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BT Loses Case Over Hyperlink Patent

michael posted more than 12 years ago | from the world's-smallest-violin dept.

Patents 224

Tarkie sent in this Bloomberg blurb noting that British Telecom has lost their patent suit against Prodigy over an old patent that BT hoped would cover the use of hyperlinks on the modern WWW. See our original story or check out the court's decision.

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Well, good. (3, Informative)

MaxVlast (103795) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123377)

I think anyone sensible who saw their claims shook his head in wry humor.

Re:Well, good. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123425)

I shook my long dong over the toilet because it was still dripping pee. Then I pee'ed some more. Then I posted a stupid message to slashdot.

Re:Well, good FREE LINUX DEVELOPER TOOLS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123501)

check out http://www.tryappx.com/linuxpromo

Die, nigger commies! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123383)

The Communist Niggers must be stopped!

Free Bob!

you'd think (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123384)

Can I mod down a story as -1, Obvious?

Re:you'd think (2)

MaxVlast (103795) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123395)

That they lost isn't obvious. The courts (in all countries) make dumb decisions every day. That they should have lost is obvious, but anything else shouldn't be taken for granted.

Re:you'd think (1)

DDX_2002 (592881) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123453)

That they should have lost is only obvious upon a close examination of the patent claims, by comparison to the operation of Prodigy's server system.
BT had to make sooooooo many stretches of terminology and logic to try to get Prodigy within the patent that the result was not in serious doubt... but that's not to say another patentee might not (have)succeed(ed) in patenting the internet.

That wasn't off topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123710)

That wasn't off topic. It referred to the ruling as being obvious. All the people who replied knew what the hell he was talking about. What idiotic moron is modding today?

Re:That wasn't off topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123777)

The same trolls that mod every day, pinky.

Idiots from [insert-/.-rip-off] trying to take over the world!

NARF!

Damn (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123387)

I wonder if I can get a refund. I knew I shouldn't have paid for all my future linking in advance.

Wow!! I was scared for a moment!! (1, Funny)

Hex4def6 (538820) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123398)

My SUPER website had lots of superlinks, and my friend told me I MIGHT GET IN TROUBLE!!!!!! Luckily Im safe! Phew!!!!

Re:Wow!! I was scared for a moment!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123461)

Assuming that message was not full of sarcasm in a pathetic Karma-whoring attempt to Score:5 Funny, what is your SUPER website?

Re:Wow!! I was scared for a moment!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123781)

It was sarcasm, dumkoff.

And everybody knows that the poster was stile.

- Arnold Crenshaw

Re:Wow!! I was scared for a moment!! (1)

Photon Ghoul (14932) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123641)

You should check your links out. It's possible you could be violating someone's Hyperlink Policy. IANAL, but that would be an abuse of their intelleggshual property.

This is a good thing(tm) (4, Insightful)

Negadin (261695) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123399)

Its good to see some of these completely absurd lawsuits getting downturned. This needs to happen more, so we can legitimize patent law into something reasonable. All it does now is stifle market growth and create money for lawyers.

By the way the article is written, BT was using Prodigy as a "test case" for every ISP.

Could you imagine? Scary thing is, I wouldn't have been totaly shocked if it did pass.

Me neither. (3, Funny)

Trillan (597339) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123428)

I think my reaction to BT losing is along the lines of "pleasently surprised." Which means I must be getting very cynical.

Re:Me neither. (4, Funny)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123470)

I think my reaction to BT losing is along the lines of "pleasently surprised." Which means I must be getting very cynical.

Or just getting worse at spelling.

Re:Me neither. (1)

magicslax (532351) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123563)

I think my reduction to BT looping is along the loons of "peasently surpassed." Which means I must be getting very cyclical.

Re:Me neither. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123791)

a-hahahahahahah. *giggle* *chuckle* hehehe hahahahah *giggle-giggle* *sigh* (pause) ahahahahahaha...

Cynical?? (2, Interesting)

T-Kir (597145) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123582)

Nope, you're not cynical... this is BT we're talking about here.

A company that is universally shafting most of the UK, especially concerning DSL (or lack of). And with a overseeing body called OFTEL (should now be OFCOM, not sure) who are supposed to make sure BT doesn't engage in monopolistic practices (just image what would have happened if they were granted the hyperlink patent!!). But OFTEL don't even have teeth, just gums covered in sponge, and a hand that lighty slaps BT's wrist and says "Bad boy, don't do it again" (for the n'th time).

