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Patents The Internet United States Your Rights Online

Subdomains Part Of The Patent Frenzy 356

Posted by timothy
from the march-fools dept.
Colonel Angus writes "Web Hosting Industry is carrying a story about a company called Ideaflood that has been sending out letters to web hosting firms claiming that they own a patent on subdomains and are claiming a license needs to be purchased to continue to use them. This is reminding me of the hyperlink patent from a couple years back." Maybe Frank Weyer will ask them to wrestle.
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Subdomains Part Of The Patent Frenzy

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  • by conner_bw (120497) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:32PM (#8710995) Homepage Journal
    Let's take it for a given that in the USA, most people know what the internet is and there is a strong possibly everyone who works in the patent office uses it.

    Why then is the patent office so moronic when it comes to patenting ideas that are general knowledge?

    Does anyone working in the patent office read this site? What are the qualifications that allow them to make glaring mistakes over and over again? Who's hiring them and why? Speak up and justify your job because frankly you guys and girls are being paid for nothing.

    • by SirGeek (120712) <[gro.okcusrm] [ta] [todhsals-keegris]> on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:34PM (#8711014) Homepage
      The problem is that if it isn't patented already, then they can patent it. Screw any "prior art" that isn't in the patent database. That is the ONLY source of data that they use.

      They can't fathom that someone wouldn't patent something even if it is totally trivial/common sense.

      • by metlin (258108) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:59PM (#8711177) Journal
        Ah, but you miss an important point - USPTO grants patents because its also a source of income (and a pretty good one at that).

        Its not their duty to make sure that its upheld - if its not, its _your_ problem - as an applicant.

        However, within the limited scope of their resources (and intellect), they issue as many patents as they can simply because they can. If its a bad one, its going to be dragged to court at some point or the other and shot dead. If not, great, you have great IP on your hands.

        Ofcourse, I can see the flaw in this that corporates can bully the less powerful - but hey! Thats corporate Amerika for you.
        • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @02:33AM (#8711839) Homepage

          Excellent point.

          The solution then, is to sue the crap out of USPTO. No, I don't mean just overturn the patent. That's a lose-lose. You pay money to undo the idiocy. I mean to go to court and say "The USPTO's negligence cost me money. I want reparation, and I want punitive damages."

          Hell, given the scope of patents, it's begging for a class action. And I think we may have found a contender.

          • You can't sue the government generally, or it's agents, unless Congress gives you permission.
            • by Dashing Leech (688077) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @06:08AM (#8712464)
              You can't sue the government generally, or it's agents, unless Congress gives you permission.

              (IANAL but...) I'm not sure where this comes from. It's quite easy to sue various forms of government and government agents, such as the police (false arrest, rights violations), prosecutors (prosecutorial misconduct), Congress [prweb.com] , and various [nwsource.com] federal [onlineathens.com] agencies [go.com].

              • by dnoyeb (547705)
                IANAL but, its the federal government which you can not sue without permission. Its not quite easy, but the government does quite often extend this permission.

                When is the last time you heard of an inmate suing for false imprisonment and getting a dime?
              • by kuma_act (549026) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @09:12AM (#8713295)
                Actually, this is a true statement. The doctrine of sovereign immunity protects the government from being sued unless it allows the suit. This is a pretty complex subject, so I'll try to make this as "user-friendly" as I can. The Federal Government and the governments of the individual states are protected from suit unless they allow it. In order to allow the suit, the legislative body (Congress, state assembly, etc.) has to pass a law allowing the suit. Most states and the Federal Government have passed statutes that allow you to sue them under specified circumstances, i.e., for specified types of claims (civil rights violations, tort claims, breach of contract claims), but only if you comply with strict notice requirements. If you don't comply with the requirements of the statute, your case gets thrown out because of sovereign immunity. So I guess the answer really is "You can sue the government, but only if they let you."
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @05:25AM (#8712359)
          Ah, but you miss an important point - USPTO grants patents because its also a source of income (and a pretty good one at that). Its not their duty to make sure that its upheld - if its not, its _your_ problem - as an applicant.

          Ah, well, there's a simple solution to that then. Change the rules so that they receive the income whether or not they approve the patent. The fees paid to them (and government budget allotted to them) should be based on how many patents they review, not how many they grant.

        • Ah, but you miss an important point - USPTO grants patents because its also a source of income (and a pretty good one at that).

          Actually you still pay the fees even if the application is rejected. But the USPTO has tended to allow everything because rejected applicants are allowed to sue them while the victims of maliciously invalid patents are not.

          The way to rectify this is to start suing malicious applicants for perjury.

