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Twitter Faces Patent Infringement Lawsuit 236

Posted by Soulskill
from the stupid-but-predictable dept.
Digital Dan writes "Twitter is being sued for patent infringement. Surprised? OK, probably not, but you'd think the plaintiff would at least wait for Twitter to actually make money before striking. According to TechCrunch: 'Twitter is being sued ... by TechRadium, a Texas-based technology company which makes mass notification systems for public safety organizations, the military, and utilities.' The abstract to patent #7130389 describes it: 'A digital notification and response system utilizes an administrator interface to transmit a message from an administrator to a user contact device. The system comprises a dynamic information database that includes user contact data, priority information, and response data. The administrator initiates distribution of the message based upon grouping information, priority information, and the priority order.' Two other patents are involved as well."
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Twitter Faces Patent Infringement Lawsuit

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  • I for one... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by santax (1541065) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:12PM (#28959859)
    think there is bound to be a bit of prior art here... like the teletext, sms, wordprocessors and even digital radiotransmissions. Who grants this stuf anyway?
    • Re:I for one... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Cheerio Boy (82178) * on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:19PM (#28959965) Homepage Journal

      think there is bound to be a bit of prior art here... like the teletext, sms, wordprocessors and even digital radiotransmissions.

      At the very least the wall command comes to mind as prior art:

      http://unixhelp.ed.ac.uk/CGI/man-cgi?wall [ed.ac.uk]

      • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:42PM (#28960323) Journal
        Here's a clue for all of you that posted so far: The abstract of a patent is not the patent, and means diddly-squat in court. It's the CLAIMS that are important (how many times does this need to be repeated here?). In fact, abstracts are NOT supposed to describe the exact material that the patent claims as an invention, but to describe generally the area of the patent.
        Here's the second clue: the patent has one independent claim (claim 1), and all other claims are specificly narrowed cases of claim 1. Here's claim 1:

        1. A digital notification and response system, comprising:
        a. an administrator interface for preparing and transmitting a message from an administrator to at least one user contact device;
        b. a dynamic information database for storing the message, wherein the dynamic information database comprises;
        i. user contact data comprising:
        1. user contact device information; and
        2. user selected priority information that indicates a contact order for the user contact device;
        ii. user selected grouping information comprising:
        1. at least one group associated with each user contact device; and
        2. a priority order for contacting each user contact device within the group;
        iii. response data comprising:
        1. user response information that indicates individual user contact devices have received the message; and
        2. response information that indicates when insufficient user contact device information exists to contact the user contact devices;
        wherein the administrator initiates distribution of the message using the grouping information, priority information, and the priority order, and wherein the message is transmitted through at least two industry standard gateways simultaneously, wherein the two industry standard gateways are selected from the group consisting of: a SMTP gateway a SIP, an H.323, an ISDN gateway, a PSTN gateway, a softswitch, and combinations thereof, wherein the message is received by the at least one user contact device, and the at least one user contact device transmits a response through the industry standard gateways to the dynamic information database.

        Now, to interpret the meaning of the claims, it is necessary to read the specification, to see if the terms used have special definitions. Studying the exemplary embodiments described in the specification may also be informative (or not, depending).

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by maxume (22995)

          It is utterly preposterous that the above claim was not deemed obvious.

        • by Aladrin (926209)

          Does this patent event fit Twitter? Things I think don't fit:

          1a
          1bi2
          1bii1
          1bii2
          1biii1
          1biii2 ... In other words, most of it.

        • Yeah, sure, I'll buy that the astract is general and the Devil is in the details.

          The problem is your specifications are pretty much the definition of "broadcast" in the telecom world. I'll bet I could even put together an argument that the patent covers a shared line appearance or a hunt group on your phone. Twitter's appeal isn't that it's novel -- it's that it's convenient.

          Now, if you'll excuse me , I need to go patent my new invention of designating a person or device by assigning a number to them...

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Now, to interpret the meaning of the claims, it is necessary to read the specification, to see if the terms used have special definitions. Studying the exemplary embodiments described in the specification may also be informative (or not, depending)

          Yup. What amazes me is how few geeks seem to know this stuff. Patents (and copyright, and even trademark) have a big impact on software. You'd think every programmer would learn the basics of these subjects, as part of being a competent professional.

