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Analyzing AT&T's Anti-Anti-Spam Patent

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the oddness-abounds dept.

Spam 314

An anonymous reader writes "Dan Gillmor is reporting in his eJournal taken, in turn, from Gregory Aharonian: AT&T has apparently been awarded a patent for circumventing certain spam filters, thereby providing slimeball spammers with yet a bigger hammer!" The patent covers "A system and method for circumventing schemes that use duplication detection to detect and block unsolicited e-mail (spam.)", although it's unclear exactly what AT&T want it for.

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314 comments

Hey! Shortsighted people! (5, Insightful)

KFury (19522) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485512)

Has it occured to anyone that by patenting an anti-anti-spam technique, AT&T can legally forbid spammers from using that technique?'

Yay AT&T. I applaud you.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (4, Insightful)

KrispyKringle (672903) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485537)

See, that occurred to me. But I sorta doubt they'll use it to track down spammers and sue them for patent infringement, considering that spammers are already very often violating state laws, violating their ISP AUP, and peddling illegal scams and therefore make themselves hard to find.

But on the other hand, I doubt ATT will be selling circumvention technology. Now, a fair guess would be that they won't sue the spammers for infringement, but may sue those who sell software used for spamming (who are generally a bit more findable).

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (1)

Artifex (18308) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485726)

spammers are already very often violating state laws


Most of those laws only apply to people who spam from within a state. They can't really be held up against someone spamming from another country.

International patent law, however, is another matter.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (4, Insightful)

Gherald (682277) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485831)

> International patent law, however, is another matter.

The matter being that unless sizeable amounts of money are involved, nothing gets enforced.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485742)

spammers are already very often violating state laws, violating their ISP AUP, and peddling illegal scams and therefore make themselves hard to find

Hey, I hope this doesn't get me modded flamebait but I've had this thought for awhile and this seems like the ideal article to raise it in. Disclaimer: I am not endorsing or defending SPAM or the people behind it.

Has anyone else thought that the most effective way to combat SPAM would be with education not filters/lawsuits/etc?

It would seem logical to me to assume that at least a large number of (if not a vast majority of?) spammers are ignorant as to why it's a bad idea. They don't know much about the Internet, and some idiot with a spam-software outfit approaches them and tells them about this "Great Marketing Idea", sells them some software (that may or may not do various bad things like hiding headers/etc), and off they go!

My boss approached me once with some literature he received from one of these software companies. After my initial "WTF??? You aren't serious???" reaction I sat down with him and explained some of the history behind spamming, why it's a bad idea, would piss off our existing customers/alienate new ones, etc etc etc. Based on this experience it would seem to me that the most logical solution would be to educate the companies behind the spamming as to why it's a "Bad Idea".

Of course, this theory doesn't hold any water when you look at pornographic spam, Nigerian bank fraud spam (my personal favorite), pyramid schemes, etc etc. But it probably would be a better approach when dealing with the idiots who have been duped into thinking that unsolicited e-mail is a legitimate marketing tool. At the very least it can't hurt any.

Just a thought I've had for awhile now.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (0, Interesting)

grendel_x86 (659437) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485856)

Unfortunatly spam is VERY profitable, otherwise people wouldnt do it. I dont know where it was from but there was a stat that something like 15% of people clicked on spams, and 7% bought the stuff in them. These nums probably arnt right, but still..... The only way to stop spam, it to make it not profitable.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (5, Interesting)

Narcissus (310552) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485858)

Or, instead of trying to educate the spammers, how about trying to educate the people who respond to spam?

Just do a mass spam once a month, or even once a week, to every email address you can find. Do a few spams: one selling Viagra, a few pushing different types of porn, etc. Cover the basic list of things that get spammed for on a regular basis.

Make the offers believable, and direct the recipient to an appropriately believable web site. Take their credit card details (but don't actually charge the card), do the whole lot. Right at the end, though, put up a page and say "hey, this is a scam site. Lucky we didn't really take your money!"

This will make all of those people that actually buy from these emails actually think twice the next time they go to purchase.

