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Location-Based Search Was Patented In 1999

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the can-you-spell-champerty dept.

Patents 253

greenbird writes "Another patent fiasco has begun. Wired reports that a patent on location-based Internet searches was filed in 1996 and granted in 1999 (patent is here). A patent troll company name Geomas acquired the patent and has filed suit against Verizon in none other than Marshall, Texas. They claim this is the first in what will be a long line of lawsuits. Geomas has amassed a $20M war chest in venture capital to use for getting rich off of a clearly obvious idea."

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Go Geomas! (5, Funny)

andyring (100627) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482483)

As a Vonage subscriber and hating what Verizon is doing to them, I'm all for someone doing a goatse on Verizon.

Obvious? (3, Insightful)

winkydink (650484) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482565)

Lots of things are obvious after they have been done for the first time.

Re:Obvious? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19482699)

Lots of things are obvious after they have been done for the first time.

Yes, but some things that are not obvious become obvious once a suitable infrastructure is put in place. So even if they did think of the idea before it was technologically possible to implement...the idea would have been thought of anyway once the Internet approached its modern state.

At a bare minimum, a patent application should require a functional prototype. Stating "A device capable of faster than light travel" is not the same thing as inventing a device capable of faster than light travel, so why should the mere description of the technology be sufficient to patent it?

Re:Obvious? (2, Informative)

hankwang (413283) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482867)

At a bare minimum, a patent application should require a functional prototype.

According to the rules, the patent application should contain enough information for someone skilled in the art to build the device or whatever it is that is patented.

One of the nice things of the patent system is that an inventor can freely talk to investors in order to build the prototype without risking that the idea is stolen and commercially exploited by someone else.

Re:Obvious? (2, Informative)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483063)

I seem to recall learning about geocoding (locating a point on the ground by looking up an address) and site location based on spatial criteria when I was in my Geography classes (Geospatial Information systems) at Penn State back in the 1990. The idea of getting a point from an address and selecting other features based on a buffer (spatial shape around the point) isn't all that original. We did exercises to find suitable locations around a point using ESRI's ArcInfo (think it was version 5.x) software. One of the exercises had us locating a site to build a business and we needed to have access to various utilities while avoiding residential areas and schools. I'm sure early GIS textbooks define enough cases of implementing this, just not in a web based input form. I don't think though that web enabling this functionality though qualifies as something patentable.

Re:Obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19483339)

Neither do I, but the US patent system surely does!

For years we have had vending machines. Press a button, make a payment, and you get a can of coke or a packet of cigarettes.
Web-enabling this technology has been one of the most used examples of a software patent granted to Amazon.

Re:Obvious? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19483193)

According to the rules, the patent application should contain enough information for someone skilled in the art to build the device or whatever it is that is patented.

One of the nice things of the patent system is that an inventor can freely talk to investors in order to build the prototype without risking that the idea is stolen and commercially exploited by someone else.


That's nice in theory. In practice what it means is someone can patent anything he can imagine, even if he has no clue how to invent one. He just needs to know enough techno-babble to convince the patent reviewer that he can invent one (and often he doesn't even need that). Then he can sit on the patent and wait for someone else to do something similar (and make money off it), and sue the pants off the actual inventor.

This is going on a lot right now in the software industry. When idealistic principles (such as patents) cause more harm than good (as they are right now) they should be rejected on pragmatic grounds.

Re:Obvious? (0, Offtopic)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482701)

As a Vonage subscriber and hating what Verizon is doing to them, I'm all for someone doing a goatse on Verizon.
Lots of things are obvious after they have been done for the first time.
So... by replying to the OP in this thread, you're saying that the first time someone did a goatse, it was obvious?!

I highly doubt it, as there is NO WAY anyone can conceivably argue that goatse is obvious. I mean, you can't really say we all would have thought of doing goatse, except that guy did it first.

Oh, wait. I see -- you just replied to the FP so your comment would be at the top of the comments section. NVM.

Re:Obvious? (1)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482737)

And there are plenty of things that are obvious, even before they have been done the first time.

Think up possible applications of general AI...