Re:This is a good thing(tm) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123569)

Did you every hear of the case of this guy tried to sue the US government for damages because he claimed to have invented the multiplication tables without compensation? I think he sued for like $500 trillion. Case dismissed.

Same thing ;)

Re:This wuz a close thing(tm) (0)

noshellswill (598066) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123719)

By a shaved-hair, I'd say. Having read hizzonors discussion, it looked to me like a man who patented the ice-creme cone '... a right rectangular polysacaride cylinder containing frozen cow-ooz ...'. Only he can sell a cone of ice-creme and people are happy eating it. Then joeblo comes along and sells THREE ice-creme cones at a time and people go bonkers. Bonkers is MORE than happy, so the patent gets broke. And while joeblo can never sell ONE cone he can always sell three. Hummmmm .....

Re:This is a good thing(tm) (2)

renehollan (138013) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123767)

Well, yeah. But, it took a 27 page judgement to reach this conclusion? Somehow, that is not comforting: neither when it comes to the legal process, nor how absurd the case was (or wasn't).

Re:This is a good thing(tm) (4, Insightful)

topham (32406) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123792)

No, it takes 27 pages to prevent an appeal based on the judge not following procedure and protocol.

sucks to be his secretary.

BT sucks at the internet! (-1, Offtopic)

Dave2 Wickham (600202) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123400)

BT sucks with anything remotely to do with the internet. They are slow at rolling out broadband, I can't see my area getting it within the next year, yet they claim to have rights to the hyperlink?
Makes ya think...

ph333rz+ |*0z+ (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123409)

6|2u|\||)33 6|2u|\||)33 6|2u|\||)33^^^*&*~~~!

/\/\3 60+$ ph1|2zx+ |*05+!!!! 1 1z ph15+ |*05tx0r!!!! \/\/0\/\/h0[]_33\/\/0`/\/`````!

G0d Damn HaX0rs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123597)

I hate that god damned hackers language shit...It's like some fucked up computer version of Thieves' Cant in D&D...can't read a god damned word.....

Re:G0d Damn HaX0rs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123619)

...j005+ 833kuz j00r 2 r33t 2 r33|) |)0|\|+ m33n h4xX0z d0n* m4kk4 53nz...!!! translation: ..."just because you aren't savvy to the ways of computer enthusiasts, doesn't mean that you should denigrate their culture. Take some time, learn about them! Hug a hacker today!" ;)

Re:G0d Damn HaX0rs (1)

silicon_synapse (145470) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123669)

No respectable hacker (or any respectable person) substitutes every letter in a sentence with that dribble. Grow up.

Coverage (1)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123411)

It doesn't get any more "blurby" than this... where is the C|Net coverage? Salon? Wired??? Anyone?

These types of things need to be publicized as much as the bad/stupid rulings against MP3 sites or Microsoft.

how did ENTERPRISE get anywhere? (-1, Offtopic)

lostindenver (53192) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123416)

The hyper speed has yet to be determined but if it as slow as that link how did ENTERPRISE get anywhere?

Re:how did ENTERPRISE get anywhere? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123512)

har-de-har-har you unfunny dork.

Re:how did ENTERPRISE get anywhere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123558)

That's Star Wars. Don't get them confused. One sucks (Star Wars /w hyper/lightspeed) and one is good (Star Trek /w warp speed).

Get some priorities! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123418)

The worst terrorist attack in recorded history occurred back in September, followed by a Holy War against Islam, and now Israel and the Palestinians as well as India and Pakistan are teetering on the brink of their own war, Argentina is in the midst of a financial crisis, America is considering launching attacks against Somalia and Iraq, and you people have the gall to be discussing British Telecom has losing their patent suit against Prodigy???? My *god*, people, GET SOME PRIORITIES!

The bodies of the thousands of innocent civilians who died (and will die) in these unprecedented events could give a good god damn about British Telecom has losing their patent suit, your childish Lego models, your nerf toy guns and whining about the lack of a "fun" workplace, your Everquest/Diablo/D&D fixation, the latest Cowboy Bebop rerun, or any of the other ways you are "getting on with your life" (here's a hint: watching Cowboy Bebop in your jammies and eating a bowl of Shreddies is *not* "getting on with your life"). The souls of the victims are watching in horror as you people squander your finite, precious time on this earth playing video games!

You people disgust me!

Re:Get some priorities! (0, Offtopic)

Dave2 Wickham (600202) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123485)

I'm pretty sure that this is a troll/flamebait, but I'll bite...