I wouldn't mind getting these "spams" as often as other spam if only for the fact that because the goal of these emails is to educate, there would be no reason to try and break through Bayesian filtering (or any other form). That is to say that they would be very easy for me to filter and never see, and hopefully at the same time we would see a reduction in other types of spam as people are educated about the problems associated with it (as it would drive sales down).

Having said that, I know there is no limit to stupidity, so maybe the market will always be big enough...

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485544)

ok I'm going out and patenting the whole idea of spamming. brb

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (0)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485692)

ok I'm going out and patenting the whole idea of spamming. brb

Sorry, too much prior art ;) Who do you think you are anyway, Amazon?

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485546)

Come now, this is /., and any consipracy theory that makes large corporations seem bad is snatched up and reported as fact. ESPECIALLY anything with MS, but this will have to do. No mysterious $30M investments to harp on, but ISN'T IT OBVIOUS where the money came from?

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (1)

Servo (9177) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485548)

I thought about that too. If thats the case, it would be quite excellent.

PRECISELY! (5, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485556)

Now, instead of being well-nigh untouchable due to spam's precarious placement as little more than a highly undesireable activity, AT&T can go after spammers IN COURT on grounds of PATENT INFRINGEMENT.

And going to court over something like this takes megabucks. Especially against a company the size of AT&T. Even if the spammers somehow weasel out on technicalities (like they didn't actually infringe on the patent directly), they're still going to be out so much money that their great grandkids aren't even going to be able to go to any educational institution after public high school.

Re:PRECISELY! (4, Informative)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485664)

Looking at my inbox, they appear to be mainly in Korea. I don't think AT&T has much litigation influence there, but I could be wrong.

Re:PRECISELY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485707)

Just because it says "slutty Korean girls" doesn't mean it's from Korea :P

Re:PRECISELY! (1)

Pakaran2 (138209) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485769)

There's treaties that state that patents are worldwide, or at least that you can apply for one in each country within x months of doing so in your own nation.

Re:PRECISELY! (2, Interesting)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485851)

Sent from korean servers, but the people behind them could very well be Americans or American companies. They might be able to go after those selling the products advertised in Spam. You know the, "your a small business and we'll eat you alive in legal fees unless you tell us the name of the spammer you used".

Yeah, probably bad tactics. I applied for a trademark and copy right of one of my screennames for the express reason of maybe someday sueing some of the emails that look like their from me to me. I've always wondered if I could turn them into the FBI for identity theft? Now that would be a question worth finding out...

Re:PRECISELY! (1)

OneFix (18661) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485866)

Yea, you'd think so, but foreign relations have a way of working this kind of thing out...maybe we use it as a negotiating tool...or maybe we pressure other countries to impose restrictions...it all works out in the end.

Re:PRECISELY! (1)

whereiswaldo (459052) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485756)

And going to court over something like this takes megabucks.

In this case, it's cool that the legal system sucks the way it does. But after all is said and done, it still SUCKS.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (4, Insightful)

m_chan (95943) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485560)

Or it occurred to them that they can make a mint by selling/licensing the technology to "spammers" or slightly more legitimate advertisers. It's probably just perception, but I think that a good chunk of the dinner-time phone-spam, and a large portion of the direct mail I used to get was from the Death Star.. oops.. I mean good ole Ma' Bell.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (1)

placeclicker (709182) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485562)

Except aren't spammers now criminals? So forbiding them from using it wouldn't do anything.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (4, Insightful)

incom (570967) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485588)

Please someone with some money, patent all possible future DRM techniques.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485853)

How about patenting the anti-DRM technologies and the anti-anti-DRM technologies and the anti-anti-anti-DRM technologies and the @#%^#)(* USPTO BUFFER OVERFLOW

Welcome to the USPTO Office security backdoor. Congratulations, you are our third breech of security, ever since the founding of the UNITED STATES in 1871! Would you like to be the first to register the patent for Patents, patent the Fiat "$1.00" Federal Reserve Note, concatonate /dev/random unto /dev/hda, or help our international banking overlords by reporting this security breech?