        • Excellent point; though from reading that, I'd be hard-pressed to see where twitter is doing what they claim it is doing. It sounds like they're challenging twitter's ability to send text messages (ie, messages to devices about new 'tweets') but ...

          iii. response data comprising: 1. user response information that indicates individual user contact devices have received the message; and 2. response information that indicates when insufficient user contact device information exists to contact the user contact devices; wherein the administrator initiates distribution of the message using the grouping information, priority information, and the priority order, and wherein the message is transmitted through at least two industry standard gateways simultaneously,

          Where's the second simultaneous gateway used when "insufficent user contact device information" notification is sent? For that matter, when nis "insufficient user contact device informatioN" sent at all? And the device itself does not notify the twitter service

        • Damn! (Score:3, Interesting)

          by celtic_hackr (579828)
          This means I can no longer email my employees and contractors about work from my administrative account and have to erase my administrative address book. I also have to return all the company pagers!. Well returning the pagers might actually save me some bucks.

          Wow! How did this ever get approved as a patent? Talk about obviousness.

          I have prior art for this, but unfortunately, I wrote it and it's never been published. This was a work for hire. I wrote a mainframe program that used a central database t
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by zrelativity (963547)
      What you think is irrelevant. Read the patents in question, read the claims (and how it is refined by the body), then let us know the relevant prior art. Better even, draw up a claim chart with every single element of the claim, as I am sure TechRadium would have done.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by santax (1541065)
        The worst part about your post is that you are right.
      • Re:I for one... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by YouWantFriesWithThat (1123591) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @01:37PM (#28961099)
        what the GP thinks is relevant.

        this isn't the court case. the GP doesn't need to produce citations just because you demand it. this is a bunch of people discussing the filing of the lawsuit. the nature of a casual discussion is to share opinions, not list facts. the GP is allowed an opinion. you are not the judge. get over yourself.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ardaen (1099611)
      The claim does sound a little like a subset of the internet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pak9rabid (1011935)

      I do think it's rather dumb to sue a company that isn't making any money and has no real prospects for doing so, but that just makes them dumb too; not a patent troll.

      It's not so dumb if you consider that they could lose customers if their customers realize they could use Twitter for free as a replacement for their product that they're probably paying lots of money for. Maybe they're simply seeking an injunction to protect their business model? I'm not condoning their actions, as I support the notion that increased competition forces competitors to create better products.

    • Prior Art (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hax4bux (209237)

      I personally maintained a system that went into production in 1968 which had twitter like features.

      A message was limited to an 80 character TTY line.

      The first five characters were addressing information, a space and the rest free form text.

      Carriage return dispatched the message which was spooled to drum then picked up and distributed to a single entity or a group (depending upon the first five characters as I mentioned).

      So, ya. I think there is prior art.

      • by corbettw (214229)

        Did your invention allow for users to specify which devices they should be contacted on, and in which order?

        Did your invention allow for contacting users through multiple combinations of industry standard gateways?

        Did your invention allow users to assign themselves to difference groups, and to specify which group should be set at what priority?

        If not then how does your invention have anything to do with this one?

        • by hax4bux (209237)

          I never said it was my invention, I said I maintained a system that went into production in 1968.

          I didn't maintain it until 1982.

          Yes, there was a priority, yes it specified devices and gateways. This was 1968 on TTY (which was carried by satellite, telephone, rusty barbed wire, etc). If you agree that 5 bit baudot TTY and "normal" TTY interfaces make up "industry standard gateways" then yes to that too. Do you know what stunt box does? Hint: it isn't IPv4.

          No, we didn't allow users to assign groups. Th

    • Here's one from 1987:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publish/subscribe [wikipedia.org]

    • No kidding. I'm thinking of the notification systems the research group I work for developed back in the 90's - the way they worked was very similar to this patent. And we were not by any means the only player in the business of notification software.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SQLGuru (980662)

      I did stuff like this when I was in New Orleans (1994 to 1999). Used an MS SQL Server database (version 4.2 OS/2 1.3), PowerBuilder app code (PB4), and a modem (to send pages through AT&T's interface at the time). The system would first page the on-call pager. If no response within the prescribed time, it would escalate to the back-up pager. If no response, it would page the manager. I doubt that stuff is even in use any more. Sounds like some prior art.....too bad I don't have access to any of th

    • Or a megaphone (Score:2, Informative)

      by tcampb01 (101714)

      The patent appears to be specific as to purpose and how it would work. So specific, in fact, that Twitter doesn't intrude at all. In order to make Twitter fit so as to be intruding into their patents, you have to broaden the application of the idea so that the technical implementation is no longer important.

