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?

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Companies: polaris

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

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29 Comments
ehrichweiss says:

Re: Oh please ...

I was thinking EXACTLY this. I’ve been sorting mail and responding to it automagically since long, long, long before 1998. I think I still have my .procmailrc from back then that I used to give spammers a mailbox full of their own “medicine”, though it’s obviously outdated since spammers no longer use legit return mail addresses.

I wonder if I should send it to the USPTO, the mostly incompetent judge in Marshall, TX and the patent troll..

CWatters (profile) says:

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.

Krayol says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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

angry dude says:

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 ?

Sanguine Dream says:

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?

Richard Ahlquist (profile) says:

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.

B says:

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.

Boost says:

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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– 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);
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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.

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