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Israeli Claims Patent Over Adding .com To The End Of The Address Bar

from the yup,-that-patent-system-functions-just-great dept

TechCrunch points us to a story about an Israeli company by the name of Netex who is claiming a patent over "www.addressing." What's that? Well, apparently it's the process of simply adding a ".com" to the end of a word you put in a browser address bar. There are all sorts of questions raised by this, and the reporting at the Israeli site Ynetnews leaves a lot to be desired. First, neither Ynetnews nor TechCrunch point to the actual patent. I've been searching on both the supposed inventor's name (Aviv Refuah) and his company's name and I can't find it. If anyone out there can find the actual patent, please post a link in the comments.

The next problem with the article is the claim that this patent is "worth millions" and that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo "will have to pay royalties." It remains to be seen if that's true (and given what's stated, it seems quite doubtful).

Next problem? The article claims that this patent is about the address bar in the browser -- not a search engine box -- though, the reporter doesn't seem to understand the difference between the two. Admittedly, Google now offers a browser in Chrome, but the article keeps referring to the patent as a "search option." Yahoo doesn't offer a browser.

Then there's the issue of claiming that Google and Yahoo "use" this technology:
Refuah says various internet giants such as Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo have been using the program for years, and now they will have to pay royalties to Netex.
That implies -- falsely -- that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have somehow been using some technology that they got from Netex. It's a common trick used in reporting about patents, but its highly misleading. Much, much, much more likely is that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo simply added a useful and obvious feature, that Netex is now showing up and claiming ownership years later.

Finally, it's tough to say much about the actual patent claims in question -- seeing as we haven't seen them -- but from the Ynetnews description, it's difficult to see how such a thing could possibly be considered patentable (and one would think that Netscape would have some prior art, though I can't remember exactly when Netscape added the ability to add .com to the end of something put in the browser bar). But, honestly, can anyone with a straight face explain why such a thing should be patentable?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Wine of Month Club, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:19am

    Give me a break

    I think the reporter and the company are both having illusions of grandeur which is unfortunate. Too bad they don't have a reporter doing some basic research before writing the story and too bad a judge didn't throw this out already.

     

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  2.  
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    David (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:21am

    Even a story?

    I can see how you'd want to be first to comment about stuff. And this is right up your alley, about abusive, stupid patents and such. But it's not really even a story. It's a short article that is short on details from a reporter that apparently doesn't even understand what they're talking about.

    You did do due diligence and try to find the patent, but when you couldn't, maybe you should have realized this was just crap reporting and not really about a bad patent. There's less here than there is about Glenn Beck raping and murdering a young girl in 1990.

    Maybe you can wait next time until something becomes actual news before jumping in with both feet.

     

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  3.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:29am

    Re: Even a story?

    "It's a short article that is short on details from a reporter that apparently doesn't even understand what they're talking about."

    And who, my helmety sources tell me, suffers from dwarfism, accounting for all the other shortness you mentioned.

    "You did do due diligence and try to find the patent, but when you couldn't, maybe you should have realized this was just crap reporting and not really about a bad patent."

    Sometimes crappy reporting IS the story. And attempting to use a smart, capable community like TechDirt's adds credence to a smart blog's model. Gotta think two steps ahead to stay in front of those evil newspapers...

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Jordan Davidson, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:48am

    Wrong Targets

    It doesn't seem like a real case in any situation, especially given the lack of the patent's proof. However, if there was a case it wouldn't be against Google or Yahoo, it would be against Firefox and other browsers.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Sheinen, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:50am

    What a load of wank.com

    $5 to Netex

     

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  6.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:53am

    Re: Even a story?

    "Maybe you can wait next time until something becomes actual news before jumping in with both feet."

    Well, it IS news (on account of it already being reported as such) and Mike has pretty clearly stated that it doesn't make much sense. That's the value-added moment. See how this works? Pity you don't have much value to add.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Kazi, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:06am

    Try Internation Publication WO 99/39280 published on 8/5/1999. The international application date is PCT/IL99/00055 (US 2009/0144288 A1 and also, unrelated, US 2005/0203835 A1).