          The particular patent in question is not simply for subdomains, it is for mappin

      • by jfengel (409917) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:33AM (#8711329) Homepage Journal
        They also look at the references you provide. I know; I got hammered because I provided lots of references, and had to spend months explaining how my work was novel over the referenced documents. If I'd just skipped doing the prior art myself, I would have saved myself a lot of time and legal fees.
      • Hrm. Perhaps the USPTO has changed the way it does prior art searches. I think it's crap that they only consider other patents as prior art. If I recall with accuraccy, there is a somewhat "famous" case in which a patent for a waterbed was not granted because such a product was described in a Henlein novel many years before the patent filing; the idea was in the public domain. That prior art was most definitely not a patent, but it was still used to debunk the claim.

        If the current examiners aren't using ot

      • The patent office uses a lot of other prior art sources than just the published patent and application database.

        They use IEEE journals, derwent database, the EPO and JPO databases, the internet, various private databases, usenet, trade journals, a good sized libary or old manuals just to name a few. They have a whole staff dedicated to non patent literature searches and resources.

        Look at a published patent and most of the time, you will see non patent literature cited as prior art of record.
    • Ya know, up until I saw this I was against blanket tort reform (ya know, the price of overreaction and such).

      Screw it. I'm overreacting.

      However, some little rational side of me asks this question: Do patent laws really have this much teeth? Some evidence I've been seeing lately implies it may not...
    • by Total_Wimp (564548) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:49PM (#8711117)
      The problem with the patent office is the same problem we have: They can't be experts in everything.

      The reason software patents makes me sick is because although I can keep track of whether or not I'm copying from anyone, I can't keep track of all the possibilities of all the patents I may someday be accused of violating.

      The patent office itself has the same problem. They can tell if someone else patented the same thing (did they copy?) but they simply don't have resources to tell if some technical thing has ever occured before.

      Sure, we all know about domains, but we're computer nerds. Most people in the patent office could probably not make that claim, just as they couldn't claim to be automobile designers or materials scientists.

      TW
      • by conner_bw (120497) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:01AM (#8711191) Homepage Journal
        Most people in the patent office could probably not make that claim, just as they couldn't claim to be automobile designers or materials scientists.

        So why are they allowed to make decisions that affect the very essence of these technologies?

        To quote chief wiggum: government is powerless to protect you, not powerless to punish you.

        In a society built around laws that punish those who dare break them... how can a department of government exist to creates rules prosecutable by law if it's workers are not experts in the domains that will potentially be liable for their work?
      • by Xzzy (111297) <sether @ t r u 7 h . o rg> on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:03AM (#8711198) Homepage
        > They can't be experts in everything.

        I dunno. It seems anymore they aren't experts in ANYTHING. :)

        One would like to think that with their 6,500 employees and 1.3 billion dollar budget (in 2003) there would be at least ONE person that actually reads the applications would have some basic awareness of the world and be able to react appropriately. Or hell, even ask a question.

        6,500 people is simply too great a number for the entire organization to be so grossly ignorant. There has to be ONE person at least, right? :)
        • by Zerth (26112) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:26AM (#8711296)
          Sure, actually there are several dozen people at the patent offices who are knowledgeable about most, if not all, of the subjects that are covered by these silly patents and each takes the time to read them when presented with them.

          They're the janitorial staff and they giggle like mad every time they empty the wastepaper baskets.
      • I posted earlier in the thread about the educational background of patent examiners. There are specific patent examiner posts that require education in the field the examiners are working on. For example, there are patent examiners that focus on biotechnology and organic chemistry. Others focus on electrical engineering and semiconductors. So, while patent clerks can't claim to be experts in all fields, they can claim to be automobile designers (mechanical engineers with some aerospace engineering knowledge
      • by dbIII (701233)
        If you look at things seriously the US patent system has had problems since at least the days of Marconi and Edison. It's been used by many to try to stop their competition by fair means or foul, and is no longer a means to encourage innovatation - the entry level is way too high, and the rules are way too lax ("Method for exercising a cat" anyone?)

        The patent system works to a better degree in many other countries - in the USA it is diminishing to the role of a legal trick to play on your competition.

        Som

      • by crucini (98210) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @02:26AM (#8711808)
        Actually, examiners work in pretty narrow areas. Check out other patents allowed by the same examiner [uspto.gov]. They're mostly computer/internet patents.

        And it's not a patent on subdomains. Given that rather basic misunderstanding, isn't it possible that the guy who examines patents all day is right, and the slashdot crowd is wrong?
      • by schon (31600)
        although I can keep track of whether or not I'm copying from anyone, I can't keep track of all the possibilities of all the patents I may someday be accused of violating.