[root@uspto.gov: /root] $ cat /dev/random > /dev/hda & echo "F4\/\/K j00!"

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (3, Funny)

FearUncertaintyDoubt (578295) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485614)

by patenting an anti-anti-spam technique, AT&T can legally forbid spammers from using that technique

Which would make it an anti-anti-anti-spam technique

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (1)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485754)

Yes, but an anti-anti-anti spam technique is really an anti spam technique when you look at it from a broader picture. Just like an anti-anti spam technique is really an (albeit good) spam technique.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (1)

shepd (155729) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485765)

While I respect what you're saying, if you were right, antidisestablishmentarianism would be a pointless word. :-)

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (1)

UserGoogol (623581) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485847)

Certianly, but wouldn't you agree that antidistestablishmentarianistic actions are quite likely to promote establishmentarianism?

(The first word being the opposition to the seperation of church and state, and the second (I assume) being in favor of the union of Church State. You two aren't the same, but very very similar.)

And anyway, "dis-" and "anti-" don't exactly mean the same thing, so your point is slightly less than valid. Of course, you were probably going for what they call a "joke" so I guess we can let it slide.

And if they claim prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485626)

They will be telling us who they are :) It will be nice to get some home addresses. No reason, why do you ask?

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (4, Insightful)

Steve B (42864) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485633)

Has it occured to anyone that by patenting an anti-anti-spam technique, AT&T can legally forbid spammers from using that technique?

True, though it's unfortunate that the government hasn't already done so on the grounds that circumventing an anti-spam filter is a form of cracking.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (2, Interesting)

Pakaran2 (138209) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485782)

I disagree there. Would you say that putting a flyer on your porch under a rock, so it doesn't blow away, is a form of cracking?

What about sending a physical junk mail in an envelope designed to look like you've won money? That's arguably circumvention.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (1)

dcollins (135727) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485670)

Or rather -- has it failed to occur to anyone that by patenting an anti-anti-spam technique, AT&T can legally forbid spammers from using that technique?

I mean, that is what the "not clear what AT&T will use it for" part of the banner was implying.

The follow-up thought should be: How many times has a big company done something rational and charitable like that? Not much. AT&T is already in the business of playing pro-caller-ID anti-caller-ID services off each other.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (1)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485788)

How many times has a big company done something rational and charitable like that?

It's not charitable. They run an ISP, they'll get more users from it.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (5, Informative)

GammaTau (636807) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485694)

Has it occured to anyone that by patenting an anti-anti-spam technique, AT&T can legally forbid spammers from using that technique?'

If the technique is well-known and utilized prior the patent as well as extensively discussed in public forums (like nearly all ways of bypassing the spam filters are), then the patent can be nullified. In other words:

  • If the spammers have been using this patented method, the patent is void
  • If the spammers haven't been using this patented method, the patent has very little effect on spam

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (1)

Pakaran2 (138209) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485795)

Yes, but if they haven't been using it, then they're screwed if they think of it next year. Otherwise, they very well might.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (1)

a whoabot (706122) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485836)

But if they haven't been using it, by patenting it, you release the information on how to do 'it' to spammers that would not be affected by US Patent law...

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (1)

Pakaran2 (138209) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485897)

Nope. After getting a patent in one nation, under treaty, you have X months (I think it's one year) to apply elsewhere (where elsewhere is all but a few nations of the world).

The next move is for AT&T to apply in every vaguely industrialized country where spam comes from (and Nigeria, where spam IS the industry...)

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (1)

Corydon76 (46817) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485882)

Except that prior art only comes into play if it is found prior to the FILING of the patent, not the granting of the patent. The filing of the patent probably predates the earliest spam archive, so it's unlikely anybody has prior art available (and even if they do, are they likely to release it to stop an anti-spamming organization?).

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485710)

That was thought number two.

