model "I created a patent just so I could sue you" a socially acceptable business practice? I have no love for register.com, but I don't think that this is an acceptable thing to do to anyone.
  • by RobPiano (471698) * on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:45PM (#7993047)
    Link didn't work first time...

    http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/icann/mdr2001/archi ve /physpart.html
  • whoops.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lxy (80823) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:49PM (#7993091) Journal
    These guys are morons. They patent a technology and sue with groundless accusations. Usually when a company claims patent infringement, they try to find a small defenseless company in hope they can set precident. These guys? They go after NetSol and Register.com, two companies with enough legal firepower to make just about any company disappear.

    This will be a fun one to watch.
  • I hope they win (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Flower (31351) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:50PM (#7993097) Homepage
    Every win is just another brick in the wall to prove that this practice is bullshit and requires that Congress change the stupid law. It's obvious that nothing's going to happen until it starts to hurt comapnies with some pull.

    Also be a great example to the EU of what not to allow.

  • by psykocrime (61037) <mindcrime@cpphacker.co . u k> on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:50PM (#7993113) Homepage Journal
    Oh, my God... how in the blue fucking hell did these two clowns get a patent for this shit????

    I knew the USPTO was full of 'tards, but this just takes the fucking cake.. Only a freaking chimpanzee could think this patent deserved to be granted... no, wait, I take that back... a moderately intelligent chimp could see through this...

    AAaaagggghhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!! These fools are gonna cause me to pull every last hair I have out of my head....
  • by The Blue Meanie (223473) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:50PM (#7993114)
    I haven't actually dug through the patent, but even if it just covers third-level domains, it most certainly could be applied to .com, .net, .org and so on. What's to stop someone who owns example.com and uses emails like user@example.com from also using user.example.com as a website?

    For an example a little closer to home, look at sourceforge.net. project.sourceforge.net is how they hand out URLS. If they allow email addresses project@sourceforge.net, they'd be violating this patent as well, right?
  • by greywar (640908) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:51PM (#7993117) Journal
    I ran a BBS in the late 1990's that was the first to provide internet e-mail at the time. I did it by piggybacking folks off the real internet provider at the time called EFN. People e-mailing my people had to send e-mail in a similiar fashion as I recall. I wish I could recall it exactly [its been a long long timt ago] but this is hardly new. I think it was daf.stargazer@efn.org became daf@stargazer locally. This is hardly something they need to fear!
  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:55PM (#7993169)
    That the institution of the state serves only to facilitate the bourgeisie's controll over the ability to controll the means of production and distribution leaving us out in the cold. Despite the fact that this is taking money away from one robber barron to another this only serves as a detriment to the working class because it continues to institutionalize money-grubbing. We need to do away with patents, the state, and capitalism.

    http://www.anreabhloid.org
  • by eamacnaghten (695001) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:58PM (#7993196) Homepage Journal
    I hope here in Europe we do not import the US stupid Patent problems.

    The only way round this is for US citizens to lobby US congresmen to change the patent laws to something sensible. Also publishizing things like this in the popular press is a good idea.

    To the citizens of the US - Do you really want to live in a country where these IP pirates disrupt all? Where they in effect steal monies from businesses (who will pass the loss onto the customer)? You live in a democracy - do something about it!
  • by jocknerd (29758) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @09:05PM (#7993265)
    The first was in the 1890's when the Supreme Court gave corporations Eminent Domain which meant they had the rights of citizens but without the consequences.

    The second was in the 1980's when they relaxed the patent process for software. Up till that time, software was considered to be nothing more than mathematical formulas which could not be patented.

    How I long for the glory days!
  • by Geekenstein (199041) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @09:06PM (#7993278)
    It always amuses me to see "oh, by blind, senile grandmother coulda done this" comments. The point is, they didn't.

    If all these things are as obvious as people like to claim, why don't they patent them? Is it that maybe they were only obvious after someone stated them?

    Ahh, which brings us to the point of the patent system. Protecting something that is duplicatable for a period of time.

    Sliced bread! pffft. My dog coulda come up with that one!
  • by FatHogByTheAss (257292) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @09:08PM (#7993305)
    I suppose the good news is that these things are clearly defined via RFC, so identifying prior art shouldn't be a problem.
  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Thursday January 15, 2004 @09:18PM (#7993390) Homepage Journal
    --- North Carolina - First In Freedom, and then ...nothing.

