Patent That Could Sue Web 2.0 Out Of Business Up For Auction

from the well-this-could-be-interesting dept

The Register has an article about one of the patents up for sale in the latest Ocean Tomo auction that could potentially be used to sue pretty much every web 2.0 company. The patent, for “a global sideband service distributed computing method” is described by its owner as being a core component in any kind of AJAX implementation, and lists out basically everyone as infringing. Any site that uses AJAX? Yup. Google, eBay, Yahoo? Yup. Amazon’s S3 service? You bet. Whether or not this patent is valid or whether any of these companies actually infringe on it are two wide open questions, but given how much money is being bet on lawsuits of this nature, you can bet someone will take a shot at it. And how long will it be before one of the patent system defenders shows up to claim that these firms clearly “stole” the technology?

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Comments on “Patent That Could Sue Web 2.0 Out Of Business Up For Auction”

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23 Comments
Shohat says:

Bring the "obvious whine"

How about every single person that claims “obvious” here, will personally explain, in detail, the mechanics behind Asynchronous XML retrieval and XMLHttpRequest

And no, this isn’t an invitation to show off knowledge in a field that requires no intellgence (web app programming), but a discouragement toward people that will scream “obvious” without having ANY understanding in the field.

P.S Filed in 1999, an important piece of info Mike didn’t mention.

Ben says:

Re: Bring the "obvious whine"

Clearly written by someone who has no knowledge of web app programming … to give a simple response: if it required no intellgence (sic!) why would people be paid plenty to do it by credible corporations.

I’m not going to claim ‘obvious’ over said patent, but surely this kind of swinging patent cannot be enforced without seriously ruining the edifice that is the modern web. For this reason alone, the patent system should be seriously revised into a system that encourages real innovation (successfully taking an invention to market) rather than a system that rewards the ability to bet on the right idea (with lawyers in attendance), without having to actually make it work.

jonnyq says:

Re: Bring the "obvious whine"

Your dumbass is showing.

The concepts behind “AJAX” have been around as long as Javascript has been around.

Before there was the simplified XMLHttpRequest object, you could just have a form in one frame post to another frame. You can automate this is Javascript, and you can make the target frame relatively hidden. I still use this technique sometimes with a hidden IFRAME and use Javascript to read the results of the posted form.

So yeah, there’s definitely prior art here.

Nothing about “Web 2.0” is new. It just notes a trend in popularity.

Shohat says:

Re: Re: Bring the "obvious whine"

I did exactly what you described during 2000, to sync submission of control parameters into cameras with built-in web-servers. The forms were invisible and synced via JS.
There, happy ?
Now we are both showing off knowledge in a field that requires no intelligence.

You want to recite football player names and lakes in South America now ? Because it’s just as relevant. And requires just as much intelligence.

Mark Murphy says:

AJAX? AJAX??!?

Does nobody read these patents?

There are two independent claims (i.e., the most general claims in the patent). Both are tied to the notion of “utilizing idle resources in multiple clients”. This tosses most uses of AJAX out as a potential infringing technology. AJAX is not tied to “idle resources”; rather, most uses of AJAX today are for user interactivity. There might be a couple of specialized places AJAX-type stuff gets used that’s tied to “idle resources”, but those are pretty far off the beaten path. Similarly, it is unclear how Amazon S3 (which isn’t tied to AJAX) could be considered infringing, since S3 makes no assumptions whatsoever about what the clients are doing, let alone be dependent on “idle resources”.

The patent much more closely describes things like Folding@Home, SETI@Home, and other distributed computing projects. The patent was filed in January 1999; SETI@Home launched in May 1999, and Folding@Home launched later than that. Hopefully, there was enough distributed computing research before 1999 that this patent can be overturned if needed. Or, possibly, there was enough written about SETI@Home’s development work in 1998 to constitute prior art.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: AJAX? AJAX??!?

I was just about to say the same thing. I was just looking up information on the BOINC software to see when it was created (2002) to see it it fell under prier art. I guess not. I would bet we could find prier art on this one.

I think the main point of this article was the person who currently owns the patent is saying that sites like Google, Yahoo, and any other site that use AJAX could be sued with it. If they can or not is up for debate.

Jason Still (profile) says:

Re: Re: AJAX? AJAX??!?

I think the main point of this article was the person who currently owns the patent is saying that sites like Google, Yahoo, and any other site that use AJAX could be sued with it. If they can or not is up for debate.

Indeed, it looks like they’re trying to either sucker some patent hoarders into buying it (“Hey look, you can sue google with this! Don’t read it, take our word for it and buy it!”) or to get one of the big boys (MS, google, etc) to drop some cash for it just to not have to deal with the hassle (“Someone might sue you with this, wouldn’t you rather buy it?”).