Thought number one was that the phone companies in general have made great money playing *both* sides of the telemarketing fence, so why wouldn't they pull the same stunt in the spamming world.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (4, Insightful)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485793)

This patent describes the simple use of hash-busting characters in email messages.
System and method for counteracting message filtering

Abstract

A system and method for circumventing schemes that use duplication detection to detect and block unsolicited e-mail (spam.) An address on a list is assigned to one of m sublists, where m is an integer that is greater than one. A set of m different messages are created. A different message from the set of m different messages is sent to the addresses on each sublist. In this way, spam countermeasures based upon duplicate detection schemes are foiled.

This isn't "providing slimeball spammers with yet a bigger hammer". It's a bread-and-butter spamming technique. Almost all the spam I get is salted with random letters or dictionary words in the address or message body to change the hash (and is therefore infringing on AT&T's new patent). We just saw a story a few days ago where spammers were sprinkling fraudulent scam emails with hash-busting characters [securityfocus.com] to get past filters.

One of the nice things about spammers is that (unlike their opponents) they rarely patent the circumvention mechanisms they use, leaving their bag of tricks open for intellectual property land grabs like this one. Compared to laws against spam, which for the most part hardly exist, patent law rests on sound international footing and gives AT&T much greater leverage against spammers who are now patent infringers. Good for AT&T. I wish I'd thought of it first.

It's lunacy to assume that AT&T secured this patent for any other reason- like productizing this stupid patent. Are they going to sell a new software suite for spamming? Spammers aren't an ideal software market by any reasonable standard. There's only 180 of them. AT&T would sell one copy, it would get pirated 179 times, everyone with a copy would start spamming warez versions of it, and that would be the end of it. Assuming that spammers cared about using patent-encumbered software at all- which they don't. And AT&T would alienate its customers in all the other markets they're in. It would be like a Christian bookstore opening a bondage videos section. It makes no sense. I can't understand how anyone could possibly take the outrage in this article at face value.

What is really amazing about this patent is what it says about the research done by the USPTO. I bet the USPTO examiner received a dozen examples of prior art in his own inbox the very day he approved this patent, and he approved it anyway!

My guess is that is not what they are up to.... (1)

BlabberMouth (672282) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485800)

I'm sure that what they want to do is license the technology to "legitimate" spammers, such as online retailers.

Re:Hey! Shortsighted people! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485896)

This DOES NOT AFFECT SPAMMERS AT ALL!!!

This is a marketing thing, then can claim that they are doing all this to stop spam.

Why dosnt this mean anything? Because spammers usually run stuff out of places where US copyright means NOTHING.

Spammers dont actually send the spam, unless they are morons... (no, i wont elaborate)

Who do you think allows spam? Large ISPs sell your email, info, and passage through their spam filters.

I am a spammer, i should know.

Anonymous Coward. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485516)

1st

Re:Anonymous Coward. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485589)

1st what? Jerkoff say "1st post"?

Ya fscking loser.

tsarkon reports oompa loompa song for /. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485517)

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Re:tsarkon reports oompa loompa song for /. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485568)

I like your style, but this post is very rude.

Re:tsarkon reports oompa loompa song for /. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485625)

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Could it be... (0, Redundant)

Prof. Pi (199260) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485519)

...that they want to prevent any spammer from
using the same techniques by threatening to sue
them for patent infringement?

That gives me an idea! (4, Funny)

TiMac (621390) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485520)

Now all I need is an anti-patent patent and we can end all the stupid patent nightmares once and for all!

Re:That gives me an idea! (0)

nsahoo (686941) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485597)

That would forbid any one from using a system of anti-patent, therefore making patent all the more rampant.

FP! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485521)

Woohoo!

AT&T??? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485522)

I never imagined AT&T would be performing such a public service. It looks like IP laws will actually be beneficial again.

and.. FP!!!

A guess... (1)

NightWulf (672561) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485524)

My logical reasoning would be AT&T plans to use this for their own ISP service. Ergo they get to provide spam filtered for their paying customers, but any other ISP chooses to filter in a certain way...down comes the lawsuit. Atleast that's what I think...