        This is the single biggest proof that the patent system is broken.

        Most people (here) know that the only reason that patents exist is to "promote progress in science and the useful arts." - So let's see how this is doing:

        If you're a technology 'creator' (programmer, engineer, whatever) ask any patent lawyer, and he'll tell you not to go
    • Due to the USPTO's current high demand to patent everything under the sun, they have been increasingly outsourcing their positions to Mayotte [cia.gov], having a workforce that "fits the qualifications of our most rigid analysis positions", cites one top official. That same official said that due to some difficulties in getting the children in the country Internet access, however, they probably won't be able to surpass the 90% outsourcing objective they recently peaked at.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:16AM (#8711247)
      There's an article on the Foundation for Programming Freedom [mit.edu] by Richard Stallman titled 'Anatomy of a Trivial Patent [mit.edu]'. Read this and you will see how people sneak these patents past the PO.
    • by XLawyer (68496) * on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:59AM (#8711477) Homepage

      Look, the Patent Office is simply overwhelmed. I hear that the practice is supposed to end soon, but patent fees have been diverted to other government agencies, depriving the PTO of resources.

      In the meantime, merely getting a patent can take 18 months. Again, I am told that a patent examiner can spend roughly twenty hours total on each application. That doesn't leave a lot of time for luxuries like common sense.

      With constraints like that, is it any wonder that junk patents get through?

    • They aren't moronic. They do their job pretty well, within the rules. It's not their fault that slashdotters don't understand the rules and don't bother reading patents before attacking them. The patent appears to be 6,687,746 [uspto.gov].

      It's a hard patent to read, but the key claim is the use of a DNS wildcard entry to handle user's subdomains. The applicants claim that as of August 1999 everyone was entering separate DNS records for each subdomain.

      Can you find prior art? A published description of using a sin
    • Why then is the patent office so moronic when it comes to patenting ideas that are general knowledge?

      Actually I don't even think it is an issue of things that are general knowlage. The issue is this is how the system was designed. More and more patents are coming out, patenting use of a facility as it was designed. Its kind of like if I created a car, heck even pantented it, then some one comes along a patents the process of putting fuel in the car. Other classic examples are patents on hypertext, use of
  • Patenting an RFC? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:35PM (#8711019)
    prior art = November 1987 [ohio-state.edu]

    And in other news, tomorrow, I'm patenting the misspelling of referrer in electronic comunication.
    • And in other news, tomorrow, I'm patenting the misspelling of referrer in electronic comunication.

      And I'll patent your "comunication" misspellings.

    • why...that's brilliant! Finally I can realize my dream of never again seeing the word "loose" written when "lose" is intended! By patenting it, I can simply charge a fee equal to my annoyance at the sight of that extra little o. Say, 50 grand per incident.

    • You can't patent a reeferer. I'm holding some prior art sparking away in my hand as I type this.

      *Slow motion smoke cloud exhaled*
    • by NanoGator (522640) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:16AM (#8711253) Homepage Journal
      That's prior art of a domain being specified. This patent is about automatically creating a subdomain for each user. The difference? I imagine they had to do some significant work to make their server do that at the time it was filed. Good patent? Eh I don't think so. But it doesn't shock me a whole lot that it was granted.

      The real question is: Should patenting how a website works be allowed? Should you be able to patent using a bunch of features together for a spcific result? In the physical world, I can see that... but in the digital world, well that's a heck of a lot tougher to answer.

      I remember a few years ago somebody told me that a company (RCA?) patented drawing a single character on a TV. That's right, if you made a TV that told you on-screen what channel you were on, you had to license it. It seems so ABSURD these days. Back then, though, they were the first to do it, and it was probably a rather tough situation to solve seeing as how they had to design circuits for it for the first time. I bet back then the general thought was "uhh... but TVs show characters if they're part of the broadcast!" It really did change how TVs work, though.

      I'm not really sure how I feel about this topic. I can see the value in patents. I mean, if I do some grunt work that would benefit everybody, and have a patent to insure that I get paid for it, well it really makes me want to innovate. But, at the same time, if I want to go do something obvious and I step on somebody else's toes... well gee. That makes me NOT want to go into that market at all. Does 'fixing' the patent system create winners or losers?
  • by teamhasnoi (554944) <teamhasnoi@@@yahoo...com> on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:35PM (#8711023) Homepage Journal
    kiss.my.org
  • Just ridiculous... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bc90021 (43730) * <bc90021@NoSpam.bc90021.net> on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:36PM (#8711028) Homepage
    From the article:

    "Business method patents that cover software programs weren't legal until a few years ago," Dicig says, "so there is no comprehensive way for the PTO to search for software and computer-related technology that's already been invented, other than that described in patents and published applications. For instance, if the patent office didn't know about WordPerfect 1, it could issue a patent on word processing because it has no way to know that word processing was already invented."