Either way, they get some money for something they don’t seem to have been doing much with.

Reason (user link) says:

Re: AJAX? AJAX??!?

I agree that this has much more in common with the @home projects than Web 2.0. The main point of the patent is distributed computing, which AFAIK has absolutely nothing to do with what AJAX is supposed about. Ironically, the part that probably sparked the confusion, the “sideband” bit, is what distinguishes an @home system from what the patent describes, since @home grids only need ONE connection between server and client, not a “side” one, as the @home servers are not providing any separate service to the client (quite the opposite).
If the patent holder tries to generalize it to comprehend general distributed computing, he would come face to face with the huge prior art of grid computing. Good luck with that one…

shuryno says:

Use it or...

That this patent does reveal itself to be worth something is irrelevent to the fact that if it was filled in 1999 and wasn’t use before long after its use has being so widespread. The owner should have made a case 4-5 years ago.

It’s similar to the jpg case. Use it or lose it. Waiting for something to become a standard while everyone is unaware that a patent exists, should not be tolerated.

Captain Obvious says:

XMLHttpRequest is nothing more than a javascript program getting data from a web site in XML format. I think that to a practitioner, geting data from a server over the web is pretty obvious.

Asynchronous retrieval is nothing more than loading a web page, while other elements of the web page are added as they are loaded separately; e.g. images that load after the initial page pops up. Asynchronous XML retrieval is just data being loded into the web page after the main portion of the page initially.

I’ll continue my “obvious whine” by pointing out we did things like this well before 1999, so in addition to obvious it is also prior art…

Ven'Tatsu says:

Re: Captain Obvious

Sorry to be a bit pedantic but XMLHttpRequest has nothing to do with JavaScript other than by a happy accident.
XMLHttpRequest is part of the MSXML software stack. It’s purpose is not to get XML data files but to access external entities referenced inside an XML file[1]. It and most parts of the stack are accessible as ActiveX objects. That in turn makes them accessible to any MS scripting engine including JScript (Microsoft’s JavaScript like language). The fact that XMLHttpRequest was available inside pages running in IE is likely to be due as much to a lax security model as it is to any direct intention.
After it became popular in IE other browser vendors added a work-alike for their own scripting engines.

Asynchronous is not about loading additional content after the main content has loaded. It’s about taking an action while other actions are taking place. Before XMLHttpRequest and IFrame hacks there were a number of techniques used to load additional content into a page after the page had loaded. Most of them would stall the browser while the file was being requested, leading to a less than user friendly experience.

[1] I’ll admit I’m drawing a bit of a fine line between XML data and what are essentially parts of the XML document stored in additional files.

Denis says:

About the patent system

I have done several patent myself and I know that getting a patent is not as simple as described here. Most time the examiner are critizing every piece of it.

On the other hand, after reviewing the patent I saw it claims to be “based on a paper filed on Jan 1998 which was presented on a conference.” I think, if a conference can accept a paper, it is probably not that obvious.

Think about IP industry vs music indurstry, why we think we should pay fee to a mp3 instead of software? The patent system is to protect and encourage industry instead of discourage it. Whenever the system exists, we should respect it.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: About the patent system

I have done several patent myself and I know that getting a patent is not as simple as described here. Most time the examiner are critizing every piece of it.

Therefore the system is perfect?

For a period of time in the early 00’s, over 70% of patents were getting approved. That number has dropped a great deal lately due to backlash, and the USPTO realizing how badly it had screwed up.

On the other hand, after reviewing the patent I saw it claims to be “based on a paper filed on Jan 1998 which was presented on a conference.” I think, if a conference can accept a paper, it is probably not that obvious.

That’s an incredibly loose definition of “obviousness.”

Think about IP industry vs music indurstry, why we think we should pay fee to a mp3 instead of software? The patent system is to protect and encourage industry instead of discourage it. Whenever the system exists, we should respect it.

That’s the most bizarre rationale I’ve heard in a long time. We just posted a long list of research showing that the patent system does NOT encourage industry. It actually hurts it. Shouldn’t that be reason enough to make a change?

To say that “whatever the system exists, we should respect it” is untenable. Slavery was a system that existed. Not allowing women to vote was a system that existed. We changed it because those things were wrong. Same with the patent system.

Intelligent Enough to Spell says:

Shohat Sez:

this isn’t an invitation to show off knowledge in a field that requires no intellgence (web app programming)

Memo to Shohat, next time you decide to write polemics designed to raise the ire of most of the readers of the forum, you might want to learn how to use spell check. This is from someone who can properly spell the word intelligence. And no, I do not program web apps.

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