      Upon broadening the interpretation, a lot of prior art clouds the validity of TechRadium's patents (e.g. using a megaphone to shout at a large crowd is technically a "message sender" sending out one me

    • finger, irc, etc...

  • by NecroPuppy (222648) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:14PM (#28959899) Homepage

    A Texas based patent lawsuit that doesn't, at first blush, appear to be a patent troll.

    TechRadium actually has a website (http://www.techradium.com/) and appears to sell products.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Who cares. They are still a patent troll if they're trying to milk money out of somebody because of a bogus patent that never should have been granted.

      • by NecroPuppy (222648) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:25PM (#28960051) Homepage

        No, a patent troll is a company that exists solely for the purpose of patenting things and then filing lawsuits.

        This company, as they actually have products, is not such a troll; I make no statement as to the validity of their patent, or whether or not it should have been granted.

        As they aren't an NPE or NME, the normal defintion of patent troll doesn't apply.

        I do think it's rather dumb to sue a company that isn't making any money and has no real prospects for doing so, but that just makes them dumb too; not a patent troll.

        • by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:28PM (#28960103) Journal

          I do think it's rather dumb to sue a company that isn't making any money and has no real prospects for doing so, but that just makes them dumb too; not a patent troll.

          Why is it dumb? Presumably they have assets that could be taken to satisfy a judgment. Waiting until they start making millions of bucks and then filing your lawsuit would seem to be more questionable than just filing it. The former suggests that you are only in it for the money. The latter suggests that you may actually care about your patent.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by WilyCoder (736280)

            "The former suggests that you are only in it for the money. The latter suggests that you may actually care about your patent."

            Honestly, whats the difference in today's profit-above-all-else world?

          • by Restil (31903) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:48PM (#28960409) Homepage

            And don't forget the entire purpose of the patent in the first place... to provide the patent holder a limited duration monopoly on the products described by the patent. By suing, they can force twitter to shut down, or at least force them into a licensing agreement which will eliminate them as a competitor.

            Now, whether twitter actually IS a potential competitor, or whether the patent should have been granted in the first place, are completely different issues.

            -Restil

            • by jdgeorge (18767)

              ....By suing, they can force twitter to shut down....

              Don't tease... we should be so lucky.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by LabRat007 (765435)

            The former suggests that you are only in it for the money. The latter suggests that you may actually care about your patent.

            Patents ARE about money. There is probably a strategy behind the timing, but rest assured patents are about money. If they weren't no one would file them.

            • by Shakrai (717556)

              Eh, I didn't say it wasn't about the money. I was commenting on the appearance of waiting to file your lawsuit until the defendant is making more money.

            • by HiThere (15173)

              Patents can be about money, or they can be about control. Or, of course, both. Money isn't the only reason to do things.

        • by spyowl (838397)

          I do think it's rather dumb to sue a company that isn't making any money and has no real prospects for doing so, but that just makes them dumb too; not a patent troll.

          Twitter has money. They are not turning a profit, but that's not the same thing as not having money.

        • by maraist (68387) * <michael.maraistN ... gmail.n0spam.com> on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:47PM (#28960399) Homepage
          Patents are evil, they should never have been added to our constitution. They serve no useful social role. Processes are what people come up with to get something useful done. They are not themselves the goal of any useful society or societal actor. The original (ill-conceived) intent of patents was to allow clever commoners to make a living by doing nothing but thinking things up. What this does is create artificial 'property' out of an otherwise unlimited resource (e.g. thought). Producing scarcity where none SHOULD exist.

          So instead of negotiating price on prime real-estate. Or convincing somebody to give up their precious time to labor on your behalf, we instead have royalties, and more importantly, denial of service. Namely, I can prevent your innovation by strategically patenting random otherwise-useless things that I know can prevent you from accomplishing real work (that otherwise benefits society).

          If I were strategically buying up land to prevent your rail-road, it would be the same thing.. Or if I were hiring the only people technically capable of doing your work (i.e. MS paying off big Linux gurus), then it would be the same thing. But, in those situations, we're dealing with real materials. IP is fictionally held ransom by the US founders. If we'd been founded 100 years before or 100 years later, we wouldn't have had IP. It's right up there with our funky archaic embeded masonic imagery.