Oh wait! It's not real, yet? Then I guess the first to implement any particular use, should get the seal of non-obviousness, no?

Re:Obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19482817)

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa! Slow down there kiddo. This is slashdot not land-of-common-sense!

Since you're obviously new here let me give you some tips.
1. Whatever bias is presented in the summary is not bias, it's the truth!
2. Skim the summary once, then post the absolute first reaction you have towards the summary.
3. If your first reaction is actually an insightful, well informed one then post a "3) Profit!", "I for one welcome our new...", or "In Russia..." joke.

If you follow these simple tips you'll fit into the slashdot crowd just fine!

Re:Obvious? (1)

froggero1 (848930) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482907)

I believe it was the yellowpages who first came out with this groundbreaking technology.

Re:Obvious? (1)

BoberFett (127537) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483527)

Yes, but did they do it on the internet?

Re:Obvious? (2, Informative)

Snowgen (586732) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482949)

And just to put this in historical context, this patent was filed (never mind prep time) a scant 45 days after Alta Vista went live. It would be a couple years before Google would enter the scene. The big search engine of the day was AOL's WebCrawler. Compared to WebCrawler, this certainly is not an obvious idea.

Re:Obvious? (1)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483115)

I have a post further up describing how this concept was described in my Geographic Information System (GIS) classes back in 1990. Location based search is a simple buffer around a point to select other geospatial features (in this case businesses). The initial point is obtained by doing a geocode against vector line file containing street address information and finding the coordinate point. I'm sure there are plenty of geography text books describing algorithms on how to do this. The only thing unique to this patent is that they planned to slap a web page on the front end. I hardly think that counts as obvious though as many people and companies were doing similar steps to web enable their applications.

Re:Obvious? (2, Informative)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483121)

Google, AltaVista and WebCrawler are all essentially just fluffy frontends to databases that have existed pretty much in their current form quite likely since before you were born. Acquire the right sort of data and set algebra from a 30 year old ACM article will easily do this sort of thing (geocoded searches).

You are confusing the isssue of whether or not it was done in plain view of "consumer" with whether or not it's been done.

Re:Obvious? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483171)

Lots of things are obvious after they have been done for the first time.

Prior art on location-based searching: You open up the map, and look at a location.

Further prior art: You can look at the key of the map, find out what the scale distance looks like, and then draw a circle on the map with a compass that shows you all locations within a certain range.

It's time to stand up and invalidate all patents that protect some utterly commonplace activity that people have been doing for years simply because it's done with a computer (the primary difference in this case as compared to a human is that it can iterate faster) or on the internet (which is just another variation of "with a computer".)

Et tu stupida? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19482919)

Just because something is going after something you dislike doesn't mean it's not going to come after you even worse.

The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend. Would you get in a cage with a tiger and a raccoon? Sure .. the Cobra may kill the tiger (or vice versa), but don't expect that the winner will put on lipstick and entertain you afterwards.

By Clicking On This Link: Make Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19482995)

You hereby grant power of attorney, under the statutes of the United Gulags Of America, for all of your assets to
President George W. Bush [whitehouse.org] for the duration of your life.

Patriotically,
President-VICE Richard B. Cheney

"Nothing to see here... move along" (1)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482501)

At least that's what could result if this patent sticks.

Re:"Nothing to see here... move along" (1)

TehZorroness (1104427) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482645)

I hope it does (stick). Perhaps the only hope for the patent system is for it to burn down violently and be reborn from it's ashes.

Re:"Nothing to see here... move along" (1)

Kandenshi (832555) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483263)

Sounds like you're referencing the phoenix there with the whole death and then reborn from it's ashes bit.
Since this is a site largely for nerds, need I remind you that the reborn Phoenix might be rather... "dark [wikipedia.org] ". The patent system might go up in flames, and be designed anew, and be even worse(I know, I know, hold the laughter) than the current version.

Change would be nice, but who do you have lined up to design the new version? Will they make a version we slashdotters will approve of?

Huge purple penis (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19482515)

In your butt. [goatshe.cx]

No good (1)

Himring (646324) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482519)

I don't know. Profit by patent lawsuit didn't work for the Wright Brothers or the inventor of the modern bullet cartridge (who partnered with S&W and was left spending all the money he made in patent court defending the invention). Can anyone site a successful patent-suing model as a sole means to wealth?