The two matters are completely separate. Just because we are interested in this doesn't mean we don't give a crap about poverty and terrorism and everything else, but it is unrelated. Life goes on. If you stay regretting something which has passed and don't move on then what's the point in living?

Re:Get some priorities! (0, Offtopic)

DDX_2002 (592881) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123504)

...and you people have the gall to be discussing British Telecom has losing their patent suit against Prodigy???? My *god*, people, GET SOME PRIORITIES!
Usually the priority in a thread about BT losing a patent suit will be, call me crazy, BT losing a patent suit, since anything else deserves a OT:-1. Or in your case, Troll:-1.

Re:Get some priorities! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123586)

This world is about atrocity. Face it. Where the fuck were you when the genocide was taking place in Rwanda? [barnesandnoble.com]

Your 11@m4 |*05t was an obvious attempt to get flamed, prolly because your momma never gave you 'nuff affection as a child. Fucking wah! I'm sure you love being the center of attention.

But when that shit went down in Rwanda [barnesandnoble.com] , I certainly would hope, for the sake of the validity of your claim, that in that entire time you never watched a movie for entertainment purposes, read a work of fiction, listen to or enjoyed a piece of music, or took the time to fuck your girl/boyfriend or whatever the fuck it is you like to spew your sickly bodyfluids onto...No, not a righteous idealisitc fuck like you! You were in the thick of battle trying to stop the Tutsi massacre taking the guns out of the hands of the Hutu militia and handing them flowers in compensation. A job welldone there, you then moved onto Serbia to stop the slaughter of Muslims. Having a taste for saving human life, you then went personally to Chechnya to stop the Russians from doing the same thing there. Not once did you ever take the time to create or enjoy a creative work! You just took a fucking breather from all the good fucking work that you do to surf the web (which consumes energy which is sorely needed by the underpriviliged) to tell me how the fuck to live MY fucking life!

YOu are a fucking joke! Self righteous pussy!

Re:Get some priorities! (-1, Offtopic)

gilroy (155262) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123605)

Blockquoth the poster:

The souls of the victims are watching in horror as you people squander your finite, precious time on this earth playing video games!

I think it's the height of unmitigated arrogance for anyone -- including you! -- to state definitively the opinion of those souls. Perhaps the worst thing is when some self-appointed spokesperson appropriates their tragedy and horror to advance his/her own narrow and oft unsupportable cause...


Life goes on. If there is ever to be a victory in the "war" on terrorism -- if we as a species are ever to vanquish this psychosocial parasitic infection from the body politic -- then it will come about only because we remember that life goes on . That doesn't mean we forget. It doesn't mean we trivialize. But it does mean that we consciously decide not to obsess, to fixate, to mire ourselves in the unchangeable past.


Mourning is good. At times, even outrage is good. But you can't mourn forever. You can't maintain active outrage forever. It's simply not healthy. And I don't think psychological self-destruction is the proper way of honoring the worthy dead.

Not Invalidity but Internet does not infringe (5, Informative)

legal_tinker (124854) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123423)

Note that the opinion does not invalidate the patent. Rather, it says that Prodigy (and the Internet writ large) do not infringe the patent because the Internet does not have a "central computer" or contain "blocks of information" as the court defined them and the patent requires.

Re:Not Invalidity but Internet does not infringe (2, Insightful)

Negadin (261695) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123460)

So why did they sue an ISP, rather then say, W3C [w3.org] ?

Re:Not Invalidity but Internet does not infringe (1)

FatRatBastard (7583) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123780)

Because they'd make a hell of a lot more money from ISPs.

that's not really a complete analysis (5, Insightful)

MattW (97290) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123708)

First, while that's true, that's not the only part of their argument the judge found lacking. He also asserted that their patent claimed it involved "complete addresses", which a URL is typically not because it must be processed with name resolution to be useful. There were other issues, with BT trying to claim that an Internet address was 'equivalent' to a 'complete address' (per the "doctrine of equivalents" embodied in patent law), but that was shot down too, because apparently BT narrowed their claims on the patent to get around prior art.

I find it interesting, of course, since DNS is not the only address translation required. Before reaching the end server (and the patent says, "Central computer"), an ARP translation will be required as well to translate an IP address into a MAC address for transit across the physical+datalink layers of IP.