Re:A guess... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485550)

You tried to use "Ergo" to sound smart, but failed miserably. Failures should be removed from the gene pool so as not to spread their demon seed. Ergo, you should kill yourself.

Sc0re:-1, Didn't Read Article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485558)

AT&T has patented a way of circumventing anti-spam filters. It's the spammers who will be the ones violating this patent.

Profit! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485532)

This is great! Not only can we sue spammers for waste of time or bandwidth, we can now sue them for patent infrigment! Looks like AT&T will be profitting now!

Up next.. (5, Funny)

placeclicker (709182) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485543)

A patent on bank robbery!

Re:Up next.. (1)

Biff Stu (654099) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485724)

What about prior art?

Wait...this is the US patent office we're talking about here.

Never mind.

Re:Up next.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485820)

That would be:

"A method of withdrawing money by means of pointing a high velocity projectile dispenser"

Obvious value (5, Interesting)

SSpade (549608) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485547)

If you look back, at the time AT&T would have been filing the patent they were in the consumer ISP business.

Odds are it was filed as an offensive tool to use against spammers.

A patent such as this could be used as a hammer against spammers using filter evasion approaches. The value of that for an ISP of the size of AT&T far exceeds the cost of filing a patent.

(AT&T are pretty clueless on many levels, but this looks like it was a smart move. It'll be interestng to see what, if anything, they do with it.)

So am I violating the patent? (1)

BTWR (540147) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485552)

Everytime I make a new filter rule in outlook, am I violating their patent?

Re:So am I violating the patent? (1)

KrispyKringle (672903) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485564)

It's a patent on filter-circumvention technology. Not filter technology. And its only for specific types of filters (duplicate detection filters). So the answer to that is `no,' possibly followed by `RTFA.'

Re:So am I violating the patent? (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485815)

RTFA, what on earth are you talking about? Reading the *headline* would do the trick.

Re:So am I violating the patent? (1)

Gabrill (556503) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485617)

Only if you gain profit from it, I think. Wait--you just lost your whole workday because you can no longer profit from blocking spam!

Wait a minute ... (4, Insightful)

obsidianpreacher (316585) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485605)

1) Patents are a way of restricting rights to certain ideas/methods/etc.
2) AT&T can prevent anyone else from circumventing anti-spam filtering software with this patent
3) Ergo, AT&T are the good guys

...

wait a minute, I thought they were the bad guys [slashdot.org]

...

I'm confused now ...

Re:Wait a minute ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485678)

Its saturday, they are good today.. the article you refrenced was posted on a Monday.

Re:Wait a minute ... (1)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485796)

As somebody else has said, if spammers actually use this technique, then the patent is void due to that prior art. If spammers DON'T use it, then they couldn't POSSIBLY use it to go after them.

Re:Wait a minute ... (1)

Corydon76 (46817) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485871)

Not necessarily. Prior art only overrides a patent if found prior to the filing of the patent. Note that patents typically take several years to be granted, so AT&T could have a legitimate patent on their hands here.

By Patenting AT&T is securing Future Applicati (1)

leoaugust (665240) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485613)

In purely intellectual proporty terms, there is validity in patenting the idea that helped evade .. something .. something. The reason is that there are many applications that can be derived from this concept, and currently the one that is being used as "proof-of-concept" is as a spam-filter evader.

In time, as new applications are developed, AT&T would have a better hold on the foundations of this new market .... So, I think is is wise for them to have patented it.

And after all, who knows when the levers of power grate into the next set of positions i know, i know and spamming becomes the business to be in, AT&T might even be able to make a mint in the spam-invader-evader business ....

Misread! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485627)

Am I the only one that read the submission as: "...thereby providing slimeball spammers with yet a bigger hummer!"

I guess it must have been from reading that censoring article right before it, it's put some sick thoughts in my mind. Filter Slashdot!

Re:Misread! (1)

dbCooper0 (398528) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485674)

Am I the only one that read the submission as: "...thereby providing slimeball spammers with yet a bigger hummer!"

yes, you are.