How 'bout Darl? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482609)

SCO may be going down the drain, but he seems to be raking in quite a healthy sum while they continue to circle the drain. Maybe not profit for the investors, but certainly profit for the board.

Re:How 'bout Darl? (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483159)

Doesn't count. Patents are just about the only form of so-called "Intellectual Property" that aren't at issue in the SCO suits.

SCOX didn't have any, and IBM dropped their patent counterclaims for their own reasons (mostly it wasn't worth it)

Re:No good (2, Interesting)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482769)

I suppose Rambus.

Re:No good (1)

pavera (320634) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483187)

The guys who knocked of RIMM last year for 500 million.

It does pay (1)

PatentMagus (1083289) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483255)

Firstly, SCO is suing on copyright and trademark, not patent, infringement.

Qualcom is a good example. At first they just held a lot of CDMA IP. As they pushed in court they ended up also building a technology company.

There is at least one fat and juicy patent case a month that makes the patent holder some nice cash. Scan a patent law journal for details.

There are a huge number of cases that end in favor of the patenter after the first nastygram or two. Perhaps a little arbitration. If the license fee is reasonable, folks tend to pay.

Finally, it does pay the lawyers

They Forgot One! (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482525)

From the patent:

7. The system of claim 1, wherein said geographical search area is the world.

8. The system of claim 1, wherein said geographical search area is a continent.

9. The system of claim 1, wherein said geographical search area is a country.

10. The system of claim 1, wherein said geographical search area is a state.

11. The system of claim 1 wherein said geographical search area is a provence.

12. The system of claim 1, wherein said geographical search area is a territory.

13. The system of claim 1, wherein said geographical search area is a city.

14. The system of claim 1, wherein said geographical search area is a point of interest.
Quick! Patent me up:

15. The system of claim 1, wherein said geographical search area is ... the universe.

Laugh now, but thousands of years from now when you're looking for an all night Denny's around Omicron Percei 8, the system that you use will end up paying me patent royalties!

Re:They Forgot One! (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482587)

Mmmm, Popplers...

Re:They Forgot One! (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482667)

Laugh now, but thousands of years from now when you're looking for an all night Denny's around Omicron Percei 8
Haha, nice try patent troll.

I own the patent to searching wherein the geographical search area is a star system, sucka. That wasn't a universe-wide search.

Besides, how can a geographical search area be universe-wide?

At the Risk of Taking a Joke Too Far (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19482831)

*somewhere in the neutral sector of the galaxy*

eldavojohn: "Now, your honor, I know my colleague, Red Flayer, here is trying to mystify you with his scientician speak of geo this and graphical that but I am a but a mere country chicken lawyer here to prove that my patent does hold up."
The Judge: "I'm going to allow this."
eldavojohn: "... I presume that, like most judges, you are familiar with the Ballmer/RIAA/Lucifer defense, your honor?"
The Judge: "You mean whereby I award you the patent and there is a large comically sized bag in the backseat of a BMW waiting for me in the parking lot with an equally large and comical green dollar sign on the front of it?"
eldavojohn: "It's a Viper not a BMW..."
Red Flayer: "OBJECTION!"
The Judge: "Overruled, Red Flayer. This is a court room--not some fantasy land where prior art and common sense rule. I rule in favor of eldavojohn Inc."

Provence (2, Informative)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482777)

From the patent:

11. The system of claim 1 wherein said geographical search area is a provence.
So they patented searching the south of France, but not searching in a province? :)

Re:They Forgot One! (1)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482789)

when you're looking for an all night Denny's around Omicron Percei 8, the system that you use will end up paying me patent royalties!

My planet is tidally locked, you insensitive clod!

Re:They Forgot One! (1)

ClayJar (126217) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482911)


when you're looking for an all night Denny's around Omicron Percei 8, the system that you use will end up paying me patent royalties!


My planet is tidally locked, you insensitive clod!

In that case, any Denny's not along the terminator or on the day side with certainly be an all night Denny's.