The funny thing is that this patent was supposedly dead from prior art from what we've all heard, and it didn't even get far enough. Basically, the judge dismissed them for grossly misinterpreting the patent, never mind that it would likely have been rendered invalid by prior art had they even made it that far. I hope BT had to pay court costs.

Re:Not Invalidity but Internet does not infringe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123778)

True. But the decision is based on a Motion for Summary Judgment ("Judgment as a Matter of Law") on the issue of non-infringement submitted by Prodigy. Basically, the Court found that Prodigy doesn't infringe the BT patent "as a matter of law."

Prodigy has certainly also argued its view on the invalidity of the patent in other pleadings; but the Court didn't have to reach that issue, since regardless of whether or not the patent is valid, the Court found that Prodigy doesn't infringe it.

Sad Day for Intellectual Propery (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123429)

This will set the UK back at least 10 years. Imagine if you invented something wonderful, and the courts stole it from you.

They didn't invent it. (5, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123625)

This will set the UK back at least 10 years. Imagine if you invented something wonderful, and the courts stole it from you.

Sorry, A.C., but they didn't invent it.

Hyperlinking, as practiced on the internet, was described by Ted Nelson, in books published years before they applied for that patent.

Indeed, Ted is the one who coined and popularized the terms "Hypertext" and "Hyperlink".

What bugs me is that, as I read it, the judge's decisions about "central computer", "blocks of data", and "complete address" are all wrong. The patent should have applied to the Internet (by the doctrine of equivalences) and should have been struck due to the prior art.

But then again, IMHO patents on "doing X with a computer when people are already doing X by hand" should be unpatentable. (A generic patent on simulating human workflow would have been patentable shortly after the inventionn of the digital computer, but it's far too late for that now.)

And also IMHO essentially all software patents OTHER than "doing X by computer when people are already doing X by hand" should be struck as patenting "mathematical algorithms".

Re:They didn't invent it. (0, Offtopic)

narftrek (549077) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123675)

I think that was supposed to be sarcasm....

Re:They didn't invent it. (1)

jhoger (519683) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123711)

Agree 100%. My impression is that the BT patent was generic enough such that internet web servers/clients would have infringed. Prior art would have gotten the patent thrown out altogether, but I'm sure that would have taken much longer.

Sometimes, I think the court doesn't really decide on the basis of law, but what it either consciously or subconsciously thinks society will actually tolerate. That's why you can have "bad decisions" (Dredd Scott, etc.) that eventually get replaced with different decisions.

Whereas in math, you can't have a "bad proof" that sticks around too long.

Isn't human language fun?

Re:They didn't invent it. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123729)

What bugs me is that, as I read it, the judge's decisions about "central computer", "blocks of data", and "complete address" are all wrong. The patent should have applied to the Internet (by the doctrine of equivalences) and should have been struck due to the prior art.

In effect, this is exactly what happened. If you read the judgement right through, you'll see that 'central computer', 'blocks of data' etc. were made to have very narrow, specific meanings by BT, in an attempt to get the patent granted in the first place, despite the wealth of prior art.

Crucially, BT limited 'complete address' during their patent application to specifically include the track and sector on the disk where the next page should come from, because 'virtual addresses' (using filenames or other additional 'lookup data') had already been described and used elsewhere.

Without being able to show infringement of this and other features, they didn't stand a chance. Of course, the lawyers made a bunch of $$$, and we all pay for that somewhere...

Re:They didn't invent it. (2)

topham (32406) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123731)

Actually, I think your wrong.

I read through it, and what it made obvious to me was, regardless of whether an idea existed before or not, an extrapolated version of it could be patented, but... and heres the catch, it would have to be an exact match.

I, for instance, agree that a webserver could be construed as a central computer. (atleast in reference to a set of data, whatever that set is.. slashdot posts? whatever). But since BT used that to differentiate themselves from prior-art it chained them to the narrow interpretation.

Had it not been used to avoid conflict with prior art perhaps it could have been contrued in the wider sense.

I'd hate to try and secure the system BT describes though, I don't think I'd want hackers to know what sector on my HD contains what... (and how the hell do you secure that nicely?)

Lost on SJ (5, Informative)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123432)

Not only did they lose but they lost on Summary Judgement. Basically a SJ motion happens midway through the case when one of the sides moves for the judge to rule in their favor. In essence they are saying that the other side has nothing. It occurs in almost every case and is rarely granted in whole (typically it will make smaller parts of the case go away). But to lose it all on SJ means that they really did have squat, and that there was no point in continuing on. Cool.