          Therefore suing for patent infringement is trolling. Constitution be dammned.
          • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... minus physicist> on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @01:04PM (#28960627) Homepage Journal

            The concept of patents for the designs of mechanical engineers seems to have at least the fundamentals of a good idea. It takes quite a bit of effort to get some mechanical device created, a process developed to make the thing, distributed to various retail outlets (or to potential customers for devices intended more for businesses than ordinary consumers), and the cash flow coming back to the group that made the thing in the first place.

            Keep in mind that the constitutional provision asserts that purpose of both patents and copyright is to "promote the useful arts and science".

            Where the problem has come in not only this case but a great many others is the expansion of the role of a patent to cover things like business methods, genetic sequences, computer software (originally unpatentable), and other more nebulous ideas and theoretical constructs that have nothing to do with an actual tangible item. None of these should have patent protection, and IMHO it is an abuse of constitutional authority to even grant these kind of patents.

            Furthermore, I would have to agree that patents in and of themselves, even in regards to mechanical patents, are a waste of government bureaucrats and courts. They don't do what they claim (protecting the independent entrepreneur/inventor), nor to they really provide any benefit for society as a whole, nor even promote scientific endeavors. I dare anybody to show an independent private "inventor" who creates something and makes money by selling the idea to some mega-corporation for royalties. It doesn't happen.

          • by HiThere (15173)

            I'm not sure you're right.

            It seems quite plausible that where there are large initial development costs that must be born by the developer, but which need not be born by those who copy the development, then patents with a limited lifespan may well be justifiable. And there are such cases.

            The extension of patents into areas where the initial development costs are minimal (less than the cost of defending a patent suit, or prosecuting such a suit successfully) is, however, destructive to society.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Henry V .009 (518000)
      You mean that they're only a part-time patent troll.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QuantumRiff (120817)
      After every tragic event, from Katrina to the VT shootings, companies would be calling me (I was network manager at a small college) constantly wanting to sell me their product to send texts to people in case of an emergency. They charged an ungodly amount of money. Considering all the different patents and stuff these guys claim to have had, they are going to all wipe each other off the face of the earth.

      On a side note, we put a list of common Email to SMS gateways up for our students(ie xxx-xxx-xxxx@sms
    • Has /. become ... (Score:4, Informative)

      by neonprimetime (528653) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @01:14PM (#28960765) Homepage
      ... the official newsite for ridiculous lawsuits?

      Student Sues cause she's unemployable [slashdot.org]
      Student Sues amazon [slashdot.org]
      Touchpad patent holder sues everybody [slashdot.org]
      Family Sues Genie [slashdot.org]
      Wells Fargo Sues Itself [slashdot.org]
      Rosetta Stone Sues Google [slashdot.org]
      City Sues Man for rotting meat [slashdot.org]


      Keep in mind those stories were all in the last 30 days!
  • NET SEND (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ThatSteve (1442191) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:17PM (#28959935)
    Maybe they can use net send to communicate the failure of their suit.....
  • They patented email! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jholder (22001) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:20PM (#28959987) Homepage Journal
    As far as I can tell, email distribution lists and automated rules for re-sending email after receiving them from an email list is also covered under the claims in this patent. How did the patent examiners fail to see this?
  • by Gorm the DBA (581373) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:20PM (#28959993) Journal
    I would think automated Robotic Calling programs, which have been around for...sheesh...at least a decade now...would qualify as prior art here.

    I acknowledge that at least the suing company is in the market of actually selling something to 911's, EMS's and the like, and the increasing use of twitter for "Follow me for important safety updates" is probably cutting into their business...dramatically....but...I don't think this lawsuit deserves legs.

  • Get rid of patents (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mtthwbrnd (1608651)
    The problem with patents is that one can sit in a dark room and dream up every conceivable thing that may plausibly be invented, patent it and then sit back and either watch the cash roll in for doing bugger all ... or the whole of human development has to wait for your patent to expire. I am sick of it. We should scrap patents completely. If you have got a secret way of doing something, then it is up to you to exploit it and keep it secret. If somebody else discovers, either independently or through espi
  • @TechRadium (Score:4, Funny)

    by fpgaprogrammer (1086859) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:22PM (#28960015) Homepage

    @TechRadium, your #lawsuit is #bullshit.

  • Shit like this shouldn't be patentable.