    I'm sorry, but this is just a ridiculous argument. Firstly, the USPTO must use technology to some degree, so if someone visited "news.yahoo.com" two years before this patent was ever issued, they've got their prior art right there.

    Secondly, what kind of organisation is restricted to only doing research with its own prior body of work? Can you imagine if every doctor in the country called the CDC when they saw their first flu patient? (Doctor: Quick! There's this new disease I've never seen before and it completely debilitates the patient!)

    As I said, just ridiculous.
    • by greenskyx (609089) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:41PM (#8711057)
      Wouldn't www.yahoo.com actually be a subdomain or even gopher.yahoo.com or ftp.yahoo.com?
    • by NanoGator (522640) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:59PM (#8711179) Homepage Journal
      "I'm sorry, but this is just a ridiculous argument. Firstly, the USPTO must use technology to some degree, so if someone visited "news.yahoo.com" two years before this patent was ever issued, they've got their prior art right there."

      Not exactly the same. The patent is in the server automatically setting up subdomains for users as they sign up. News.yahoo.com is not a good example. However, if Slashdot was setup so that typing in NanoGator.Slashdot.Org brought up my stats list, well that'd be more like what the patent covers.

      Did they do it first? I dunno. I doubt it. However, I can envision a situation where they wrote all the code to make that work, and some PHB saying "what the hell, just file a patent. If we get it, neat!" If nobody else did that before them, then I can see the USPTO allowing it.

      Now, before you point your pitchfork at me, understand that I'm *not* saying it's right. I'm not saying they should be able to do it. I'm not saying it's legit, etc. I'm just saying I can see how it probably came about. This was probably something that was filed before the internet really took off.

      The nice thing is that if they get too aggressive about it, there'll be a court smack-down. Personally, I wish there was a check and/or balance so that it didn't involve a nasty agressive court case to suss it all out. Small companies really can't get into this sort of mess. Either it should be tougher to get a patent, or there needs to be a way found that means the first patent case is not expensive for either side to get into unless... Well I dunno. Sorry I don't have all the answers heh.
      • by revmoo (652952)
        People have been doing this with mod_vhost_alias with Apache for AGES.

        Of course, I don't think anyone needs to get their panties in a wad over this, there are plenty of junk 'IP' corporations out there that are just paper tigers. They never actually do anything, and when it comes to court they (almost) always lose.
  • Burn! (Score:5, Funny)

    by JustinXB (756624) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:41PM (#8711058)
    I just filed a patent for the process of patenting things.

    I stand to gain millions. Invest in me now or fear my wrath when I have a laser death canon on the mooon!

  • by Openstandards.net (614258) <slashdot&openstandards,net> on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:43PM (#8711070) Homepage
    Does anyone see this rising to a boiling point anytime soon? When will people start lobbying for patent reform?

    I've read comments on this subject from IBM, the largest patent holder in the world, indicating they might even endorse patent reform. Their stance has been that they use patents primarily as a defense, adding that until the system is fixed, they don't have much of a choice.

    This is also putting a rush to patent everything, worse than a gold rush, not so much to profit like these annoying cases, but to build a defense, like IBM does. Only, as we all know, the little guy has little defense. Thus there is both a chill and imbalance on innovation today.

    Is anyone lobbying congress for patent reform? I'd like to know what we can do.

    • The way I see it, this is where Opensource comes in.

      Patents are usually for very specific things - for example, while describing even a simple thing as a wire, you are expected to mention all alternative terminologies - copper, metal, fiber or any other alternative methods not covered here - you get the idea.

      There are two ways around this mess -

      1. Everyone breaks the patent
      2. We find a way around it

      What better way to do it than as a collective movement of Opensource folks? I'm sure that given any patent
    • While you are cleaning up with patent reform, please don't forget copyright reform too: reduce the length and increase fair use please :).

      The hardest part is finding egregious examples that will make people rally behind the reform effort. Right now patent and copyright law / reforms seem to just bore the general public, need to make it clear how they are being harmed.
  • http://tarr.uspto.gov/
    http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=login&p_lang =english&p_d=trmk

    etc.

    Dummies. Isn't that like firemen practicing on their own house?

