1995 Notes Feature = 2004 Microsoft Patent

from the seems-like-pretty-good-prior-art dept

theodp writes "Microsoft was granted a patent Tuesday for Thread based email, which covers 'storing a single copy of the e-mail message at a host system to be shared by the plurality of intended recipients,' a concept that was old hat back in 1994 and implemented in Mindshare Mail and Notes 4.0. "


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  1.  
    identicon
    Oliver Wendell Jones, Mar 9th, 2004 @ 1:47pm

    Fines?

    Perhaps we need to implement a system for levying fines against companies that attempt to patent something that is already in place and a simple Google search would turn up prior art for.

    It's been a while since I did anything with patents, but I seem to recall that the submitter has an obligation to search for prior art before submission and claim somewhere in the application that they have done so and that no prior art could be located.

    If they make the fine at least 10x the cost of applying, that could make the application process a little more interesting and give the USPTO another way to make money - other than just rubber-staming "APPROVED" on every piece of paper that crosses their desk...

     

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  2.  
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    Johnny Lee, Mar 9th, 2004 @ 1:53pm

    RE: Microsoft Patent 2004

    You need to read beyond the first claim.

    The patent is all about putting ACLs on to email and enforcing those ACLs from the creation time of the email until it is deleted. The patent also claims to prevent a recipient from forwarding the email to someone who was not in the list of intended recipients.

    AFAIK Lotus Notes and Mindshare Mail do not have this feature.

    Other email systems have had the single copy store feature before Notes and Mindshare Mail. MS Mail for Appletalk Networks (= 1991) and I believe VMS Mail had this feature.

    For MS Mail for Appletalk Networks reference, see

     

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  3.  
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    Johnny Lee, Mar 9th, 2004 @ 1:56pm

    RE: Microsoft Patent 2004

    msgboard ate the URL

    URL is http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;101443&Product=msv

    Here's the relevant sentence:

    Versions 3.0 and 3.1 of Microsoft Mail for AppleTalk Networks uses a single copy store architecture. This means that for a message/enclosure sent to many users on a Mail server, only one copy of the message/enclosure is created that each recipient accesses. The message/enclosure is not deleted until the last recipient deletes the message.

    MS Mail for Appletalk Networks 3.0 was released in 1991.

     

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  4.  
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    Fazookus, Mar 9th, 2004 @ 2:24pm

    Re: Microsoft Patent 2004


    The late and lamented Banyan system had that since the year 3.

     

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  5.  
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    theodp, Mar 9th, 2004 @ 2:25pm

    Microsoft Unaware of its Own Prior Art?

    From the patent: 'Specifically, prior art electronic messaging systems distribute a single message to multiple recipients by duplicating the message and delivering a copy to each recipient.'

     

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  6.  
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    Marty Fried, Mar 9th, 2004 @ 2:35pm

    1995 Notes Feature = 2004 Microsoft Patent

    Without knowing exact details of prior art or even the current patent, I just wanted to say people are jumping the gun a bit here. With all the crazy patents getting through, it makes good sense to be preemptive on technology you may be using, and get a patent before someone else does. Until they actually use this patent unfairly, they haven't done anything worth getting upset about.

     

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  7.  
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    Fazookus, Mar 9th, 2004 @ 2:50pm

    Re: 1995 Notes Feature = 2004 Microsoft Patent

    "Until they actually use this patent unfairly, they haven't done anything worth getting upset about."

    Ooh, I don't know if I agree... if someone wanted to make their own email system they'd pretty much have to challenge the patent, wouldn't they? And if someone wanted to use an Open Source system that had a similar feature they'd have to take the fact that Microsoft could well shut them down whenever they wanted to into account. Maybe Exchange would seem like a better deal... which would require Windows, and on and on.

    This seems very SCO like... maybe that's just a coincidence, of course.

    Faz

     

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  8.  
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    Johnny Lee, Mar 9th, 2004 @ 3:06pm

    Re: Microsoft Unaware of its Own Prior Art?

    Are you just trolling? Read the other claims in the patent. If you can point to another email system that restricts access to an email message in such detail, then you'd have an argument. Otherwise, I'd suggest you need to stop speed-reading because you're missing much of the message.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 9th, 2004 @ 3:23pm

    Re: Microsoft Patent 2004

    Digital had an email system (it was actually more than an email system) back in the early 1980s called "All-in-1". This used a single message store. In addition, VMS (the OS it ran on), had access controls for files which was where the messages were stored (and the concept of ACLs at the file level came in around VMS v4 which was the mid-80s or so). It did not restrict who you could send the message to though if my memory serves me correctly. Regardless, go back 20yrs and you would have something pretty close to it.

     

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  10.  
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    theodp, Mar 9th, 2004 @ 9:04pm

    Re: Microsoft Unaware of its Own Prior Art?

    I understand there are other claims besides the single object store aspect, but I'm not convinced there's anything wrong with my reading comprehension - the phrases 'single copy' and 'one copy' appear two dozen times in the 'Abstract', 'Claims' (#1, #4, #6, #7, #10, #11,#14, #16, #18, #22, #26, #28), 'Summary and Objects of the Invention', and 'Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiments' sections.

     

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  11.  
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    Johnny Lee, Mar 10th, 2004 @ 2:22pm

    Re: Microsoft Unaware of its Own Prior Art?

