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?
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Filed Under: aviv refuah, hype, patents, urls
Companies: google, microsoft, netex, yahoo

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  1. identicon
    Patent Guy, 9 Sep 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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