  • Looking at the "patents" they have and I'm really confused. On their (or really Steven's) page they have listed a patent for: PATENT NO: US 6,270,409 - Method and apparatus for gaming [ideaflood.com]

    If you actually look at the text of the patent though, it reads completely different and the patent number is also different. It is patent 6,304,788 and relates to a patent for "Method and apparatus for controlling medical monitoring devices over the internet".

    And now that I look at it, the first patent link is incorrect too. The text states that it is patent #6,389,458 but it links to patent #6,687,746.

    WTF?

    I think this guy is trying extortion, plain and simple.
  • Ideaflood = who? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mybecq (131456) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:47PM (#8711092)
    ideaflood.com [ideaflood.com] says:
    Ideaflood, Inc. has more than 30 patents and patent applications,

    many of which were filed before the US Patent and Trademark Office
    began publishing patent applications, and cover many widely used and
    easily recognizable technologies that make the internet possible and
    profitable. Much of Ideaflood's intellectual property is just as
    central to core internet functions, but operate behind-the-scenes on
    network servers and other back-end hardware and software.

    whois.net [whois.net] says:
    Organization Name: IdeaFlood, Inc

    Name: DOMAIN FOR SALE
    [snip]
    Record Created on........ 1999-11-05

    I say:
    Phooey [reference.com].

    (PS. We're so big we don't even run our own nameservers!)
  • FUCK THE LAWYERS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the gnat (153162) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:47PM (#8711095)
    Jesus, with people like the IP lawyer they quote at the end, it's a wonder there's any innovation left at all.

    "Industries, especially in the information technology space, often develop more quickly than the applicable patents come to light."

    Well, don't you think that this means it's a good time to reform the system? Doesn't the fact that innovation occurs so rapidly negate the value of a first-come-first-serve approach to granting patents?

    "This can be a rude awakening for companies that have not already factored into their business plans the likelihood that someone will come knocking with a patent they may infringe."

    IT companies should not have to operate in fear of frivolous lawsuits from greedy do-nothings. Quoth Bill Gates:
    "If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today."

    Forgive me if I'm taking this personally, but I'm starting my PhD in molecular biology (and doing significant amounts of software development at the same time), and at the rate the lawyers are moving in on my field, by the time I graduate I'll probably have to take out a patent license to publish my research.
    • Sure, there will be lots of innovation, and it will mostly be in countries that don't have a retardedly broken patent system or just simply ignore U.S. patents.

      It's like the issue with Indian outsourcing. It's all fine and good when corporations save money at the expense of Joe Taxpayer... until there are enough Joe Taxpayers out of work that it notibly affects the economy... there aren't enough Joe Taxpayers paying taxes... or buying products... because they're all of of work or working for barely-scrapi
  • by donnacha (161610) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:48PM (#8711099) Homepage


    "Gee, that's an awful nice "yro" you got there. Be an awful shame if anything were to happen to it."

  • So ... (Score:4, Funny)

    by boarder8925 (714555) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `yblirtneergeht'> on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:49PM (#8711113) Homepage
    "All your subdomain are belong to us."
  • by thenewnoise (668578) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:54PM (#8711141)
    http://www.ideaflood.com/apps.asp
  • I have a friend who expatried himself as he found a job as a patent examiner in Berlin.

    Whenever he is bored, I send him a link to a slashdot US-patent story.

    Let's say he's not bored for long...

  • Oh, shit... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by inode_buddha (576844) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:56PM (#8711149) Journal
    I've tolerated PanIP, I'm tolerating SCO (sort of - thanks, PJ), and now this subdomain thing. I'm running low on my tolerance lately and starting to wonder if some people/organizations need to have acceptable behavior beaten into them. You know, like not trying to steal everything in sight. Corporate kleptomania.

    It sure isn't helping anything that what's *legal* varies from what's *ethical*. And then combine that with a clueless USPTO and a pile of ambulance-chasers...

    Sorry, just had to vent it; I'm pissed.

  • by Sebby (238625) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:56PM (#8711152)
    To hell with their claims that they don't have enough resources. It's clear that they do not do the job they're paid for, and as such it causes this kind of crap that costs OTHERS to resolve their screw ups.

    I think the PTO should be sued every time a patent that has caused problems becomes invalid after a court case. Then it might just give them an incentive to actually DO their job. Actually, I think the individual examiners should be held responsable; then they're really have an incentive to do it right!

    • furthermore... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sebby (238625) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:58PM (#8711170)
      As somone else stated, if these application were provided to the public for inspection, they'd have more than enough 'resources' to deal with the applications.

      Open-Source Patent Examination anyone?