Re:Lost on SJ (2, Interesting)

26199 (577806) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123495)

True. On the other hand, I've just spent a while reading the judgement... and the following few minutes muttering 'insane, insane, completely insane'. It's crazy.

They lost the case on the kind of picky interpretation of words that, in everyday life, any sane person would just laugh off as irrelevant.

There was absolutely nothing along the lines of, "look, your claim is idiotic, and you know it, now go away."

Maybe that's patent law for you, I don't know. If it is... *shudder*... the sooner this kind of thing stops, the better.

Re:Lost on SJ (3, Funny)

mcg1969 (237263) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123604)

They lost the case on the kind of picky interpretation of words that, in everyday life, any sane person would just laugh off as irrelevant. There was absolutely nothing along the lines of, "look, your claim is idiotic, and you know it, now go away."

"Look, dude, we know you're guilty, so we're just going to skip the details and throw you in jail."

Re:Lost on SJ (5, Insightful)

mcg1969 (237263) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123626)

Actually, there were a couple of comments in the text that suggest that the judge really did feel like this was a silly case.

In particular, there was the section where BT was trying to show that an HTML file could be constructed in a manner fitting the description of the two-block files described in BT's patent. The BT witness built an example HTML file that demonstrated this point.

The judge rejected this line of reasoning, saying "BT cannot claim that Prodigy infringes its patent, or induces others to infringe its patent, if it must invent the infringing device itself."

Personally I think that was pretty funny; and morsels like this indicate to me that the judge was quite on top of things.

Re:Lost on SJ (1)

good-n-nappy (412814) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123643)

IANAL, but I read through the judgement too and I got the opinion that they were saying "look, your claim is idiotic, and you know it, now go away." However, it was kinda hidden in the legalese. Take for example this line:

Application of the Doctrine of Equivalents is Barred with Respect to "Blocks of Information" Because the Applicant Made Unmistakable Assertions to Avoid the Prior Art

What this sounds like to me is that BT was basing the whole case on obfuscation and picky interpretation. But the judgment basically says that the case was so lame that it doesn't need picky interpretation.

It seems like what happened is that BT had a pretty old patent for some very specific networking-addressing scheme that they wrote before the web and URLs really caught on. Then they realized that if they generalized their very specific thing they could cover pretty much any networking-addressing scheme like the web. Sounds like the court didn't buy it at all. Every single argument BT made was rejected. That sounds like a pretty clear message to me.

Re:Lost on SJ (2)

topham (32406) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123684)

Yep.

Write a patent which can safely, without question, pass the test of prior-art and then bitch when someone else develops something that more closely resembles the prior art than your patent does.

whooops.

Re:Lost on SJ (4, Interesting)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123759)

There was absolutely nothing along the lines of, "look, your claim is idiotic, and you know it, now go away."

I'm not so sure I'd agree. The judge essentially says that BT's claim is bogus because it refers specifically to a hub and spoke data system (central computer and terminals that are hooked exclusively to it) while the Internet is the exact opposite. Saying (as the judge does):

The Internet, is, in short, an entirely different beast from the system described in the Sargent patent. Consequently, the Internet does not infringe the Sargent patent either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents. Prodigy is therefore entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.

Sounds very close to "look, your claim is idiotic, and you know it, now go away."

Re:Lost on SJ (1)

Thai-Pan (414112) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123730)

Damn! Does that mean that my patent on vowels won't hold up in court?

Similar Case? (OT) (5, Funny)

Embedded Geek (532893) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123447)

Back when I first heard this whole mess, I couldn't help but think of the classic Onion story "Microsoft Patents Ones, Zeroes" [theonion.com] .

At least the Onion had intended the humor...

Re:Similar Case? (OT) (2)

teetam (584150) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123486)

The one billion Indians should sue all electronics and computer companies - after all, ancient Indians invented the zero and the place value number system. That is the basis for binary, hexadecimal, octal and decimal number system!!!

Re:Similar Case? (OT) (1)

Embedded Geek (532893) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123520)

Actually, I reread the story for the first time in a long time and had forgotten that the Onion had thought of that - they have old Bill buying up Sanskrit and ancient Greek parchments.

Good catch anyways!

Just for shits n giggles (1)

narftrek (549077) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123630)

If M$ did patent 1's & 0's then there would be an easy way around it...call them ons & offs or highs & lows unless of course M$ patented those too. Then again 1's & 0's don't look like 1's & 0's inside the chip so I guess thier patent is really just against engineers who write that crap down....