Seen this before (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485634)

While I understand they might be able to help prevent spam with this possibly defensive patent...keep in mind some things that have happened in the past. Phone companies sold people caller-id to help stop telemarketers. Then they sold people caller-id blocker, and so on and so forth. And that is just ONE of the examples of when they've done something like that.

Hopefully in this day and age of corporations getting a lot of bad press for treating customers poorly, AT&T will decide NOT to be completely stupid.

Pink contracts (5, Interesting)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485641)

AT&T have the ability to use this patent for good by killing spammers with it.


What I suspect that they will do is allow it for their Pink contract holders and go after anyone else.

Repeats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485677)

Can people stop telling us about how they can sue spammers. We got the message after the first post.

what ever happened to.... (1)

scott_good (314368) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485685)

what ever happened to black listing of the IP addresses that the spamers use and dumping mail arriving from those ip's???

No matter what the subject or the message sent, everything from the particular IP is sent to file 13.

All though using the subject, the message, the sender, and their ip does help in the filtering, a few elements together or alone does make or break a systematic spam filtering system.....

just my $0.02 from the cheap seats....

Just going from the summary... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485695)

Say, aren't spam filters supposed to protect my inbox? And doesn't the DMCA stop people from circumventing protection measures? Therefore, isn't awarding a patent for circumventing a protection measure completely out of whack? o_0;;

Re:Just going from the summary... (2, Informative)

Corydon76 (46817) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485861)

The DMCA only covers protection mechanisms designed to protect access to a copyrighted work, not just any protection mechanism. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is probably more applicable to spam, although you'd still need to get a judge to agree with you on that one.

Wouldn't that be illegal in the US anyway? (5, Interesting)

Nailer (69468) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485709)

Couldn't you use the DMCA to stop circumvention of mail security software?

That's a question, not a statement.

Re:Wouldn't that be illegal in the US anyway? (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485870)

Only if you're mail security is some sort of copyright protection scheme... DMCA Digitla Millenium Copyright Act, it has to be in regards to copyright.

Perhaps ... (1)

krumms (613921) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485717)

The patent covers "A system and method for circumventing schemes that use duplication detection to detect and block unsolicited e-mail (spam.)", although it's unclear exactly what AT&T want it for

Spamming, maybe?

Maybe AT&T is just disorganized (5, Interesting)

astrashe (7452) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485719)

Maybe this isn't part of a master plan -- maybe it's more random.

I could see a guy inside of AT&T working on something, and having to justify his time to his bosses. The lawyers who filed the patent probably work directly for AT&T, and so they gave it to them, and asked if it could be patented. The patent lawyers filed it, because they're patent lawyers, and that's what they do.

I tend to assume that this situation would fit right into a dilbert storyline. I don't think it's part of a grand strategy.

I can't imagine that AT&T would sell spam technology, because it would be a public relations nightmare. And I can't imagine that they'd try to sue spammers for patent infringment, because that would be expensive, and they wouldn't get anything out of it.

Re:Maybe AT&T is just disorganized (1)

El (94934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485761)

I can't imagine that AT&T would sell spam technology, because it would be a public relations nightmare.

Boeing now derives over half it's revenue from military equipment, and it doesn't seem to have suffered any public relations damage. Are you trying to say that if you sell technology designed to circumvent spam filters, it will make everybody hate you, but it you sell technology designed to simply kill people, nobody will mind? I think AT&T has a much greater chance of forcing their patents to be used only for good than Boeing does...

Re:Maybe AT&T is just disorganized (1)

roe1352 (529409) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485894)

Yeah, building a brand-new, cutting-edge, bright, shiny, super new jet-fighter with your name on it is suuuuuuuch bad PR.

Re:Maybe AT&T is just disorganized (3, Insightful)

Phroggy (441) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485837)

I can't imagine that AT&T would sell spam technology, because it would be a public relations nightmare.

You don't think they'd sell it under the "AT&T" brand name, do you?

Several distinct companies operate under the AT&T brand name; I'm sure AT&T owns several companies that operate under different brand names as well.

