Company Gets Patent On Digital Downloads; Sues Everyone

from the great dept

There’s been quite a trend lately of companies who had otherwise completely failed in the marketplace to suddenly reinvent themselves as “patent licensing firms” and then go and sue everyone who actually was able to successfully innovate in the market. The latest entrant is Intertainer, a company that was fairly well known for a few bubble years, but was unable to find a real market for their online video distribution system. They blamed the movie industry for colluding against them (a lawsuit on that issue never went very far, nor did the antitrust investigation it helped trigger), but are taking it out on the tech industry. The company, which has long since been out of business, is back from the dead suing Google, Apple and Napster, claiming they all violate a patent the company holds on digital downloads. Go ahead and read through the patent and help us all understand what is new or non-obvious in the patent. The patent was filed (provisionally) in March of 2001, by which point it’s hard to believe that the idea of distributing content electronically wasn’t well known. I worked for a company in 1998 and 1999 that did many of the things described in the patent, and we were far from cutting edge at the time. The best comment in the article, though, goes to Eric Goldman, an expert in high tech law, who notes: “I have the same problem with this patent as so many of the patents of the dot-com boom days: I don’t know what it means.” Intertainer missed the market. It happens. It’s a part of business. It would be nice if they could now leave those who succeeded alone to continue innovating, rather than wasting everyone’s time and money on a pointless lawsuit over a silly patent.

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Comments on “Company Gets Patent On Digital Downloads; Sues Everyone”

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Dosquatch says:

It occurs to me...

that many of the worst “stupid technology patents” revolve around writing out a specific form of the general “move data from one place to another”. Now, I’m going to go way out on a limb here, but after 15 years in the industry, I’m going to boldly suggest that this is the ENTIRE CORE FUCKING POINT OF A NETWORK.

Now, if anybody fuzzy on or surprised by this point would just never touch a computer again, that’d be great. Yeah. Thanks.

Chris Maresca (user link) says:

Re: It occurs to me...

Too bad you didn’t actually read the patent, because it covers much more than just that, such as license and royalty tracking. I wasn’t aware that networks tracked licenses and royalties…

I’m not saying that it’s valid, but before posting such a self-assured statement, it would be good to have actually read the item you’re commenting on….


The infamous Joe says:


Yes, the patent system is dead. Unfortunately for innovation, suing for vague, obvious patents is alive and well.

The worst part isn’t that this company raised itself from the dead to sue them, it’s that it will settle out of court, and these low-life bottomfeeders will be 720 billion (or whatever) in the green, which spawns more bottomfeeders to do the same thing.

As much fun as it is to hate big businesses, I really want them to laugh these bottomfeeders out of court and find a way to countersue them back into oblivion.

Ed French (user link) says:

Silly patents

There have been a few of these stories floating around, and they are universal greeted by cries amounting to “patents are evil”. However, on closer inspection there is often some genuine inventive nugget in the patent. I don’t think you can say the same of this one though- allowing this kind of thing through does loads of harm to a system which does otherwise really help the start-up and lone inventor. However, as you point out, this was at the peak of the bubble era and hopefully standards are higher now (?)

Andrew Pollack (profile) says:

Sueing Google on this is a mistake.

One of the things I like about Google is that its leadership is unwilling to accept an answer from its lawyers or others that “we just do things that way”.

Google made some mistakes in its IPO — but they were made because even something as tried and true as the process of going public had to be questioned and a new approach tried by these guys. I can’t imagine them sitting still for a cash settlement on something so fundamental. This is the sort of group would would actually have the balls to go to court.

I hope I’m write. A good test case really needs to be made.

misanthropic humanist says:

one step closer

As I keep saying, there will come a tipping point. This may not be it, but it’s getting closer.

When it comes, some big powerful names will put their differences aside and act in common interest. They will realise they have more to gain by taking an extreme action than by spending a fortune fighting in the courts under the “rules” and the status quo of mutally assured destruction.

They will simply declare that they “Do not recognise the patents or the authority of any body to administrate or adjudicate the matter”

It will precipitate a crisis of confidence and overnight millions of bogus patents (and unfortunately good ones – but that’s the price we will have to pay) will become void overnight. They will be defacto unenforcable.