Re:Just for shits n giggles (2)

topham (32406) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123699)

As I understand my history Microsoft filed for the patent on 1's and 0's in 2012.

Sane Judge found in White Planes, NY (5, Funny)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123457)

In other news, the sun did not come up this morning, huge cracks have appeared in the Earth's surface, and large boulders are falling from the sky. Details at 11:00.

maybe? (1)

hex1848 (182881) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123462)

there is a god??

wooo! (-1, Offtopic)

MrP- (45616) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123463)

::does a dance::

sorry, but its just so exciting.

What a relief! (5, Insightful)

teetam (584150) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123464)

After the fact, it might seem obvious why BT lost its case, but there are many other such stupid patents and lawsuits all over the world today. Too many companies today have given up on the old business model of making money by manufacturing good quality products and keeping the paying customers happy. May be it is an old economy school of thought!

It is far to simpler to hold the world hostage under the guise of protecting IP and charge a ransom from everyone who uses it.

Remember, the Amazon 1-click patent is still valid! It is not worried about the absence of a business plan that drives them towards profitability, but wants to prevent other websites from using cookies to enable faster checkouts.

Ultimately, I think that is the problem with all these patents and copyrights. If companies truly believed in their products and the value that they provide to their customers, they wouldn't have to resort such stupid mechanisms to make money.

Re:What a relief! (1)

Negadin (261695) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123489)

The simple fact is, its easier to pull a patent out of your rear and start suing and profiting via licencing, then it is to create a truely innovative and profitiable product.

Is /.'ing a Court against the law (1)

lostindenver (53192) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123468)

Does /.ing count as a hacking attempt? Or maybe they disguised a mp3 as a pdf and we were just helping the RIAA.

JPEG next... (4, Interesting)

philipsblows (180703) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123471)

Let's see some similar sanity with the JPEG patent [slashdot.org]

Re:JPEG next... (2)

ttyRazor (20815) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123631)

the problem is that the JPEG patent actually applies to JPEGs, while this one had a barely superficial resemblance to hyperlinks. It's gonna take an altogether different type of sanity for that one, along the lines of throwing out software patents in general.

Re:JPEG next... (1)

greenrd (47933) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123739)

Um, no it doesn't. It applies to moving images. JPEG is a still image format.

Re:JPEG next... (2)

topham (32406) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123758)

the patent relating to JPEG may be for moving images, but the clain is a compressed single frame, not the detail necessary for animating it.

Mpeg contains a frame (I frames?) which contain a base image, subsequent frames then contain the changes for some number of frames. The first frame does not require the previous frame to build the image.
{I}{B}{B}{B}{I2}...

All the B's require the previous images to be displayed properly, while I2 requires none of it.

If I2 is compressed in the SAME manner as JPEG and is patented then JPEG count indeed infringe the patent.

Re:JPEG next... (2, Insightful)

surfacearea (219926) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123637)

Not as similar as you think. The reasoning is not as closely aligned, as the JPEG compression algorithm had to be thought of, designed, and implemented developed by someone, somewhere. That is to say, an image compression algorithm is obviously too complex to be "conceptual" (in the free domain of thought). If that entity which created JPEG has rights, then that entity has rights--but far be it from me to agree that those who created JPEG are Forgent, or any subsidiaries therein. However, that is not the case with hyperlinks, which are purely conceptually existent, and have been for a very long time (since the 60s). Compare this to trying to claim a patent on footnotes.

This is great but.... (1)

Xzisted (559004) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123473)

Some bastard out there is gonna file a patent saying he 'discovered' the makeup of air and is gonna try to push that through a court system somewhere. Kinda like the freak who filed this stupid patent. [slashdot.org] Next thing you know I'll be paying for the air I breathe.

From the PDF (3, Interesting)

scott1853 (194884) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123481)

BT argues that Prodigy infringes the Sargent patent through its business activities as an
Internet Service Provider. BT contends that Prodigy's web servers provide access to information
in a manner that literally infringes the Sargent patent.

BT also alleges that the Internet infringes the Sargent patent and that Prodigy facilitates
infringement by its subscribers by providing them with access to the Internet. BT contends that
Prodigy contributorily infringes or actively induces the infringement of the Sargent patent by
providing the necessary software and encouraging its subscribers to access pages of information
from Web servers maintained by third parties. Therefore, BT argues, even if Prodigy's servers
do not infringe the Sargent patent as a matter of law, summary judgment should be denied
because Prodigy infringes the '662 patent by making and using infringing remote terminals.