How many normal people do you suppose make a connection between Bugs Bunny, WinAmp, Mapquest and CNN? They wouldn't make the connection between AT&T and whatever subsidiary sold the spam software either.

THey've patented something... illegal? (2, Funny)

jesdynf (42915) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485721)

Okay. I can work with that. Now I shall patent a method to circumvent systems that use visual inspections to detect and block illegal quantities of cocaine from entering national and/or state jurisdictions.

Forget trying to wrest money out of some crummy /spammers/.

Supply-side patent (1)

mclove (266201) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485743)

This looks like a patent for the sort of anti-anti-spam technique that only bugs ISP's, all the more evidence that AT&T is using it to give their IT end (and those of their "friends") another weapon to fight spammers. Individuals can't use this kind of screening, it only works on the mail server level and above. There are plenty of other techniques they use for confusing individuals; heck, considering the USPTO's ineptitude these days someone could probably patent "Method for disguising the commercial nature of e-mail by use of misleading subject lines". Or "Method for sending unsolicited commercial e-mail that does not include the word 'ADV:' in the subject line". Or just patent "Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail" and sue them all.

History of the GNU/Anux Operating System (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485760)

In 1991 Finnish college student Penus Cornhole created an operating system for his own use that used his tiny genitalia but provided the same capabilities as the normal-sized penises he used at college.

A victory for anti-spam (4, Interesting)

bencvt (686040) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485766)

After reading through the comments, I'm surprised at the number of people who can't see the obvious: this patent is a huge boon for the anti-spamming community. The author of the article is one of those people too, unfortunately. RTFA, but think it through, too.

With the patent, AT&T can sue the makers of spamming software for patent infringement, unless SpamCo (or whatever company) makes sure that their mass e-mailer doesn't use any of AT&T's patented methods for avoiding filters. Of course, this will result in a crippled program: AntiSpamCo (or whatever company) knows exactly what SpamCo is not allowed to do, so their anti-spam filters will actually work.

So why is AT&T doing this? One, it could be good PR for them once AntiSpamCo et al. realize the implications. Two, (this is for all you conspiracy freaks out there) the government may have asked them do to it. Governmental agencies cannot hold patents. Only individuals and corporations hold patents.

I'm not trying to claim that AT&T is some benevolent corporation, though. It's entirely possible that, in addition to suing SpamCo, AT&T could also try to sue AntiSpamCo. They might not have as strong a case, but AntiSpamCo would still be using pieces of AT&T patent in their filtering software.

Despite that troublesome possibility, it'll be good to see SpamCo get what's coming to it. A lot (perhaps most) of SpamCos are rather or the sleazy, shoddy side; I'm sure there will be patent infringement. It will be interesting too see how soon and how vigorously AT&T will defend their patent in court.

Great idear oh LORD! (Of'course it's a great idea) (1)

dripwipeflush (714251) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485807)

Patent the technology so you can sue the spammers when they use it.

Why couldn't RedHat do this?

How can this be applied to SCO's C&D letters?

Or is AT&T breeding its own sinister plan of mailbox domination?

Find out next, on the BOFH channel!

they cant evade my firewall (1)

Indy1 (99447) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485811)

thats why i firewall spammers. Let the stupid fucks
try to dodge iptables.

AT&T Promoting Anti-Anti-Spam? (0, Redundant)

CMU_Ken (574499) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485823)

I doubt that they're promoting anti-anti-spam, so much as abusing the patent system so that they can sue spammers that try to circumvent for patent infringement.

AT&T has cornered the market (3, Interesting)

finity (535067) | more than 10 years ago | (#7485852)

AT&T recently got in trouble for violating the no-call list, because they were telephone "spamming." Also, I've gotten more telemarketing calls from AT&T than any other company, despite the fact that I've asked to be removed from their lists many times. It seems to me that AT&T will use this to spam with e-mail now, since the telephone is no longer working. I don't imagine they'll be violating their ISP's regulations if they do start spamming, either.

2 wrongs dont make a right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7485903)

2 wrongs never made a right
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