Keep pushing suckers. Keep raising the temperature. In the end you will lose everything you have and the world will be a better place without you.

angry dude says:

Re: one step closer

>Keep pushing suckers. Keep raising the temperature. In >the end you will lose everything you have and the world >will be a better place without you.

Oh, year, those greedy little suckers – patent inventors.
The world will definitely be a better place without them.

All suckers must die !!!

(BTW, the list of “suckers” includes Thomas Edison, Alexander Bell, Nicholas Tesla, Gordon Gould, Ron Rivest, Brent Townshend… )

Fuck off and die, idiot !!!

michael says:

Re: Re: one step closer

I’m afraid that you are the only idiot around here, angry dude. If you had any reading comprehension at all you would notice that he was referring to the idiots trying to sue others for downloading because they think they have a patent on it. He was not referring to actual inventors like the ones you mentioned. Have a nice day.

TheOutlawJoseyWales says:

Patent System is not Broken

I would like to point out that the patent system is not truly broken. In fact the real issue is that most of the employees of the USPTO actually lack the cognitive ability to determine their heads from the ***. The system needs young blood.

Ideally we would weed out all the post menopausal and geriatric employees, especially those with no actual experience with electronic devices. Those very individuals that could not program their VCR’s in the 80’s are now trying to determine what innovative technology actually is or is not subject to protection.

So who’s in for loading up the USPTO with 20 to 30 something’s and canning the rest of the lama’s?

Ben Baker says:

People talking out of their asses

Folks, unless you actually know what the patent claims, STFU. Most of you are making gross assumptions. As an inventor, I know what it takes to get something patented and it is’t as cut and dry as you may think.

I haven’t read it myself, but when a journalist whines about something he doesn’t understand, then you sheep fall into line, it makes me disgusted.

Th patent system is not broken, it just needs some more innovation in finding prior art, (ENGLISH speaking examiners) and more time allowed to prosecute.

If there were no patent system(s), only the big guys would have a financial chance in hell to innovate and produce – what little guy is going to chase a dream AND produce his widget when Intel/Yahoo/MS will see the idea and copy it in 3 months with no problems?

angry dude says:

Re: Re: People talking out of their asses

To “promote the progress of science and useful arts”
DOES NOT mean “to manufacture and sell the product”,
idiot !!!

It DOES mean that something new and useful gets PUBLICLY DISCLOSED (as a patent or any other publication)
so the knowledge is shared and can be reused.
(Unlike some manufacturing secrets from the Middle Ages when some secrets were guarded and died with their inventors.)

Read the literature, idiot.

Ben Baker says:

Read the patent!

I’m pretty sure (maybe I do need to go read and quote the patent to make my point) that claim #1 in the patent ISN’T

1. A system and method to electronically download data

STOP talking out of your asses! Educate yourselves. Nothing is that easy! No one (except maybe MS)spends $100k to get a patent through if they think a court is going to call it obvious!

Anonymous Coward says:

Hey Angry Dude,

The difference between Edison, Gould, Tesla etc and these pricks filing for patents is that the former group actually invented something. Nobody has any problem with rewarding those who are truly innovative. It’s the parasites who are trying to game the system with pointless drivel who we all despise so much. Surely even someone as fucked up as you can appreciate the difference?


another says:

Do you know what you are talking about?

Have you read the patent or are you just looking at what some writer wrote and popping off? The guy filing the lawsuit is a professor at USC and produced Mean Streets for Martin Scorsese.

From the patent:
“The present invention provides content suppliers with a digital service platform for remotely depositing its media assets, managing its media assets using business rules to control the distribution of and revenue generated from the media assets, and tracking consumer usage of its media assets to assist in consumer marketing decisions. Providers of digital services (such as multiple cable system operators (MSOs) or website operators; also referred to herein as “content users”) seek to offer their customers a wide variety of compelling and diverse content. Because the present invention is an open platform designed to support multiple content suppliers, it allows consumers to access content in an aggregated manner similar to that of a traditional brick and mortar store. The present invention provides these content users with an integrated platform for managing and distributing such content to consumers. The present invention further enables the content user to offer consumers content choices grouped by understandable and desirable genres and categories. For example, the “New Releases” section of an online site could contain titles from all the major movie studios, not just a subset specific to one or two movie studios owning the content. Moreover, the present invention can support channels (e.g., Disney®, Discovery®) if the content user wishes to enable such groupings.”