Based on that last paragraph, it sounds like BT was trying to pull a XXAA and declare the whole Internet as illegal.

OOORAAH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123503)

here's to common sense! A victory such as this does that much more to help the side of thinking humans against the talking monkeys known as lawyers and supporters of back-bitting methods such as this patent filing and pursuit.

Re:OOORAAH! (1)

bobtheprophet (587843) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123685)

Yes, this is offtopic, but in a society that is based on an efficient government and court system, why do we hate the people responsible for carrying it out, namely lawyers and politicians? The fact that the judge ruled against BT shouldn't really come as that much of a surprise, given that the suit is fairly obviously STUPID.

Patent Status (2)

scott1853 (194884) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123508)

I didn't read through the entire judgement, but does this nullify the patent, or can only the patent office revoke a patent? And if so, based on the judgement, is that enough for them to do so?

Re:Patent Status (4, Interesting)

bwt (68845) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123775)


No, unfortunately it doesn't. On most legal matters, patents included, judges take a restrained approach: they only answer the minimal amount that they have to. In this situation, before you toss out the patent, you have to show that if the patent is valid that the defendent infringed it. Since there is no infringement here, the question of validity does not arise.

What they should have done... (1)

kaustik (574490) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123528)

... is team up with the guy who "owns" .jpg
Two jackasses is better than one, right?

Why they lost (2, Interesting)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123560)

I find it interesting that prior art was not mentioned in the decision. Instead, it revolved around the concept of "central computer" in BT's patent vs a large number of computers in the internet. Also interesting was that BT's concept involved a physical pointer (track and sector) to the data rather than a translated, possibly indirect url.

Entertaining court decision (5, Informative)

HuguesT (84078) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123596)

I never tought that such a thing would be possible, but the court decision is actually a good read.

If I understand correctly, BT's patent describes an old system whereby `continuous blocks of information' stored in a databased on a central `system' can be accessed remotely via telephone lines. The interface allows for accessing the data on the system by chunks. The users somehow selects a menu or a link when they want to access the next bit.

The court comprehensively dismissed all parts of BT's infringement claims.First the Internet is not a central system, second a central database is not accessed (the judge writes that the Internet is in fact the very antithesis of a central database), next the data on the Internet is not in the form of blocks: HTML is far more flexible than what the BT patent describes, and finally the concept of hyperlink is far more advanced than what BT described in its patent (basically a `give me the next bit' button).

At some point during the trial, BT's expert tried to submit made up web pages that conformed to what the BT patent was describing. The judge found that totally unconvincing, writing `a device does not infringe because it can be made to infringe'.

In conclusion, the jugde writes `In contrast to what BT would have us believe, there are no disputed issues of material fact in this case'.

Let's hear it for the court today.

Re:Entertaining court decision (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123733)

and finally the concept of hyperlink is far more advanced than what BT described in its patent (basically a `give me the next bit' button).

In a related story, BT sues Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson for inventing the "pipe" and Eric Shienbrood for the utility named "more". Also named as a defendant, Mark Nudelman, for writing a similar utility named "less". More at 11.

Re:Entertaining court decision (1)

clohman (592703) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123736)

`a device does not infringe because it can be made to infringe'

This could be an interesting precedent for P2P & copying software.

Re:Entertaining court decision (1)

DavidYaw (447706) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123737)

...'a device does not infringe because it can be made to infringe'.

Somebody please tell me this can be used for some case against the DMCA (DeCSS? AEBEX?)

Re:Entertaining court decision (3, Insightful)

freakinPsycho (23459) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123740)

`a device does not infringe because it can be made to infringe'


Hmm... So we can apply this idea to patent law, but my question is can it then be applied to copywrite law as well?


Thus, something like DeCSS which does not violate copywrite law on its own but can be made to, would not be in violation. A photocopier would be an example of this idea. While a photocopier can be used to reproduce an entire book, since it doesn't have to be used that way it is ok.


Just a thought.

Re:Entertaining court decision (2)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123793)

But, to do what you suggest, would be logical. If the law was logical then why would we need all those lawyers???

So I'm wondering (3, Insightful)

God! Awful (181117) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123642)

So I'm wondering about all those /. readers who complained about how terrible patents are because they allowed BT to make this claim... doesn't the fact that BT lost the suit prove that the law isn't as broken as you thought?