      • Nice idea, but it would be abused too. I think it's safe to say that people would "find" evidence of their own prior art. And then maybe sue for copyright infringement - sorry, "IP theft" - and loss of market due to their competitor publishing "their IP". It would get ugly real fast.
  • by kcb93x (562075) <(zib.canb) (ta) (canbck)> on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:57PM (#8711157) Homepage
    http://www.uspto.gov/

    On the left side, under the 'Patents' column:
    'Status' link: http://pair.uspto.gov/cgi-bin/final/home.pl

    and under 'Trademarks':
    'Status' link: http://tarr.uspto.gov/
    'Search' link: http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=login&p_lang =english&p_d=trmk

    So, how long have those been up? Does the USPTO understand what this patent means? It means that even the patent office is in violation of this patent, if it is valid.
  • by davmoo (63521) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:59PM (#8711181)
    I own a server, and it has subdomains on it. In fact, I think I'll go create a few dozen more subdomains. And this is my personal and public invitation for Ideaflood to suck my big fat wingy-wang.

    I've said it before (mostly about SCO) and I'll say it again...

    Those who can, innovate.
    Those who can't, litigate.

  • I just dared them to sue me. I wonder if that was wise....
  • There is no way that Ideaflood owns the patent on Subdomains. Remember, Al Gore invented the Internet [sethf.com]. He owns all the patents on these technologies, and I know for a fact, from extremely reliable sources, that he did not transfer ownership of these patents to Ideaflood. I have bulletproof evidence: Two people, who claim not to know each other, both told me the same thing one day.
  • by obeythefist (719316) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:06AM (#8711214) Journal
    Back in my day, before these idealfoods people made subdomains, I had fun on all the websites on the internet. I used to go to gov, mil, com, edu and sometimes org.
  • Actual Email sent to steven@ideaflood.com :

    The internet has had subdomains WAY BEFORE YOU FILED...

    You have no case... just like SCO.. wait.. I bet you too
    have linux running as your Server, dont you? Well if you
    can think that you will win with this patent, then you
    must think SCO has a case too.. better go get a license
    from SCO before you get sued as well!

    Also.. go ahead and try to sue me.. I need publicity..
    I have all sorts of subdomains.. Lets see.. www. for
    many of them, as well as irc. and main. and mem
  • by humanerror (56316) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:38AM (#8711364)

    Obviously, the submitter didn't bother any more than any of you to follow through to the source... [uspto.gov]

    The patent is for an automated procedure for licensing sub-domain names via an Internet portal , not on subdomains - the submitter's claim is considerably more absurd than the patent claim, no matter your views on software and business model patents.

  • by jfengel (409917) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:46AM (#8711407) Homepage Journal
    They list only two patents that have actually been granted, "Method,apparatus and system for directing access to content on a computer network" (which seems to cover cross-linking between web sites where there's some sort of traffic-exchange system in place, such as ad banners) and "Method and apparatus for gaming" (guaranteeing a minimum payout for gambling.)

    The article doesn't say what patent the letter refers to, if indeed it references an actual patent at all. They have an _application_ for a patent on Method and apparatus for conducting domain name service [uspto.gov], whose idea seems to be that ICANN doesn't control subdomains, so you can sell your subdomains yourself as long as you manage it.

    That is, if you own foo.com, you can't really sell "bar.foo.com" to somebody else, at least not using the standard domain registries, because they just don't do that. The solution (running your own domain name server and providing a web site to control it, basically acting like your own TLD) is pretty damn obvious, but not a whole lot more obvious than lots of other patents that have been granted.

    But the thing is, at least as far as I can tell, they don't have a patent yet. They only have an application. Suing people is WAY jumping the gun. It might even be illegal, but IANAL. That patent is over two and a half years old, so it's about time the thing got approved. Maybe it is approved and the USPTO hasn't updated its web site, and ideaflood is being quick off the mark.

    As far as I can tell, the usual advice seems to apply: it's a pointless patent with lots of prior art, so don't cave in and don't send these idiots a penny.
  • EV1? (Score:5, Funny)

    by xcfmx (25409) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:50AM (#8711424)
    How long until EV1-Servers buys a license to protect its customers?
  • Here." [ideaflood.com] "if even a small fraction of these applications are granted, a huge number of business methods and technologies that are now widely deployed across the Internet shall in effect become commodities which the patent holder can leverage to extract licensing fees or, in the alternative, damages from infringers."

    They basically say their business model is to crapflood the patent office and see who the can fuck.

  • by grozzie2 (698656) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:54AM (#8711451)
    When you read about what this patent is all about, it suddenly becomes very clear why there are countries in this world that just refuse to buy into the patent/copyright systems in general. Folks here tend to get wildly upset when the subject of China not upholding patents and copyrights comes up here on /., but, when the USPTO is granting this kind of patent on a daily basis, it's no wonder a growing economy wants no part of it.