    From the start of this thread, you have taken words out of context.

    The excerpt from the patent that you included, 'storing a single copy of the e-mail message at a host system to be shared by the plurality of intended recipients,, removed the trailing portion of the sentence.

    A comma doesn't signify the end of the idea in a sentence, especially in a patent description.

    The rest of the sentence, at least up to the first semicolon is "...regardless of whether the e-mail message has one or more associated attachments, and rather than storing a duplicate copy of the e-mail message for each of the plurality of intended recipients the e-mail message including one or more rules that define how the e-mail message can be used by the intended recipients;"

    The section that you left out has an obvious mention about the use of rules to determine who can and cannot access the e-mail message.

    You claim that since 'single copy' and 'one copy' are used so often, then that must be what the patent covers. Well, the words 'computer program' appears more often. Did MS patent computer programs or email computer programs? If you search in the Claims for how often the word 'rules' and the concept of using/modifying distribution lists to allow/deny access to the e-mail message occur, you'll see that they appear more often than 'single copy' and 'one copy'.

    Here's the patent claims with the phrases 'single copy' and 'one copy' highlighted in their relevant sections. I have also highlighted text that refers to the use of rules and distribution lists to allow/deny access to the e-mail. The only claims that don't mention the use of rules are #10 and #11 which describe single-copy e-mail storage. Let's see 12 out of 33 claims refer to 'single copy' and 'one copy'. There are more claims referring to use of rules/distribution lists, more than 16 claims when I decided to stop counting.

    Your argument has failed to convince me. This subject is dead.


    What is claimed and desired to be secured by United States Letters Patent is:

    1. In an e-mail messaging system that provides clients of a host system with electronic messaging services, a method for providing access to an e-mail message, to a plurality of intended recipients, and in a way that reduces potential storage and processing requirements otherwise associated with duplicating the e-mail messages for each intended recipient, the method comprising the steps of:

    creating a distribution list that includes a plurality of intended recipients of an e-mail message;

    storing a single copy of the e-mail message at a host system to be shared by the plurality of intended recipients, regardless of whether the e-mail message has one or more associated attachments, and rather than storing a duplicate copy of the e-mail message for each of the plurality of intended recipients the e-mail message including one or more rules that define how the e-mail message can be used by the intended recipients; and

    without transmitting copies of the email message to the intended recipients, using the distribution list to send a notification message to each of the intended recipients that notifies each of the intended recipients of the e-mail message and that includes a link that can be used by the intended recipients to access the single copy of the e-mail message through the host system, as permitted by the one or more rules, and so as to enable the single copy of the e-mail message to be shared by each notified recipient, as permitted by the one or more rules.

    2. A method as recited in claim 1, further comprising the step of tracking each intended recipient who accesses the single stored copy of the e-mail message.

    3. A method as recited in claim 1, further comprising the step of altering the distribution list.

    4. A method as recited in claim 3 wherein the step of altering the distribution list comprises the step of removing an intended recipient, thereby denying the intended recipient subsequent access to the single copy of the electronic message.

    6. A method as recited in claim 3 wherein the step of altering the distribution list comprises the step of adding an intended recipient, thereby granting the intended recipient access to the at least one copy of the e-mail message.

    7. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein the e-mail message comprises rules that govern access to the at least one copy of the electronic message.

    10. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein the single copy of the e-mail message is stored at the host system.

    11. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein clients of the host system are organized into groups and one copy of the e-mail message is stored for each group having an intended recipient of the e-mail message.

    14. A method as recited in claim 13 wherein at least one of the additional identified host systems performs a step for:

    tracking each client who accesses the one copy of the e-mail message stored at the additional identified host system.

    16. A method as recited in claim 15, wherein the step of altering the distribution list comprises the step of removing an intended recipient, thereby denying the intended recipient subsequent access to the single copy of the electronic message.

    18. A method as recited in claim 15, wherein the step of altering the distribution list comprises the step of adding an intended recipient, thereby granting the intended recipient access to the at least one copy of the e-mail message.

    22. In an electronic messaging system that provides clients of a host system with electronic messaging services, a method for distributing one or more electronic messages that reduces potential storage and processing requirements otherwise associated with duplicating the one or more electronic messages for each intended recipient, the method comprising the steps of:

    creating one or more distribution lists that include each of a plurality of intended recipients of an electronic message;

    storing at least one copy of the electronic message at a host system to be shared by the plurality of intended recipients, rather than storing a duplicate copy of the electronic message for each of the plurality of intended recipients;

    using the one or more distribution lists to notify each of the plurality of intended recipients of the electronic message, such that the at least one copy of the electronic message may be shared by each notified recipient, wherein an intended recipient maintains a local copy of the electronic message; and

    altering the one or more distribution lists comprising the step of removing the intended recipient thereby denying the intended recipient subsequent access to future updates of the electronic message but leaving the local copy intact.

    26. A computer program product as recited in claim 25, wherein the step of altering the distribution list comprises the step of removing an intended recipient, thereby denying the intended recipient subsequent access to the single copy of the electronic message.

    28. A computer program product as recited in claim 25, wherein the step of altering the distribution list comprises the step of adding an intended recipient, thereby granting the intended recipient access to the at least one copy of the e-mail message.

     

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