Re:They Forgot One! (1)

ls -la (937805) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482855)

11. The system of claim 1 wherein said geographical search area is a provence.
Due to a typo in the patent application, this should only apply to Southeastern France [reference.com]

Re:They Forgot One! (1)

metarox (883747) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483035)

Well then we're all safe in at least 10 provinces in Canada! Don't know about the other 3 territories though.

Re:They Forgot One! (1)

Lane.exe (672783) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482965)

All these mod points and there's not a -1 : Patent Troll option. Boo.

Re:They Forgot One! (3, Insightful)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483129)

Those are called "dependent claims" where the first claim (claim 1 in this case) is the major claim and the dependencies all add an extra "limitation" to the claim. Example: Say I make a semiconductor circuit that is novel as my invention and then I say: The same circuit described in claim 1, wherein said circuit is manufactured using gallium arsenide. Now, the dependent claim is narrower than the original which just described the basic circuit since I'm saying the invention is now also manufactured using gallium arsenide. The claims you have spotted are actually narrowing the main claim to more detailed searches. This is a popular technique since the main independent claim is often shot down by the examiner, but one of the dependent claims (that is strictly narrower) can be elected to replace it if the narrower claim actually avoids prior art. Also, most Slashdot stories about patents imply that 1 patent covers the whole Internet or something dumb like that. In real life, the USPTO (and courts) generally keep the scope narrower. Just because this patent describes a method for doing geo-aware searches does not mean that every geo-aware search is covered, companies work around patents every single day.
    You also have to remember, that it is not simply the claims that matter, but rather the disclosure of the actual subject matter in the patent that work. I can claim to cure cancer, but if my disclosed method is to throw ketchup packets at the cancer patient, then somebody else who actually cures cancer will have nothing to fear from my patent even if the claims are the same. If Verizon is using a technique that is substantially different from what is disclosed (or 'taught') by this patent, then it has nothing to fear, simply 'claiming' a technology is necessary but not sufficient to show infringement.
    To those of you including the story poster who cavalierly call this "obvious", you have to remember that it is not the fact that it might be obvious today it was what was obvious in 1996.... so before you say "Google already does this!" Just remember these guys had the idea and applied for the patent in 1996... 2 years before Google even freakin' existed. Finding obviousness requires a careful reading of the patent and the prior art. It reminds me of a story about some digital photography patents that Kodak got in the late 1980's that some moron on this site called 'obvious' because his camera (from 2006) had the same features that were in the patent.....

    As for the trolls who own the patent now, they can suck it, but at the same time, if the actual disclosures that are actually described in this patent are being used by Verizon, they should pay. If you were the lone inventor and some big company came and took your idea and never paid you for it, you'd probably want to be paid too.

What's a provence? (1)

micromuncher (171881) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483399)

Guess they don't check for typos.

Hmm. (2, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482575)

Obvious now, but was it obvious in 1996 when they filed for it? The problem is that this sector advances so damn fast that it's hard to even tell sometimes.

Of course, holding the patent in their back pocket then arising like a submarine is a despicable action, one which I think should invalidate a patent. I think if you patent something you should be required to at least attempt to make a business off it instead of suing the shit out of people who have more balls than you.

Re:Hmm. (1)

brunascle (994197) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482807)

does it matter?

if i can come up with an idea completely on my own, without influence from someone else who had the same idea, why should someone else prevent me from using that idea just because they thought of it first?

Re:Hmm. (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482843)

if i can come up with an idea completely on my own, without influence from someone else who had the same idea, why should someone else prevent me from using that idea just because they thought of it first?

What prevents you? I don't know, the PATENT the other guy has?

If you think the idea of patents is a crock, fine -- SAY SO.

Re:Hmm. (1)

CyberLord Seven (525173) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483009)

To give you an incentive to reveal the secret, inner workings of your invention.

That's that whole "promote the arts and sciences" part. Instead of keeping your insights secret, as you might be tempted to do, We, The People grant the first person to reveal the secrets the right to control the invention for a limited time.

Now we all understand that you, or someone else, might come up with the same idea independantly. But we don't want people hording knowledge. Thus the idea of patent protection.