    There used to be a set of requirements for the issuance of a patent. Something had to be 'not obvious to an expert in the field' before it became patentable. The USPTO in its current form has made a joke out of the patent system as a whole, and this one is a very clear example. I'm not even an expert in the field, but, i had my own email subdomain (mydomain.somedomain.com) more than 15 years ago. I've still got the reciepts to prove it, so, it will be acceptable as 'demonstrateable prior art' in just about any court in the world, except the courts of the usa. They have converted the patent system into a 'first to apply' concept rather than a 'first to innovate' concept. There is no longer any requirement for uniqueness, or innovation at the USPTO, just 'first'.

    Patents like this one have devalued the system, and value of a real patent, to the point where the time is not far off that more countries are going to reject american patents wholesale. Since it's not possible to filter the mess for 'what is a good patent' and 'what is a bad patent', the whole lot is going to be rejected in total. I for one am already starting to plant the political seeds in my own country to do just that, and this little escapade is great fodder for the cannon. Politicians are not bright at the best of times, but even the densest of them can understand the concept when it's laid out to them. I had email by subdomains laid out and in operation 15 years ago, it's obvious. Today, suddenly it becomes 'licensable' by american patent laws. i dont need my business to be held for ransom by a foreign company that's in the business of 'legal extortion'. The only way we are going to stop this, is to get the ball rolling to make american patents invalid in our country, because today they are upheld.

    The choice in this case is really up to american business. If you want patents to be upheld worldwide, put the value back in them, fix the system. Leave it unchecked with crap like this coming out of the system, and the rest of the world is gonna reject them. it's good for bypassing the crap like this patent, but it's very bad for real innovation that requires real expenditures in research and development.

    This is actually a very fundamental issue in terms of IP laws and protections in a global economy. IP is protected thru patents, and, patents like this paint a very sour color on the whole lot of them. Acceptance of US patents in other countries is an all or nothing deal, and many places have chosen 'none'. I live in a country that has chosen 'all', but, that's going to change if the USPTO doesn't. It has to, because if we continue to honor every patent that comes out of the US patent office, it's only a matter of time till we have to pay a licensing fee just to breathe.

  • by YouHaveSnail (202852) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @01:10AM (#8711519)
    Let's put this particular patent and its validity aside for a moment and consider that the USPTO does seem to grant quite a lot of patents that it probably should not, and which will eventually be shown to be invalid.

    In some sense, the more this happens, the better. A large number of bad patents diminishes the authority of the USPTO. After a few dozen of these make it though the courts, there will be a fair body of case law that defense lawyers can point at and say "Your honor, the Patent Office has a long history of granting patents without doing appropriate research, and this case is just one more example." At least one of the following will happen:

    • Courts will give less weight to patents, and patents will become easier and cheaper to invalidate in the courts.
    • Holders of significant numbers of patents will start to police the system, pre-emptively challenging bad patents and leaning on patent abusers to knock it off.
    • Congress, in an effort to appease pissed-off businesses, will attempt to reform the USPTO.
    • Congress will make it artificially more difficult to invalidate a patent, thus making the problem worse.


    Any of the above except the last item would be an improvement. Of course, the last item seems the most likely, but it would really just delay the necessary and inevitable patent reform.

    Business right now relies on patents like an addict relies on his chosen drug. Withdrawal will be painful and reform will be difficult, but it will ultimately make the nation much healthier and more productive.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @01:36AM (#8711614)
    Date: Mon, 29 Mar 2004 22:19:46 -0800
    From: Chris Cappuccio
    To: steven@ideaflood.com
    Subject: Subdomain Hosting
    User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.6i

    Hi Steve,

    I am directly responsible for registering, hosting, and maintaining thousands of subdomains and other second level domains for educational, commercial, and government entities throughout the North American continent.

    These include locality domains like sunriver.or.us, and other sub domains from my own top level domains.

    I would like to enter a reasonable licensing scheme whereby I pay you exactly $0 for an unlimited license to use subdomains according to your idea.

    If you do not agree to these terms, please initiate a lawsuit against me to assert your patent rights (or you will lose them!)

    You may reach me at:

    Chris Cappuccio
    Network Media
    130 NW Greenwood Ave.
    Bend, OR 97701

    Thank you for your time,

    -c

  • by aauu (46157) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @01:47AM (#8711651) Homepage

    Attn: Accounts Payable

    Your payment of $100,000 annual fee to use my patented (pending) method of remote modulation of colored phosphors or any other means of displaying colored pixels to convey information is DUE NOW. Failure to pay will result in all monitors only displaying grey scale when browsing your web site or displaying any banner ads or or other content linked to your site.