That doesn’t sound like a general idea of transferring a file, it sounds like a system that enables the transfer of files.

Yo ho ho... says:

Re: Do you know what you are talking about?

This response is also for Ben!

Give it up! I have also filed (and been awarded 2 patents) while working for a start-up, and as much as I believe that it is inherently the only system to protect David from Goliath, I am totally disgusted by your defense of this piece of crap being pushed as legitimate IP.

First, it was not even awarded — but filed as a provisional. And there is no evidence that the provisional was supported by a legitimate application within the 12 month window. Second, it is a bunch of obvious, non-descript BS with no technical merit. This is more of a process filing, which deserves even higher scrutiny than technical awards.

I am not pleased with the patent system today — as what is really lacking is true consistent and competent panel reviews for awards… but this crapola is the type of garbage in the system that really hurts everybody!

Ben Baker says:

Re: Re: Do you know what you are talking about?

I’m not defending the patent…(I haven’t read it). I’m just venting because of all of the whining about patents these days from people who have no clue.

This is the 4-5th posting about patents I’ve seen in the past week and the peanut gallery consistently has the same thing to say about the generalized sum from the story without investigating jack shit. They rely purely on a writer’s opinion.

AND NTP did invent it though RIM produced it. So what? The patent office doesn’t have to award patents to only those who promise to be commercially sucessful. Give me a break.

Lextori says:

Re: Do you know what you are talking about?

PLEASE READ the bloody patent, they’re not patenting downloads, they’re patenting the idea that’s behind every digital media site out there, a subscription based download service.

it mentions using meta data to track a users media prefrences. Allowing you to subscribe to portions of the media service, and had some technical drawings that look to me, to be similar enough in end result(I’m not a pro, I’m just history geek who likes following computer blogs) to google and itunes to me.

Thanks and take the time to read before commenting 🙂

misanthropic humanist says:

an quick analysis (and dismissal)

“The present invention provides content suppliers”

That’s me, so I’m interested in this.

“with a digital service platform”

Hmm, digital service eh? The sampler I designed and built in 1982 fits this description fairly well, but let’s read on…

“for remotely depositing its media assets”

I think they meant “their media assets” since “content suppliers” is in plaural, but let us not nitpick…

Remotely depositing, like FTP then? Or better still like the RS232 based system I built in 1983 to carry early MIDI system exclusive data dumps of samples.

“managing its media assets using business rules”

Like a database?

“to control the distribution of and revenue generated from the media assets”

Like any ticket booking system around after 1991

“and tracking consumer usage of its media assets”

Like cookies.

“to assist in consumer marketing decisions.”

As every web site owner since 1990 has done. Besides this is ambiguous, decisions made by or on behest of the “consumer”, it is unclear.

“Providers of digital services (such as multiple cable system operators (MSOs) or website operators; also referred to herein as “content users”) seek to offer their customers a wide variety of compelling and diverse content.”

A complete falsehood. Many service providers focus on a very narrow preselected content – besides this is padding, it’s nonsense that can be ignored because it is unsubstantiated opinion.

“Because the present invention is an open platform designed to support multiple content suppliers, it allows consumers to access content in an aggregated manner similar to that of a traditional brick and mortar store. “

This is the most tenuous shovel full of festering bunk in the whole paragraph.

What open platform? How is it open? In what way is it designed to “support” multiple content providers (in a way that an ordinary website to which you can upload gif AND jpegs does not)

Anything appearing on website or FTP server that comes from more than one source is by definition “aggregated”. In what possible sense is this analogous to a “brick and mortar store”. Define.

“The present invention provides these content users with an integrated platform for managing and distributing such content to consumers.”

Integrating what? You need to define the components before asserting that the system “integrates” anything.

“Consumers” has not been defined and there is no common sense notion of “consumer”, applying classical network theory any node on the link may be both a source (provider) or sink (consumer) of packets.

“The present invention further enables the content user to offer consumers content choices”

Like a directory structure on any disk system going back to 1967?

“grouped by understandable and desirable genres and categories.”

So, yes, just like a directory structure on any disk system going back to 1967.

I give up on the rest of this, it’s getting boring.

