Patent Hoarding Firm Sues Google, Yahoo, Amazon, AOL, IAC & Borders For Automating Email Responses

from the because-no-one-would-have-done-that-without-the-patent dept

It's time for yet another patent lawsuit filed in Marshall, Texas by a firm that appears to do nothing other than buy up patents and sue big companies. This time, the patent hoarding firm is called Polaris IP, and it's apparently one of a bunch of patent hoarding firms associated with a single patent attorney. He's suing Amazon, Google, Yahoo, Borders, AOL and IAC for using a rules-based system to process emails. The patent, as you might expect is extremely broad and seems to cover the obvious idea of setting up some rules by which an email is automatically sorted, or even a reply is selected. Lots of companies use such systems -- and while the concept may not have been widespread in 1998 when the patent was filed, does anyone really believe that it wasn't where the industry would have naturally (obviously) headed? Does anyone really believe that without this patent, no one would be using such rule-based sorting of emails?


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
    identicon
    Xris, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 5:18am

    Oh please ...

    ... I've been using procmail to sort my mail for decades.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 5:21am

    "He's Amazon, Google, Yahoo, Borders, AOL and IAC for using a rules-based system to process emails."

    I think you're missing an integral part of that sentence...

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 5:32am

    counter sue

    Let's hope they ask for 100 times their legal fees and counter sue these parasites.

     

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    CWatters, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 5:37am

    Prior Art

    Like #1, I used PROCMAIL nearly 15 years ago to do the same thing, parsing email contents and sending out automated responses.

    In this case I think that the various services noted above should band together and countersue this parasite out of business. But someone will settle instead of fighting and again the broken patent system will let the trolls win.

     

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    Dimitri, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 5:47am

    1998 patent, meet 1990 program

    As Xris states, Procmail has been around for quite some time-- its release date was Dec 7, 1990 according to Wikipedia. Since Procmail predates the patent by 8 years, it seems that the patent is rather weak.

     

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    Sanguine Dream, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 5:54am

    Nine years??

    This says the patent was filed in 1998. Does that mean they applied for it in 1998 or that it as granted in 1998? If it was granted in 1998 and they waited until now to act on it then this should laughed out of the courtroom and the patent nulified.

     

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    •  
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      Willton, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 11:40am

      Re: Nine years??

      Nope. The patent was filed for in 1998, but it was not issued until 2002, so a patent holder cannot bring a claim of infringement until the patent is issued.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 12:48pm

        Re: Re: Nine years??

        I don't pretend to have an understanding of the system (reliable truthful info is very hard to come by in these biased times) but if the patent was awarded to them in 2002 why would it take five years to make a case?

         

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        •  
          identicon
          Willton, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 7:25am

          Don't know

          Maybe the patent holder tried to resolve the problem amicably by offering a chance to license first. Maybe the patent holder did not realize what rights he had until someone told him. Who knows? What matters is 1) whether the patent is valid, and 2) whether the really was some infringement going on.

           

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  •  
    identicon
    Krayol, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 5:54am

    Broad patent post dates technology

    Agreed Dimitri!

    This technology was sold by a number of vendors well before 1998. I used it myself in the early 1990s.

    How on earth does a totally non-specific patent get on the books years after everyone has the technology. Let's hope they all counter claim enough to put this guy out of business for good.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 6:12am

      Re: Broad patent post dates technology

      I personally think such lawsuits are good. With any luck, as these lawsuits are made (with more frequency as these firms pop up), hopefully more (public) pressure will be put on our failing patent system

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 6:14am

        Re: Re: Broad patent post dates technology

        I personally think such lawsuits are good. With any luck, as these lawsuits are made (with more frequency as these firms pop up), hopefully more (public) pressure will be put on our failing patent system

        I personally blame the patent system, not firms taking advantage of its archaic rules

         

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  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 6:26am

    Umm, even Outlook has had rules based autoresponses for years and everyone knows Microsoft never had an original idea.

     

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    Overcast, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 6:38am

    Actually, Exchange did it at that time - it was released in '97. So. ummm, not.

    What an idiot, actually people who claim to have a patent on something, who are clearly lying should face penalties..

     

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    angry dude, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 6:38am

    patents are about claims, not titles

    The patently-ignorant crowd of techdirt makes the usual mistake of judging patent by its title.

    Patents are all about claims.
    In this particular case claim 1 is this:

    1. A method for automatically processing a non-interactive electronic message using a computer, comprising the steps of:

    (a) receiving the electronic message from a source;

    (b) interpreting the electronic message using a rule base and case base knowledge engine; and

    (c) classifying the electronic message as at least one of (i) being able to be responded to automatically; and (ii) requiring assistance from a human operator.

    Such claim would not go past patent examiner today ...
    It is one of those patents filed back in 90s when everybody and his dog was scrambling to get on the Internet/e-commerce train one way or another

    Current problems with the patent system (not ALL patents BTW, just some portion of them mostly dealing with anything Internet, e-commerce etc.) are the direct consequnces of the lax patent examination back in 90s.