    You will need to remit to Xerox your fee for black and white, and to IBM your fee for green and black.

  • by jonwil (467024) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @01:50AM (#8711662)
    1.chage it away from the current system where there is an incentive to pass patents (even crappy ones) quickly since that makes more $ for the PTO

    2.hire experts in all the fields and make sure that every patent has been looked at by at least 2 experts in the field that it applies to (with all the out-of-work-techies, finding experts to examine computer & tech related patents should be easy enough)

    3.implement a special "patent court" which is where patent lawsuits get heard. Implement a looser-pays system for this court (with the lawyers not allowed to charge anyone until the lawsuit has been resolved and with the looser paying the winners court costs). This would make it easier for the "little guy being trampled on by a frivioluous patent" to fight it instead of just giving in and settling.

    4.If a patent is rejected (either initally or later in the patent court), the patent holder has to pay $$$ to the PTO.

    and 5.Anyone should be able to go to the PTO and request that a patent be re-examined. If the prior art they are submitting is genuine and valid, the patent is declared invalid. If it isnt valid, the person requesting a re-evaluation must pay $$$ (this would discourage people making stupid requests). Again, if the patent is thrown out, the holder has to pay $$$ to the PTO.

    Also, make it easier to submit patents in the first place (cheaper etc) so that those with genuinely patentable things can get the patent easier (because of the big costs if its thrown out, this wont lead to more stupid patents being submitted)

    Also, change the rules about what can be patentable. In particular, remove any protection given to the patenting of a gene or a whole organisim.
    • by Bigman (12384) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @05:54AM (#8712425) Homepage Journal
      2 Points:
      • Your point (5) is really the most important. I think it should be possible to apply to have a patent revoked if you can submit the right evidence
      • Software patents are a ridiculous concept anyway; software is adequately covered by copyright. Patenting software makes as much sense as patenting the storyline in a book.
      I also feel that in order to maintain the spirit of the legislation, a patent holder should have to show that they have attempted to use the patent to exploit the invention - i.e. licenced it to someone to develop, sought funding, sold a product using the invention. Patent squatting should not be a valid business model. Intellectual property should not be a commodity; that was never the intention of those that instantiated the patent and copyright laws.

      Just my UKP0.02 worth!
  • Patent Link (Score:3, Informative)

    by pclinger (114364) * on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @01:55AM (#8711674) Homepage Journal
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @04:09AM (#8712180)
    Somebody tell me if I'm hallucinating. Go to the site in the story, and change the URL from apps.asp to lameapps.asp. Guess what is on their 404 page: an ad for porn passwords!

    If you have mod points please mod this up so it will be seen.
  • by BenBenBen (249969) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @05:48AM (#8712405)
    The same company (IdeaFlood [ideaflood.com]) has on its press release page a release dated November last year in which they detail their claim to pop-ups spawned "onexit". The patent they refer to [uspto.gov] was issued 2002, and filed 1998, by some joker [google.com] who then assigned it to these modern-day racketeers [sco.com].

    Am I the only person who was on the internet pre-1998? Every day I see a patent relating to things that were plaguing us in 1995, and a company that honestly believes they can claim "2% of... the $9.5bn income this method generates".

    Puhh-lease.
  • by garethwi (118563) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @06:39AM (#8712549) Homepage
    I'm patenting the use of the letter 't' in url's. I'll get paid at least once for ftp:// urls, and at least twice for http://.

    I won't collect on news://, but hey, I'm not greedy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @06:42AM (#8712552)
    Please read the patent [uspto.gov]

    The patent is primarily for what has been used in CGI redirectors to simulate subdomains (not just user subdomains, but any subdomain). This is fairly common in some virtual servers.

    They are not patenting subdomains per se; they are simulating subdomains using domain subdirectories!

    Here's how a typical implementation works:

    1. Point a default subdomain (*.domain.tld) to a site;
    2. Point the site index to a CGI script;
    3. When someone requests anydomain.domain.tld the default site is called, and the CGI run;
    4. The CGI goes through the database of <subdomain, subdirectory...>, and when it finds a match returns a server redirect to the corresponding domain subdirectory.

    It sounds fairly trivial to me, but obviously didn't to the PTO. It seems pretty obvious this is close, if not the same, as what a web server does for supporting virtual domains on a same shared IP. Has anybody any other prior art on redirecting by code a *.domain.tld?

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