It would be interesting to go back in time and clue the writers of the law in on the whole idea of submarine patents and software patents in general while we're at it. Wonder what kind of reaction we would get.

Re:Hmm. (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482823)

Is it really an invention when it's just the logical combination of things? I don't think so, not in the league of what patents were to protect. Patents were not meant to protect ideas in the first place, but implementations.

If these ideas would come about anyway through a natural progression, why do we have patents again? What was the purpose of patents again? American Constitution: "To promote the progress of science and useful arts."

It seems to me that software got along just fine without patents and that patents in this field are hindering the stated purpose.

Re:Hmm. (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482893)

I basically agree with you. But the point of argument wasn't whether patents are a good thing on the whole, but whether this particular "invention" was obvious or not. Fact is, I have no idea, and without a time machine to skip back to 1996 I'm not sure we could ever answer that question.

That's the whole problem. These guys laid in wait for so long that when it finally might go to court, it's harder to answer question like "Was it obvious?" Maybe that's a part of the strategy. I dunno.

Re:Hmm. (1)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483233)

As a Geography student back in 1990, I can tell you that we were taught the concept patented here minus the web interface. The idea of locating a point based on an address is geocoding. You can then generate a buffer around that point to select other spatial features (in this case businesses). I don't see anything unique or new here except that he slapped on a web front end, and plenty of other companies were doing similar things with their applications.

Re:Hmm. (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483173)

Nevermind 1996. This idea was obvious in 1496. Describe the technology to Columbus and he would probably ask you where's the google mapping service that will tell him how to get from Venice to Cuba.

Re:Hmm. (3, Insightful)

Vornzog (409419) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483231)

Obvious now, but was it obvious in 1996 when they filed for it?
YES. Painfully obvious.

I have prior art. It is called a "phone book".

You shouldn't be able to patent something that already exists just by putting it on the internet. There is no innovation there. As long as the patent system continues on its current money-grubbing descent into the realm of anti-innovation lawsuits, I can't help but think that the current state of the economy is a mirage. We, as a nation, don't produce anything and just sue each other. When the bottom drops out, a whole bunch of people are going to be up against the wall. I hope that list includes patent trolls like this yutz.

I want to see some very simple patent reforms.

1) You can't patent something unless it actually advances the current state of the field. Re-expressing existing data, like a phone book, in a new medium doesn't even come close.

2) You must make a good faith effort to develop the technology. I understand there could be funding issues for the little guy, yada, yada. We've all heard those arguments before. I'm talking about talking about IP firms that just buy and hold -- no benefit to society whatsoever.

3) You must defend your patents in a timely manner. Someone else in this thread was suggesting 90 days. That might be a bit short, but only just a bit. You sit on a patent waiting to see who you should sue, you should lose the patent.

4) I've seen Marshall, TX, crop up one too many times. Is one local judge with an agenda determining patent policy for the whole nation? No checks or balances there...

Re:Hmm. (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483321)

You shouldn't be able to patent something that already exists just by putting it on the internet. There is no innovation there.

Agreed, but there are a zillion patents already based on exactly that. If you're going to toss THIS one out, you have to toss them ALL out. That's probably a good thing, but I don't see it happening.

Re:Hmm. (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483319)

As the previous child said, the yellow pages are a good example of a location based search, and they were already deep into innovation wars by 1999.

As a side note, you'd think that something becoming ubiquitous before a patent troll surfaced would indicate obviousness.

Now is when I'd like to say... (4, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482579)

if the patent isn't defended within (name your short time frame - I say 90 days*) from the first commercial, non-licensed implementation, the patent automatically expires and falls into the public domain.

Show of hands on the proposal?

*For those who say 90 days is too short, let me preemptively reply that if you are so involved in a particular industry that you can patent something in that field, you damned well ought to notice when someone announces or commercially uses that idea _in your field_ within three months. Otherwise, you really are just a troll.

Re:Now is when I'd like to say... (1)

Lockejaw (955650) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482729)

*For those who say 90 days is too short, let me preemptively reply that if you are so involved in a particular industry that you can patent something in that field, you damned well ought to notice when someone announces or commercially uses that idea _in your field_ within three months.
The country is a big place to monitor, especially for smaller inventors.