This sorry excuse for an explanation offers nothing of any merit whatsoever. If it was an undergraduate project proposal I would fail the student. This is written by someone who clearly has no technical expertise in any relevant field and is attempting to use the broadest possible language to hide their lack of original thought.

It is complete tripe.

another says:

Re: an quick analysis (and dismissal)

You call it tripe without reading the patent. Also included in the actual patent is this (among a whole lot of other things:

“FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of a preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a logic diagram of a preferred method for ordering media content.

FIG. 3 is a logic diagram of a preferred advertising method for use with the method of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a logic diagram of a preferred method of making content recommendations to a consumer for use with the method of FIG. 2.

FIG. 5 is a logic diagram of a preferred method of reporting royalties for use with the method of FIG. 2.

FIG. 6 is a logic diagram of a preferred method for posting an amount due for a consumer account.”

Schematic designs don’t sound general, they don’t sound obvious. At least try to understand the issue before deciding.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re: an quick analysis (and dismissal)

The key work that is in all the Figures is “Preferred”. That means (to me and probably a lot of people) that this is the way he set it up but it can be done other ways. Tesla used that in one of his patents, linear actuator I believe. The patent preferred air springs but any would work.

Also this patent seems to me to be a little more specific than all digital downloads. Seems to be a marketing aspect, but that still leaves iTunes and every other pay and download sights.

Me says:

Re: an quick analysis (and dismissal)

Misanthropic Humanist,

Assuming the crux of the patent application was presented, your reply here does an excellent job revealing that the patent application in question fails to describe any unique technology or combination thereof.

I think Ben Baker’s anger stems from the fact that many of the posters blindly assumed the conclusion you draw without having taken the necessary step of examining the actual patent application. Had the original article or any of the previous posters done as you did, I doubt Mr. Baker would have cause to be so frustrated.

In other words, the discussion was empty until you put your money where most everyone else’s mouth was.

Burning Chrome says:

Call me charlie

Back to the BBS. I ran a Demo/Art/Music BBS. There were individuals and organizations (suppliers) that produced content (music, art, and combinations of the two in interactive form) that utilized my BBS (a digital service) to aggregate their content in an organized fashion for controlled delivery to end-users. For all intents and purposes, it is the same thing that is being defined as the underlying function of this patent.

Moreover, the BBS software used was not limited to the type of content I happen to cater towards; there were thousands of systems in existence providing the same function but catering towards a variety and diverse set of content from mine.

I still have everything on floppies, and I have printed magazines that talked about both my BBS and thousands of others from the day. It would be easy to challenge that patent. This patent rehashes technology developed long before Intertainer ever existed.

misanthropic humanist says:

boys, boys..

“I’m not defending the patent…(I haven’t read it). I’m just venting because of all of the whining about patents these days from people who have no clue.”

Nobody has a monopoly on being right. I think you need to give people a little more credit. Yes, it’s a tiring and upsetting subject that seems to go from bad to worse to fucking terrible. But we are all at each others throats and not much useful debate is coming out of it.

I see posts here that range from dumb and agressive to very well informed, I think there are some posters of high calibre here from time to time too. Don’t underestimate anybody here and call them an idiot out of hand, same goes for AngryDude, just chill out and address the issues.

You might be suprised by some of the people you call idiots, and what we all have in common. It hits us all the same, entrepreneurs, programmers, creative inventors. We are the salt and the earth here and we are all being universally shat on by a minority of powerful interests and their scumbag lawyers. We need to think of a way to strike right at the heart of the broken system.

Ben Baker says:

Re: boys, boys..

I didn’t call anyone an idiot. Einstein supposedly didn’t know how to fry an egg – no one would call him an idiot. I’m simply stating my frustration with people not investigating patent claims and quickly coming to judgement.

And whoever mentioned (above) that the patent was only a provisional is mistaken. Any idiot (just kidding) knows that a provisional is not a patent and cannot be enforced or brought to court.

patent-monkey (user link) says:

Alright, this was already in the market - iTunes

From the patent’s claim:
1. A system for managing and marketing digital media content supplied by a plurality of media content suppliers to a plurality of consumers, the system comprising: a processor operable to combine media assets supplied by the media content suppliers and metadata to create a media content offering for use by the consumers said processor having a private service interface adapted to permit the media content suppliers to directly access the system to administer the media content offering; a database for storing the media content offering; a file repository for storing media content associated with the media content offering; and a server adapted to distribute media content stored in said file repository.