    Learn how the Patent system works, direct that energy into trying to fix it.
  • by madprof (4723) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @09:24PM (#7993457)
    Patentable - but enforcable in a court of law?
  • by AnotherBlackHat (265897) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @09:24PM (#7993459) Homepage

    I think there ought to be penalties for the use of these nuisance patents. A judge then could not only strike down the patent's validity (which will obviously happen here), but could also impose a heavy fine to deter this kind of litigious crap from happening.


    How 'bout requiring a bond which is given to the first person to invalidate the patent.

    -- this is not a .sig
  • by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Thursday January 15, 2004 @09:34PM (#7993547) Homepage Journal

    Technically, you can apply for a patent on anything. You could even apply for a patent on someone's else's patent if you were looking for a way to burn a lot of money real quick.

    The thing is, people patent stupid shit all the time. Shining a flashlight on the floor and having a cat chase it is a patented exercise system for pets. The problem is that they'd never be able to enforce it, the owner of the patent would pretty much be laughed right out of the courtroom as long as the defendant showed up. Then, they'd lose it.

    The USPTO will play lip service to any idiot that can pay them. They just sort of leave it up to the courts to decide whether or not there was any intelligent driving force behind the patent or not. Fear not, this "entrepreneur" will be shot down pretty quickly. Move along, folks. Nothing to see here, just a bunch of braindead corporate lawyers.

  • by anti-NAT (709310) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @09:55PM (#7993680) Homepage

    URLs start with the "http://" prefix, or probably more correctly "|protocol|://" prefix.

    They have a domain name there, that is all, not a URL.

    If they get the terminology wrong in a patent, does that mean it is invalid, because the "inventor" doesn't understand the topic well enough to be explicitly correct ? I would have thought patents have to be explicitly correct, as the government is granting the patent holder a monopoly, and therefore, the patent must be very clear and correct.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @09:59PM (#7993702)
    Well, U.S. patent law used to be far more pragmatic: for example, you had to actually demonstrate a working invention before you could patent it. Doesn't mean you had to have a finished production model, but you sure had to provide the examiner more than a piece of paper. Re-instituting that requirement would go a long way towards restoring balance here, I think.
  • by NtroP (649992) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @10:04PM (#7993739)

    There needs to be some kind of punitive damage for people who attempt to patent things that are not only covered by prior art, but has been in the Public Domain, for over 20 years before the application.
    No. There needs to be some kind of punitive damage for the people who approve a patent application that is not only covered by prior art, but are in the Public Domain, for over 20 years before the application!

    I say we need to start holding the U.S. Patent Office accountable for the actions of their "lazy, incompetent, government" employees.

    BTW, I am a government employee. And if I did my job as poorly as they do, I'd expect to get my ass booted out into the cold, pronto!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 15, 2004 @10:25PM (#7993942)
    > Finally, do you honestly believe that any of the ISPs who started offering this service have ever read this patent before, even if it was after the patent was filed? No? They came up with it on their own? Well in that case, even though these guys may officially own the rights, it is pretty clear that the patent is OBVIOUS. And therefore VOID.

    Unfortunately, you're wrong. Until such a patent is overturned by a court ruling, it's very legal and quite enforceable - said enforcement attempt is what should trigger the lawsuit that gets the patent invalidated.

    I'm suprised they picked such well-funded companies to go after first - I'd have thought it would be the smallest registrars they could find, the ones without the legal depts to pursue a lawsuit instead of settling.
  • by micromoog (206608) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @10:30PM (#7993990)
    When did the business model "I created a patent just so I could sue you" a socially acceptable business practice?

    The words "socially acceptable business practice" no longer have any meaning in the United States. The general thinking is that if it makes money, it must be OK, and ethics be damned. It doesn't help that our current political leadership shares this view.

  • by e4 (102617) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @10:53PM (#7994179)
    Easy prior art: NetIdentity [netidentity.com] has been making their collective living with this very technique since 1996 [netidentity.com]...

    Too bad their prices have increased about tenfold in that time. It's not as cool now that you can get an entire full-service hosted domain for a bit more than their e-mail plus 5mb web site.
  • by shadowmatter (734276) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:16PM (#7994324)
    Yes, the patent office is in a very sorry state indeed. I go to a respectable public university, and last week I caught sight of a flyer that said "Not know what you're doing after graduation? Try Patent Law..." Now I think it's good that they're trying to recruit people from decent universities, and it's okay to not know exactly what you want to do after college, but I thought it was appealing to the lowest common denominator. Which didn't exactly fill me with hope.
  • by autocracy (192714) <slashdot2007NO@SPAMstoryinmemo.com> on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:17PM (#7994330) Homepage
    Well, yes, but - for all those actions it takes, don't you think somebody should have stood up, pointed at this one, and gone "duh?"
  • by jelle (14827) on Friday January 16, 2004 @12:35AM (#7994970) Homepage
    "the same naming convention."