Re:Now is when I'd like to say... (2, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482781)

1. Fix the patent system, don't just come up with bullshit bandaids. This should require registering prototypes and reference implementations, like it did in the old days.
2. Make a good keyword searchable database for patents with an RSS feed for all the various categories so developers can remain up-to-date on the truly novel ideas that are being registered (as they all will be now, see step 1)
3. Encourage developers to remain abreast of the patents in the field, when they expire and how much they can license them for.

That's how we make the patent system work *for* us. And if we can't get it to work for us, then let's just get rid of it.

Re:Now is when I'd like to say... (1)

AusIV (950840) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482801)

While I agree that something to this degree ought to be done, what's to keep someone from releasing a commercial non-licensed implementation very quietly, not promoting it for 90 days, then when the patent gets challenged they could claim it had been commercially available for 90 days without being challenged. I'd think you could invalidate almost any patent that way. Like I say, I'd like to see something to block submarine patents, but the legislation needs to be careful not to create a method for invalidating any patent. That said, I think the patent system is seriously broken, and I'd almost prefer to see it scrapped anyway.

Re:Now is when I'd like to say... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19482975)

Dear Republican Scum:

You fools owe the liberals for everything you have. As I pointed out before, the great achievements in human history were all done by liberals.

In fact, conservatives fought these liberals, because for conservatives are for the "status quo." Liberals are all about growing in new directions.

We liberals said the Earth was round. You didn't believe us. We said the Earth was not the center of the universe. You excommunicated us. We said there were dinosaurs. You said it was a hoax. We said there were cavemen. You still don't have an answer for that one.

We liberals said women and blacks deserved to be equal members of society. You conservatives fought us, and killed many of us.

We are the great painters, comedians, writers, playwrights, poets, songwriters, scientists, and lovers.

Name me one conservative legend in human history who was regarded as a good person. Just one. You can't, can you?

There are no conservative Mozarts - only Salieris. We had MLK. You had Bull Connor.

We had Picasso, Warhol, Dali, Da Vinci, Michelangelo. You would have hung a few of these guys for being gay. Where are your artists?

You have nothing. No artists. Because you conservatives are not creators. You are destroyers.

All of Silicon Valley and most of Wall Street is center-left liberals and progressives. The blue states in this country account for most of the country's wealth.

We have Harvard and the Ivy League. Where are the great conservative colleges? University of Texas?

Name the great cities of the world that are known for being conservative? London, Paris, Rome? Anyone?

You conservatives have been a drag on human development since the very beginning. Since Cain (the conservative, always trying to please Daddy) and Abel (the good son, the open-minded son).

When you conservatives ruled the world, you hijacked Christianity and turned it into a ritualistic mega-church with a standing army. You massacred millions. There is a reason why that era was called the Dark Ages.

We liberals countered with the Enlightenment. The Renaissance. It is a fact that all the writers, all the artists, all the great men to come from this era were liberals. Many were seen as enemies of the Church and State.

But as always, we liberals brought you conservative fools out of the darkness. We dragged you out, kicking and screaming, as usual.

We showed you the wonders of evolution, of science, and you hate us. We are showing you the miracle of stem cell research, the promise that it has, and you want to shut it down.

We have showed you the dangers of global warming, whether it's man made or not - and you still refuse to believe.

We tried to free the slaves. And you fought us. We crafted the world you Republicans live in. Your 40 hour work week, getting paid for overtime, no child labor, Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid... We created all of it.

We created the very world you live in. The art you see, the movies you love, words on the page that stir your heart.

And still you fight us.

You Republican fools would let a simple TV ad stop you from purchasing a product that would probably benefit you.

As usual, you cut off your nose to spite your face. Typical. But completely expected.

After all, when your heroes are Hannity and Limbaugh and Beck, you must live a sad, hateful life. Anti-everything that makes sense - and pro-everything that doesn't make sense.

I guess that's why you fools support this war, even though it makes us less safe.

We're fighting them over there, so we don't have to fight them over here! Genius.