Clearly, Wikipedia states that iTunes launched in January, 2001 and is an in-market example of the idea of a media content provider hosting content and metadata from a number of suppliers for a number of consumers. A validity contest with the PTO during the litigation case should be very interesting.

Respect says:

Re: Alright, this was already in the market - iTun

Well done monkey ! Clean message, to the point.

Does anyone remember the damage caused by the Freeny Patent (USPT 4,528,643 and EP 0 195 098 B1) when in E-Data ‘s hands ? Around the same time as the iPod. The E-Data activity was likely bounty-hunting at its worst (they sued Apple who ‘settled’ 2004) and threatened many others but fortunately the ‘Patent System’ woke up to the challenge and in 2005 the London Patents Court (UK, England) revoked the Freeney Patent.

There may be light at the end of the legal tunnel for the survival of the patent system.

Bob says:

Wish I had a patent on the patent system

or a sewage farm – similar sort of product I guess!

Patents should only be given on something that is total revolutionary, significantly unique and can clearly be seen not to be a small change to something that has come before – and should last no more than 3 years ….

Oh and written in English or French or any language provided its done clearly and precisely!

Tom Sciurba says:

Patent Lawyers

Patent Lawyers are no different then any other type of lawyer. They have an incredible knack to destroy all good aspects of any system for financial gain. A patent lawyer once told me that patents are intentionally written as vague and as broad as possible. If no one can understand the patent numerous legal arguments can be generated to show how the patent was violated. In his words “That is how we make it rain money.” BTW – If you ever read a foreign patent they are in general much more narrow and straight foward.

But what really gets me about the patent system is the lawyers don’t research prior art. They just get to you describe the inventions, translate that into some unintelligible legalese, send it over to a poor examiner who is forced do the prior art research and then it makes its way back to you via the lawyer so you can tell him how you are different.

As for me, I’ve decided that patents, especially software related patents, just are not worth it.

Think about it says:


OK, the suit is against Google, Apple and maybe someone else. Intertainer was a video on demand company that built a platform for delivering video over IP.

Think maybe they are taking legal action not because of iTunes but because of Apple’s video distribution? Think maybe they are going after Google because they are using the same technology that Intertainer invented?

Most people (especially the ones who run this site) see a patent fight and say, oh, its ruining everything, its killing innovation, its just the lawyers. Guess what, most don’t know the issues, most don’t know the details and most don’t understand what the challenges are actually about. Kind of hard to have an intelligent conversation about something that you know little about.

An American says:

Patentable material

I agree that patents should be monitored more in regards to not allowing a patent to be issued once an idea or process is already public domain.

HOWEVER, patents are an important part of the freedoms we take for granted. For all those who believe that patents should be dead you are all Socialist bottomfeeders in the truest sense of the word who believe it is quite acceptable to profit and take advantave of another persons years of hard work.

misanthropic humanist says:

Re: Patentable material

So my American friend. Instead of simply saying that nobody understands jack why don’t you explain what you know. Perhaps include a few links to well written articles.

There are many real scientists, myself included who believe that the current patent system should be dismantled, I think your opinion is narrow minded and insulting.

angry dude says:

Re: Re: Patentable material

Hey, dude,

The provision for patents and copyrights is included in the
United States Constitution.

Don’t like your Constitution ?
Then start writing to your senators and congressional representatives asking them to change the Constitution.
We’ll see how it goes with the general public…

Until then, please, STFU !

P.S. I have one very valid and very infringed patent myself and I am not gonna allow morons like you to badmouth and destroy the only protection we, little guys, have: the patent system.

misanthropic humanist says:

Re: Re: Re: Patentable material

Okay now we’re getting to the bottom of it.

Someone “stole your idea” and the anger lives on.

If I had a penny for every “patentable” idea that someone “stole” from me I’d be able to buy a double whopper with extra cheese too.