    There should not be any need for prior art to defeat this. You're saying it yourself 'this naming convention'. Patents are for inventions, not conventions. It's called the nonobvious test for a patent.

    (note: IANAL).
  • by dave1212 (652688) * on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:52AM (#7995441) Homepage
    ..so then how exactly did this get through?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2004 @01:57AM (#7995475)
    That made me realize something. The future will be just like the movie "Demolition Man", only instead of being constantly fined for swearing in public, you will be continuously microcharged for everything you do or say that some putz has a patent, trademark, or copyright on.

    Go, Lemmings, Go!
  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Friday January 16, 2004 @02:55AM (#7995749) Homepage
    What's the difference between a geek with a perfectly normal rectuma and a geek with a disatrously distended rectum? One had a lawyer to defend him after he was busted by Constitution-shredding RIAA private investigators after forgetting to load PeerGuardian while he downloaded the Complete Led Zeppelin off Suprnova, and the other one didn't.

    The fact that having a lawyer is often necessary does not in any way make lawyers good.

    As to the argument that "if the laws weren't so messed up, then the RIAA goons couldn't come after me" I'd ask /. collectively, when was the last time those of you who live in democracies voted? Do you vote eagerly? Do you wake up (in the US) on Primary Tuesdays and cast a vote so you won't be stuck with party candidates you hate?

    Cripes, man, what are you talking about? If I vote, which lawyer (most politicians are lawyers) should I vote for? The entire root of the problem is that lawyers have been allowed to make law. Voting is a sham. It's a way for us citizens/children to make token gestures and claim "look Mommy, I'm helping!"

    Corporations control America today not because the American system is broken, but because people bitch and bitch and bitch but aren't willing to do the hard work necessary to make sure the system does what it's supposed to. You wouldn't fill your car's gas tank up with water, right? And you wouldn't use a 10-year-old rubber band in place of a bike chain? You wouldn't build your beach house out of sand, would you?

    That paragraph doesn't even make sense. Are you saying people are stupid and therefore shouldn't complain, or that complaining about bad laws is like a sand beach house?

    You forget that abusive plaintiff's lawyers (the ones you're really griping about) only survive because the system is currently so chaotic and broken that they're able to make loads of money working the nooks and crannies of the broken system, just

    So the voters' continually elect lawyers to write law, and it's the voters who shoulder all the blame because they should know better than to elect lawyers?

    People make lawyer jokes, and they're funny, I suppose. But just remember something someone who was in prison after having a crappy court-appointed lawyer lose his case for him told me: the only lawyer you ever wished you could have is the one you realized you needed after a lifetime telling yourself they weren't wanted.

    People make lawyer jokes because such a huge percentage of lawyers are scum. The law is a parasite on society. It's an arbitrary game of devised by an intellectually inbred subculture that has, by virtue of their power, made themselves necessary. Necessary is not the same thing as good. Lawyers are a necessary evil, and little else.

  • by danila (69889) on Friday January 16, 2004 @06:47AM (#7996496) Homepage
    I know this is going to sound wrong but I really hope Network Solutions and Register.com lose this and then file for bankruptcy.

    Even though this group of f*ckwits tries to screw people more than NS and R.com, the patent system is even worse. And until the majority understands that it was horribly broken a long time ago, nothing will change.

    We need much more stupid patent lawsuits. Bring it on!
  • by Thoguth (203384) * on Friday January 16, 2004 @10:32AM (#7997502) Homepage
    I'm sure some university way back used the same naming convention.

    Easier than that. The patent was filed in November 1999. In the patent itself it references websites, including:

    Webpage: Freeyellow.com, Apr., 1998.*
    Webpage: switchboard.com, Jun. 1996.*

    As in, Freeyellow (subdomain) . com (domain) and switchboard (subdomain) . com (domain). These frickin' crackheads used prior art three+ years before they filed the patent, and referenced it in the patent. Tell me it's April Fools' Day.

If A = B and B = C, then A = C, except where void or prohibited by law. -- Roy Santoro

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