    Link is the following:
    http://www.wipo.int/pctdb/en/fetch.jsp?LANG=ENG&DBSELECT=PCT&SERVER_TYPE=19-10&SORT=41 257917-KEY&TYPE_FIELD=256&IDB=0&IDOC=632291&C=10&ELEMENT_SET=B&RESULT=1& TOTAL=1&START=1&DISP=25&FORM=SEP-0/HITNUM,B-ENG,DP,MC,AN,PA,ABSUM-ENG&SEARCH_IA=IL19 99000055&QUERY=%28WO%2f99%2f39280%29+

    Personally, I think kid's mom and dad probably have too much money.

     

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  8.  
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    Jason (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:07am

    Well sure they "use" it

    'google.com' 'yahoo.com' but still, so dumb.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Patent Guy, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:10am

    Here's the patent

    The patent in question, I believe, is about to issue. An Israeli patent was filed in 1998, and then a national equivalent in the US was filed in 2000, application number 09/529,792. It has 9 years of prosecution. The issue fee was paid on August 18, so the patent should issue later this year. I believe that this is the broadest claim - this will be "claim 1" upon issuance, I think:

    A method of WWW page retrieval from a web site, comprising:
    a) receiving information associated with content of a web site, wherein said received information is not a WWW address and comprised characters typed for entry by a user into a URL entry field in a browser operable on an electronic device having web browsing capabilities, in which a standard URL address would be entered;
    b) said information received by a software not associated with said web site;
    c) determining a geographical location of the user;
    d) providing a page address of said web site, responsive to said information and said determined geographical location, by said software;
    e) sending the page address to the browser for retrieving said page responsive to said address; and
    f) thereby causing said page to be directly displayed to the user using the browser, without any additional user intervention beyond the entry of said information.

    OK, you tell me. Google - does it infringe, or not? I don't see Google "determining the geographical location" but then again, I don't really know for sure. I did not look at all of the other claims about to issue - who knows, some may be broader? And I know nothing about the state of prior art in 1998, although I would guess the above claim is probably legit. And finally, I know nothing about what the patentee said during prosecution to secure his claims - although now that I gave you the application number, you could search for it in the PTO Public PAIR just like I did and figure it out.

    Now that you have the actual patent claim, it doesn't make for as interesting a story, does it?

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    pferland, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:26am

    Re:

    Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but in the first paragraph of the claims section, the last part of the last sentence states
    "...wherein said information is in a non-Latin langage."

    Or does this not matter since browsers have the ability to enter asian and other character types?

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous1, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:28am

    Well maybe all patents are so incoherent, but I honestly can't make heads or tails of it. It's in English, but it doesn't read that way. All of the standards created for the web, ALL of them, including the web itself, were created prior to 1998. This company has zero legitimate claim on anything. You can't patent something someone else invented as far as I know. Seems like total BS to me. Anyone?

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Kazi, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:34am

    Re: Here's the patent

    "IP address" provides geographic information, in the broadest interpretation.

    "WWW address" is not an "IP address" but a "DOMAIN address" resolved through "DNS"

    All the claim is claiming is sending information, minus a complete "DOMAIN address" to a server where the "IP address" identifies the geographic information (all IP addresses identify geographic information) and where, further, "DOMAIN address" information is sent back to the user. Wait, doesn't DNS fucntion like that? Yes it does.

    Pretty darn interesting on how they'd get to patent that. It's pretty interesting.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Kazi, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:40am

    Re: Re:

    From "Summary of Invention" It is an object of some embodiments of the present invention, to allow a user to retrieve a WWW page using a native langage, other than English and optionally using non-Latin characters, such as Cyrillic, Hebrew and Arabic. Lol ... stupid - in my opinion. The claim probably changed through prosecution and that "(obviously) inventive part" was probably removed. Who doesn't want to write URLs in their own native language?

     

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  14.  
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    Glaze, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:41am

    Its all about the search function...