In the end I leaned to suck it up and accept humbly that:

1) They probably didn’t steal it. Most likely they arrived at the same place through their own hard work and research. There is nothing to exclude duplication of endeavour in the real world, which is one of the reasons the patent system doesn’t really work – it only rewards the guy with the money and means to file first. The television and telephone are both good examples of this synchronicity occuring.

2) They went one step further and actually took the risk of making a product or business on that idea. Kudos to them.

3) Someone owning a legitimate patent on an idea that you honestly arrived at independently VALIDATES you as a creative person and inventor. Big up yourself because you are at least as good as them.

4) If the what you claim is true then how did the patent system protect you? I suspect you have actually been screwed over by the broken system and should be rallying on the same side as myself against this unfair situation.

angry dude says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Patentable material

hey, misanthropic humanist,

you are such a humble man 🙂

But I am not… cause I have mortgage and bills to pay,and in a few years I will have to figure out how to put my two children through college (you know, colleges are expensive here, in US)

For that reason alone I cannot and will not tolerate willful stealing of my PATENTED invention by some of the biggest and richest companies in the world…

And don’t worry about my patent – it is 100% valid and practically invincible: There are literally thousands of printed publications in support of non-obviousness: they couldn’t solve the problem for more than 50 years, but once they saw my solution they all screamed “me too” and implemented it in their products, without asking my permission

And it’s not possible for me to build and sell a product, cause it;s just a small but critical component in many many products -I would have to license many many patents from other parties first.
All I can do for now is sit around and curse everybody, waiting until damages accumulate , and then sue everybody and their grandmother…

jdo says:

The broken part of patents

The concept of patents is certainly not broken, though it’s possible to argue that patents stifle or promote innovation, depending on the lifespan of the patent and definitions of “obvious”, and so on.

It’s important to remember that a patent is issued for the idea in total, not for the components, which may be either obvious, currently in use, or previously patented elsewhere. Therefore, listing the components and saying they’re obvious, etc. does not invalidate the patent, any more than, say, patents on gears would invalidate a (mechanical) clock design.

The truly broken part of the patent system is that the process can hardly cope with the complexity of the technology, and rate of innovation we experience, and it will further fall behind as the rate of innovation continues to accelerate. I can offer no suggestions for improving the process to determine the suitability of patents, but clearly one is needed. A truly competent, automated method of searching “prior art”, and determining, objectively, “obvious” would go a long way – anyone care to try inventing it?

Vinnie Nicolas says:

This earlier patent trumps Intertainer's

The Intertainer patent never should have been issued by the USPTO in the first place. Here’s another patent that is strikingly similar to Intertainer’s, was filed three years earlier and issued one year prior to Intertainer’s. This illustrates the problems within the USPTO – they can’t even seem to effectively search their own databases of issued and pending patents.

Patent number: 6799165?Filing date: Jul 28, 1998 Issue date: Sep 28, 2004 ?Inventor: Eimar M. Boesjes

?An apparatus is disclosed herein comprising: a) a storage and distribution means; b) an inventory upload means; c) a product information download means; d) an order upload means; and e) a delivery download means. A method is disclosed herein comprising the steps of: (a) digitally transferring the goods and product information pertaining thereto from a provider of the goods to a storage and distribution means; (b) storing the goods, product information pertaining thereto, order information, and possibly sales information and marketing information on the storage and distribution means; (c) digitally transferring the product information to a shopper; (d) digitally transferring order information from a buyer of the goods to the storage and distribution means; and (e) digitally transferring the goods to the buyer. The storage and distribution means may be used to store digitally transferable goods, product information pertaining thereto, marketing information, and sales information….

Intertainer Patent:
Patent number: 6925469 ?Filing date: Sep 5, 2001 ?Issue date: Aug 2, 2005 ?Inventors: Kevin P. Headings, Steven M. Schein Assignee: Intertainer, Inc.

?The present invention is directed to an open business platform that provides an end-to-end solution for managing, distributing, and/or retailing digital media assets from various content suppliers. In one or more embodiments, the present invention provides an integrated system that permits media content suppliers to deposit their media assets with the system where they are prepared by a content management system for distribution to consumers via a secure distribution system. The media content suppliers may then track and-control the use of their media assets through a subscriber management system for managing consumer accounts, a licensing server for issuing licenses restricting the use of media content, and a royalty reporter for determining and reporting royalties to the various content suppliers.

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