    A digital notification and response system utilizes an administrator interface to transmit a message from an administrator to a user contact device. The system comprises a dynamic information database that includes user contact data, priority information, and response data. The administrator initiates distribution of the message based upon grouping information, priority information, and the priority order.

  • BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    No prior art here. OMG HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Not even Jabber or XMPP, let alone SMTP. And those are just what immediately come to mind.

  • Claim 1 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Absolut187 (816431) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:32PM (#28960187) Homepage

    1. A digital notification and response system, comprising:

    a. an administrator interface for preparing and transmitting a message from an administrator to at least one user contact device;

    b. a dynamic information database for storing the message, wherein the dynamic information database comprises;
    i. user contact data comprising:
    1. user contact device information; and
    2. user selected priority information that indicates a contact order for the user contact device;
    ii. user selected grouping information comprising:
    1. at least one group associated with each user contact device; and
    2. a priority order for contacting each user contact device within the group;
    iii. response data comprising:
    1. user response information that indicates individual user contact devices have received the message; and
    2. response information that indicates when insufficient user contact device information exists to contact the user contact devices;
    wherein the administrator initiates distribution of the message using the grouping information, priority information, and the priority order, and wherein the message is transmitted through at least two industry standard gateways simultaneously, wherein the two industry standard gateways are selected from the group consisting of: a SMTP gateway a SIP, an H.323, an ISDN gateway, a PSTN gateway, a softswitch, and combinations thereof, wherein the message is received by the at least one user contact device, and the at least one user contact device transmits a response through the industry standard gateways to the dynamic information database.

    • Does twitter use "two industry standard gateways simultaneously"?

      Anyone know how twitter works?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Finally, someone who understands that the abstract is meaningless. The claim is what matters here.

      And speaking of the claim. 1.i.2.: "user selected priority information that indicates a contact order for the user contact device;" I am not aware of Twitter allowing a user to prioritize contact order.

      And 1.iii.1.: "user response information that indicates individual user contact devices have received the message;" Again, I am not aware of Twitter doing this. Perhaps for ad tracking purposes, but other

    • by Albanach (527650)

      I wonder how many network monitoring tools fill all these claims.

      Lots of them allow groups, with various contact details for each group member and message delivery to multiple devices based on priority.

      In fact, about the only thing that might be missing would be the administration interface for preparing and transmitting. Do any of the packages around pre 2005 allow preparing and delivering a one off message?

  • It's not patent infringement if the patented device has been improved upon.
  • Prior art (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sqlrob (173498) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:37PM (#28960283)

    So what year was wall created?

  • Fuck the USPTO (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chickenarise (1597941)
    Not only do the tax payers have to fund the USPTO and all of its horrible miserableness, but we also have to fund all the fucking terrible trials that inevitably pop up from their failings.
  • "Vague."

    Common sense -- which used to exist, but in order to be equal we had to separate out the better discernment of others -- would have us realize that vague patents are time bombs.

    I've just patented the act of hiding information in physical and virtual objects. You all owe me your life savings. That's my socialized healthcare and retirement plan, right there!

  • . . . whoever owns the "Method and Process of Opening the Window and Screaming at the Neighborhood Kids, 'Get off my lawn!' patent is going to totally sue the Slashdot crew . . .

    . . . you have been warned . . .

  • While they no doubt have actual products based on those patents, looking at when they applied for the ones that resemble wall, sms, email, instant messaging and other similar technologies, it appears that they started applying for many of them around 2000ish... that is long after those services I listed were in existence. They do seem to have a few valid patents though, one involving travel reservation system and such that was filed in 1988, although I have not looked into the details of that patent. The

  • net send /domain:CONASTA "Anyone want a beer after work."

  • Sounds like a one-to-many distribution or broadcast. Wow, that's original. Patents like this should have failed the obviousness test and if the patent holder had some novel method that made it work better than any other system, then protect it by a trade secret.
  • I wrote something like this 20 years ago to allow a company to contact all their offices with one message. And, I know that Wal-Mart had a system to send notices to groups of their stores from the HQ before that. This is a common idea, and how it could get patented is beyond reason.
  • having read the patent, it has one novel aspect differentiating it from a general message system: it relies on two or more gateways to relay messages to different user devices, allowing users to prioritize the order in which their devices receive notification. this as opposed to, say, only an sms gateway, or only an email gateway.

    that said, i don't pay enough attention to twitter to know whether or not its actually infringing.

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