    I know with IE, netscape, firefox, not so sure about chrome.... but these browsers have the ability to "search" from the address bar... is this what the patent is about? I can't make heads or tails from it either but that seems to be what they are getting at. Microsoft would be responsible for IE's address bar search function, mozilla for firefox, and google for chrome. Just not sure why they would target yahoo...

     

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  15.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:47am

    Re: Here's the patent

    Now that you have the actual patent claim, it doesn't make for as interesting a story, does it?

    Actually makes it that much more interesting.

     

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  16.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Re:

    "Yahoo! was founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo in January 1994 and was incorporated on March 1, 1995."

    "Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were students at Stanford University and the company was first incorporated as a privately held company on September 4, 1998."

    (Both from Wikipedia)

    Both Yahoo and Google started as .com (I remember using yahoo.com in 95). How is a patent filed in 1999 or 98 (if that's the correct patent) valid in any way shape or form if the technology for said patent was around in the US even before Yahoo?

    I don't know how to find out when Microsoft.com went live but I can imagine it was even before Yahoo.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Patent Guy, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re:

    I don't think the issue is when Yahoo and Google went live - the issue is when, if ever, did they determine the geographical location of the user and use that to auto-complete a web site based on typing in some incomplete information. For example, I would think an infringing website would be one where the user typed in "falafel" and if they are in Israel, the search engine would direct them to www.falafel.co.il, but if they are in the US, they would get to www.falafel.com. Does anybody do that?

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    AnonCow, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:56am

    My take on it is that the patent is for people typing some characters into the browser bar and having this "software" convert that using geo-data and other info into a URL.

    Slapping a .com on the end of every partial URL typed into the browser bar does not use the technology described in this patent. Even if the browsers were making database queries and using geo-data to determine which TLD to add to the partial URL, I don't think it would impinge on this patent since the patent itself says "not a WWW address".

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Patent Guy, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re: Here's the patent

    I suppose you're right. I think a key limitation is "without any additional user intervention." If you type in a key word, and the program auto-completes with several choices (like Google does today, but not before about a year ago), then if the user has to move the mouse or arrow key and select one of the choices - even if there is only one choice - that should be enough to defeat this patent. But I'd have to look at the patent documents to be 100% sure.

     

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  20.  
    icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Just went over the ynetnews article again and it seems as if it's not that. It's a patent on automatic domain completion. Like typing Google into the address bar and arriving at www.google.com. This is not Google doing this, there is no way for Google to do this. This is your browser not getting a direct response from the name google (since you need the TLD to answer first) and adding a www. and .com or .org or .net to get a completion (I've watched IE go threw all of them if I type a name incorrectly). This is something that Netscape started doing a vary long time ago. This is something that AOL was doing from the start. This is also the same exact thing as adding the Http:// in front of the address instead of making you type it.

    But, this debate is moot without the actual patent number. There are two in these comments alone (nether of witch fit the description in ynet) and probably thousands of others that it could be.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Kazi, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:12am

    Re: Re: Re:

    It reads in the claim that it should be in a URL entry field in browser (i.e. web browser).

    Since google.com isn't a web browser it shouldn't be infringing.
    Since bing.com isnt' a web browser it shouldn't be infringing.

    Since chrome and the servers it sends data to it means chrome isn't infringing.
    Since IE and the serviers it sends data to it means IE isn't infringing.

    Therefore, to be infringing it has to be a system (i.e. Google as a whole, Microsoft as a whole) but it can't be say Firefox, Netscape, or some other company unless explicitly found.

    I'm pretty sure in 1995 if you typed cnn in yahoo search cnn.com would come up.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Kazi, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The WIPO publication does match (WO 99/39280, which has a PCT number of PCT/IL99/00055). It claims priority to a patent applications in Israel (2 of them) filed on January 30th, 1998 (#123129) and July 20th 1998 (#125432). See under "Priority Data".

    The 2005/0203835 claims priority to the PCT/IL99/00055.