So, continue to hate the liberals and progressives among you. Just be sure to step out of the way as we lead humanity into this next century.

Oh, and hate Steve Jobs and Bill Gates - two of the people responsible for you even typing on your computer. By the way, they're both big-time liberals.

Love,
Mac users

Re:Now is when I'd like to say... (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483029)

90 days works fine if you are a big firm. It is TOTALLY unfair if you are a tiny little firm, working in say New York city and some other too bit firm starts violating it in Hawii, and you don't even hear about it for one year.

Your method just invites people to QUIETLY violate the patent for 90 days, then publicise that "hey, we have been doing this for 3 months in the small townin alabama and you did nothing".

Try again.

Re:Now is when I'd like to say... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483131)

For those who say 90 days is too short, let me preemptively reply that if you are so involved in a particular industry that you can patent something in that field, you damned well ought to notice when someone announces or commercially uses that idea _in your field_ within three months.

What if I go on vacation for three months? And I filed the patent on my OR, not with corporate help?

Your proposal is horrible. At the least, the time period should be a year.

I have a better idea, though. Let's stop granting bogus patents. Start by eliminating all software patents, and all patents on some commonplace activity "on the internet". Your proposal is that we should continue granting bogus patents, but then invalidate a lot of them. I can't help but notice that this involves a lot of pointless thrashing.

Re:Now is when I'd like to say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19483469)

if the patent isn't defended within (name your short time frame - I say 90 days*) from the first commercial, non-licensed implementation, the patent automatically expires and falls into the public domain.

Show of hands on the proposal?

*For those who say 90 days is too short, let me preemptively reply that if you are so involved in a particular industry that you can patent something in that field, you damned well ought to notice when someone announces or commercially uses that idea _in your field_ within three months. Otherwise, you really are just a troll.


Jesus fucking christ, you're an idiot.

You expect people to keep track of what everybody is doing in every country in which you have a patent?

Here's an interesting case. General Electric (up until recently, when the sold the business) made some of the best plastics in the world. GE has many, many patents related to plastics, some on the plastic itself, some on the process for using/making the plastic.

You expect GE to have spies in every plastics plant in the western world to keep track? Being GE, they actually could do that, but anyone else couldn't.

I repeat myself, Jesus fucking christ, you're an idiot.

Re:Now is when I'd like to say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19483585)

*For those who say 90 days is too short, let me preemptively reply that if you are so involved in a particular industry that you can patent something in that field, you damned well ought to notice when someone announces or commercially uses that idea _in your field_ within three months. Otherwise, you really are just a troll.

Then how did they miss a patent filling if Verzion was so involved in the industry?

I am no fan of software patents; but the rational is lacking. A company could do a local offering in some small town west of nowhere (with a population of 50) and say hey your patent is now void. Now introduce their service into a larger market.

Just wondering what is going to happen to local.google.com

Obvious When? (1, Insightful)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482595)

How obvious was this in 1999 when the patent was granted?

Re:Obvious When? (1, Redundant)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482797)

Have you heard of the Yellow Pages(tm) ?

Re:Obvious When? (1)

Embedded2004 (789698) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482895)

I had location based searches in my website back in 97.

Re:Obvious When? (1)

The0retical (307064) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482979)

It was called a phone book.

I suppose the counter argument could be that they just published their phone book online with a search functionality.

Re:Obvious When? (1)

theantipop (803016) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483245)

1999 doesn't matter. You will have to look on or before Jan. 31, 1996.

pretty obvious (GIS) (1)

joggle (594025) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483463)

GIS (geographic information system) is all about collecting geographic-based data and making it accessible. Click here [wikipedia.org] for a history of GIS. Even back in 1999 it was possible to buy CDs with various GIS data collected from the census bureau (such as income levels, age groups, etc. for each zip code). It was just a matter of time before the same data would be accessible via the web.