    But now US Congress wants to throw the baby out with the bath water

    Why should the rest of us, real inventors with valid technical patents which DO promote scientific and technological progress (not e-commerce related) be deprived of our constitutional right to exclude others from making and selling our inventions for a limited period of time ?

     

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      identicon
      Sanguine Dream, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 8:57am

      Re: patents are about claims, not titles


      Why should the rest of us, real inventors with valid technical patents which DO promote scientific and technological progress (not e-commerce related) be deprived of our constitutional right to exclude others from making and selling our inventions for a limited period of time ?


      Real inventors and innovators should not be deprived with they do promote progress. And I would go as far as to say that there may be some e-commerce related patents that would be just fine as well. The problem is with patents like this one in which someone is just trying to game the system for a little cash. I get the feeling that if this patent was granted back before 1990 (which would predate nearly all the prior art mentioned here) then no one would be complaining. But to start a lawsuit in 2007 over technology that has ben common for almost 10 years?

       

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    •  
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      Richard Ahlquist (profile), Aug 29th, 2007 @ 11:00am

      Re: patents are about claims, not titles

      Ok following your logic.

      Prior art relevant to the claims;
      (a) receiving an electronic message;
      See any patent dealing with a packet which is simply a message

      (b) intrepreting
      Uhh fella how do you think that electronic data winds up in your inbox? And rejection emssage ggo out for no existant addressees ?

      (c) See (b)

      This patent is bull$#@% Nothing to see here move along.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    B, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 6:40am

    Win

    That patent is so vague and broad that it covers any automated message (SMS, IM, email, automated phone calls?, etc). It looks like near the end of the patent though, they limit it to email and voice data, but I may be wrong. I just skimmed over the patent.
    The assignee (Brightware, Inc.) has received a lot of recognition for their software. If that's the case, I'd have to assume that it's something more revolutionary then an auto-reply system, but the patent is so vague anyway, it really doesn't matter.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Daniel, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 7:40am

    Ha ha ha... I was using mail filtering software in the 80's...

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Boost, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 9:53am

    patent law set this precident already...

    Maybe I wasn't paying attention in school, but doesn't the law say that you can't patent or copyright something that is already public knowledge? Such as a program writen and distributed as early as 1990 while s patent for it was filed in 1998...I realize I may be missing a key bit of information but it seems pretty cut and dry.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Chris, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 8:41pm

    Sendmail...

    Sendmail has done exactly what the patent describes since 1983 and BSD 4.1. Delivermail did much of it earlier than that.

    Rules based processing of messages is nothing new.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 1:18am

    I'm suprised someone has not patented "being alive" and having the rest of use put to death unless we pay damages for being alive. It really is very specific in nature. It would probably be approved by the patent office.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    ipsoon, Nov 18th, 2007 @ 6:10pm

    china patent

    The procedure of a china patent application

    Many investors want to apply for a china patent, but they are not familiar with the application procedure. Let’s show you in detail:
    ⑴ Patent Application and Documents Required
    A china patent application requires the following documents:
    Each application for invention or utility model must include the following documents:
    - Power of Attorney, signed by the applicant (Notarization or legalization is not required);
    - Specification with claims and abstract;
    - Drawings, if any (two sets of formal drawings);
    - Certified copy of the prior application, if a priority is claimed;
    - Assignment of priority right, if the applicant in China differs from that of the prior application.

    Each application for design must include the following documents:
    - Power of Attorney, signed by the applicant (Notarization or legalization is not required);
    - Drawings or photographs of the design, in triplicate;
    - Certified copy of the prior application, if a priority is claimed;
    - Assignment of priority right, if the applicant in China differs from that of the prior application.

    ⑵ Approval Procedures
    Approval of patent for invention -- after the China Patent Office receives an application for a patent for invention and finds it to be in conformity with the requirements of the law upon preliminary examination, it will publish the application after 18 months from the date of filing. Upon the request of the applicant, the China Patent Office may publish the application earlier. Upon the request of the applicant for a patent for invention, made at any time within three years from the date of filing, the China Patent Office will proceed to examine the application as to substance. If without any justified reason, the applicant fails to meet the time limit for requesting examination as to substance, the application will be deemed to have been withdrawn. The China Patent Office may, on its own initiative, proceed to examine any application for a patent for invention as to substance when deemed necessary.

    If no cause for rejection of the application for a patent for invention is found after examination as to substance, the China Patent Office will make a decision to grant the patent right for invention, issue the certificate of patent for invention, and register and publish it. The patent right for invention comes into effect on the date of the publication.

    Approval of patent for utility model and design -- if no cause for rejection of the application for a patent for utility model or design is found after preliminary examination, the China Patent Office will make a decision to grant the patent right for utility model or the patent right for design, issue the relevant patent certificate, and register and publish it. The patent right for utility model or design comes into effect on the date of the publication.

    News from IPsoon Global Agency

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    From Charles and Lilian, May 1st, 2008 @ 12:23pm

    Greeting,

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    Abidjan,Cote d'ivoire


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    Best regards
    Charles and Lilian Adams.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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