    So you have:
    (123129 and 125432 in Israel) -> (PCT/IL99/00055 published as WO 99/39280) -> (App# 09/529,792 which has a divisional of 12/316,050 and is not published and what the article is ABOUT -- that's why you can't find it --) -> (App# 12/316,050 published as US 2009/0144288 A1 which will have a future article.)

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:47am

    "i before e, except after c"

    Can I patent: "i before e, except after c" then?

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Intel, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:49am

    Re: patent BS

    im pretty sure thats what bill gates did when he used to work for APPLE!! of course you can patent something someone else invented, if they're dumb enough to not get it patented in the first place, good luck proving that in court. If it is a patent that was "stolen" (im using qoutation marks not to poke fun but because i dont know who was the original inventor, maybe him maybe not) then the person/company who DID come out with it first is; 1) a moron; and 2) should step up and fight the patent as it should be theirs.

     

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  25.  
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    Dez (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:51am

    Re: Re:

    Way back machine says: WAY before 1998

    http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://microsoft.com

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    gotmikhail, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:54am

    bic patent

    Did you know that BIC patented the transfer of blue ink to a piece of paper. Only blue ink, because a red ink patent had already been issued to PAPERMATE.

    Just kidding, this really does seem stupid. I'm not an expert on patents, but you can't patent an "event" itself, only the method of how it happens. For instance, google can't patent the general concept of searching the web, but they can patent the method / algorithm, am I right?

    Also, I went ahead and patented the left turn signal, building off of the patent on the right turn signal...

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    I'm patenting short-cuts for appending .gov, .edu, .org, .xxx. All will pay me!

     

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  28.  
    icon
    David (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 1:15pm

    Re: Re: Even a story?

    Nope sorry. The actual story would be "look how crappy this news story is". That would be pretty lame though. So Mike decides to make it a "Patents Bad! Fire Good!" post instead, only we don't really even know if the patent is real or not.

    So Mike is saying "Hey, if this is real, lets get our knickers in a twist about it." Yeah, that's value added right there.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Kazi, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Even a story?

    David the Douche.

     

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  30.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Even a story?

    "So Mike is saying "Hey, if this is real, lets get our knickers in a twist about it." Yeah, that's value added right there."

    Your mom is value added.

     

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  31.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 2:14pm

    Re: Even a story?

    I can see how you'd want to be first to comment about stuff

    Actually, I don't. If you hadn't noticed, we usually comment on stuff later than everyone else.

    And this is right up your alley, about abusive, stupid patents and such. But it's not really even a story. It's a short article that is short on details from a reporter that apparently doesn't even understand what they're talking about.

    Bingo! That's the story. The story was about how bad the reporting was on this, which is way too common in patent cases.

    Maybe you can wait next time until something becomes actual news before jumping in with both feet.

    It is news. The news of how bad the coverage was.

     

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  32.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 4:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Wrong, there is a way for Google to do this. With the toolbar installed, it automatically performs searches on things entered in the address bar that don't have a protocol (HTTP, FTP, etc) at the beginning.

    Also of note to this discussion, for people without a browser toolbar like Google installed, the windows registry at HKEYLOCALMACHINE/SOFTWARE/MICROSOFT/WINDOWS/CURRENTVERSION/URL defines prefixes which should automatically be added to non-compliant word entries in the IE address bar.

     

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  33.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 4:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Oh, and entering a word like Google in the address bar, and following it with adds the http://www...com around the word. Done so for a while.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    CHRONOSS, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 5:34pm

    netscape navigator version 3 edition 1996

    prior art 100%
    it auto completed any typed word int he address bar with ".com" and sent you there or whatever

    stupid try at somehting done years before hand
    and yes it was dropped as it was annoying as hell

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Linux, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:28pm

    Re: Re: patent BS

    It's called 'prior art,' jerk off.

     

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  36.  
    icon
    HolaJohnny (profile), Sep 10th, 2009 @ 7:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Even a story?

    Sorry Kazi I must correct you. Its David the Douchebagus Amongst Us.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Daniel, Sep 10th, 2009 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Here's the patent

    Referring to your 1st paragraph, how was this information obtained? e.g. application no., payment date etc.?

     

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