Same with the case with HP and the DMCA. The fact that HP can file the lawsuit doesn't prove that the law is broken; it's only broken if they would have won.

-a

Re:So I'm wondering (3, Insightful)

6 (22657) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123705)

> So I'm wondering about all those /. readers who complained about how terrible patents
> are because they allowed BT to make this claim... doesn't the fact that BT lost the suit
> prove that the law isn't as broken as you thought?

No.

The problem is that a corporation with deep pockets is fully capable of forcing an issue like this, one that clearly had no merit, to court thus costing money. The ability to tie your adversary up in legal nonsense simply because you had a patent, no matter how worthless, is the problem.

> Same with the case with HP and the DMCA. The fact that HP can file the lawsuit
> doesn't prove that the law is broken; it's only broken if they would have won.

The brokenness is that such suits must be defended at all. A legal defense costs money and time and throws fear uncertainty and doubt before it.

Thank goodness for this story (1)

guttentag (313541) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123651)

I was about to launch my diabolical scheme to claim ownership of all hyperlinks so I could hold them hostage unless the world pays me a hefty ransom of... one million shares in every dot com in the world.

Slashdot has just saved me a lot of embarrassment. It's truly an indispensable resource for people in my line of work. Now I can devote all my efforts to my father's claim that he invented the question mark.

And now for the bad news... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123660)

Read the decision PDF. It makes it clear that Prodigy (and the internet in general) didn't infringe on BT's patent because BT's patent description was slightly too narrow -- and also because the judge [IMHO] doesn't understand what a "server" ("central computer" in BT jargon) is.

What it does NOT do is throw out BT's patent on the basis of prior art. That is, BT's patent still stands to harass us yet another day.

BT vs. Prodigy? (1)

svferris (519966) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123677)

BT [btmusic.com] vs. Prodigy [theprodigy.com] ? Sounds like a concert I'd like to see.

In related news (2, Funny)

Kaz Riprock (590115) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123681)

The parents of Harold Theodore Michelis-Lenord (H. T. M.-L.) are suing the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for their use of their son's copyrighted initials.

Opie and Anthony cancelled???? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4123697)

Say it isn't so, say it isn't so.

This made my day brighter (1)

Xeriar (456730) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123703)

It's weird, I mean, I'm more surprised that BT didn't win, and this is obiously a good, no-brainer thing, but I can go to bed now knowing that sanity does, occasionally, prevail.

I disagree (3, Interesting)

ajs (35943) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123764)

I have strong feelings about this case, and I want BT to lose, but I have to say that the judge missed the point that BT was making. The claim that the Internet infringes, not because it has a central computer with centralized data store as described in the patent, but that it is made up of many such arrangements.

This is fundamentally true, though inaccurate (the terms "Internet" and "World Wide Web" are confused here). The World Wide Web's HTTP+HTML elements (certainly what most people think of as "The Web") do infringe the patent on this basis. A Web server provides a central service of delivering data to remote clients. Each Web server provides this function, and thus infringes. The "Internet", does not infringe, and thus Prodigy's ISP business does not infringe, IMH(IANAL)O, but the World Wide Web does. In this way, I think BT should have gone after Microsoft for making IIS, but then they would have had to explain why the didn't go after NCSA back in the days of the NCSA Web server....

Re:I disagree (2)

topham (32406) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123772)

Read it very carefully. The problem for BT was that prior art existed for systems as you describe which ment that while filing the patent they had to be more specific on interpretation. Which means, that while the Internet/web may infringe patents (the prior art) it doesn't infringe BT since BTs is so specific.

BT was forced to have a very narrow patent or they could not have patented it.

Condensation of the summary (2)

DotComVictim (454236) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123770)

The whole crux of the judge's summary judgment basically comes down to this:

"A central computer, as claimed in the Sargent patent, has a one-to-one, hub and spoke relationship with numerous physically separate stations called remote terminals. The remote terminals are connected to the central computer by the telephone lines of a telephone network. All of the remote terminals connect to the central computer that has one centralized main store for storing information. As a result a remote terminal in the Sargent patent does not identify in its communication protocol a computer with which it would like to communicate, for it communicates with only one central computer. In contrast, a computer operating on the Internet must at all times identify a specific computer with which it seeks to communicate... .

Thank God we have astute judges! It would be a much scarier world if claims like this were being evaluated by the general public...

Jeff Bezos.. (1)

BalkanBoy (201243) | more than 12 years ago | (#4123796)

and his "One-Click" wonder patent are next... ;)
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