Slashdot exercise: prove it was an "obvious idea" (4, Interesting)

reebmmm (939463) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482649)

Let's put slashdot's money where its mouth usually is. Here's the very first claim:

A system which associates on-line information with geographic areas, said system comprising:
  • a computer network wherein a plurality of computers have access to said computer network; and
  • an organizer executing in said computer network, wherein said organizer is configured to receive search requests from any one of said plurality of computers, said organizer comprising:
    • a database of information organized into a hierarchy of geographical areas wherein entries corresponding to each one of said hierarchy of geographical areas is further organized into topics; and
    • a search engine in communication with said database, said search engine configured to search geographically and topically, said search engine further configured to elect one of said hierarchy of geographical areas prior to selection of a topic so as to provide a geographical search area wherein within said hierarchy of geographical areas at least one of said entries associated with a border geographical area is dynamically replicated into at least one narrower geographical area, said search engine further configure to search said topics within said selected geographical search area.

To invalidate it as obvious, you have to find one or more documents/patents or example of a system that contain all of the elements of the claim (or enough sources that show that it was obvious to combine).

Remember, you have to be able to find documents that existed on or before the date of filing Jan 31, 1996.

Frankly, it would probably be easier to show that the disclosure was not enabling. But, let's have at it.

Slight correction (1)

rewt66 (738525) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482747)

I believe that the prior art has to predate the filing by more than one year, so we need something before January 1995.

Re:Slight correction (1)

theantipop (803016) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483289)

It doesn't have to. However, if it does you will have a statutory bar on their application, preventing them from swearing behind your reference.

Re:Slashdot exercise: prove it was an "obvious ide (2, Insightful)

Retric (704075) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482905)

Easy way around it would be to use a database that does not use that method.

a database of information organized into a hierarchy of geographical areas wherein entries corresponding to each one of said hierarchy of geographical areas is further organized into topics;

EX: every point is a specific lat and longitude.
DB has 2 indexes latitude and longitude.

Select * from loc where (lat loc_lat - 10) and (lon loc_long - 10)

EX2: Database of information organized into topics that are further organized into a hierarch of geographical areas.

Patents need to be specific enough not to be obvious and generic enough not to be easily circumvented.

Re:Slashdot exercise: prove it was an "obvious ide (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482921)

My problem is not with it's obviousness. I think in 1996 it was a very novel idea. But I have two problems with the lawsuit.

1) The Idea had previously been novel, but at this point, 11 years after filing, the idea has become extremely obvious with a large number of public and private investments and markets already coming to play with absolutely no opposition from the patent holder. Personally, I don't think patents should cover anything for more than 5 years. I also think that any organization that doesn't make any effort to defend their patents should lose them (that is not to say that an organization must attack any and all offenders, just that the must make a minimal consorted effort to show that the offenders were aware of the infringment).

2) It is an IDEA. Sure, they stuck the word "system" in there, but they have no device, no code, no product. I'm all for people patenting things. Tangible things. Or exacting specifications and directions on how to build things (source code, blue prints, schematics, etc...) But an idea??? Come on. This isn't even psuedo code. I wouldn't even call it a passable design spec. This is more like an excessively wordy RFP, and a RFP is a looooong freaking way from anything patentable.

-Rick

KSR v Teleflex again (1)

PatentMagus (1083289) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482991)

It's no longer necessary to have such specificity. All the elements in one document means the invention is anticipated (already invented). All the elements in a set of documents can lead to obvious. Under the KSR ruling though, if it could have been obvious to try.

Here, what is weird is the "hierarchy of geological areas" as an organizational scheme. As such, searches based on distance or metropolitan area could be non-infringing. So, an alternatively organized geographical search system would be pretty decent prior art. Also, under the obvious to try attack, a printed reference might serve as prior art because in 1996 it would have been pretty obvious to put it on line.

There was a slew of patents filed/granted in the late '90s because computer networks weren't mentioned in the prior art and thereby got past the old obviousness test. Expect those to be widely challenged now that the obviousness test has changed.

As for saying the specification wasn't enabling - not a good argument. It is hard for something to be this blazingly obvious yet not enabled. The bar for that is "someone practiced in the art" could go from specification to recreating the invention. I know lots of people who, back in 1996, could have gone from just the claims to the invention.

Re:Slashdot exercise: prove it was an "obvious ide (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19483135)

The GIS textbook I used in 1998 was (C) 1995.

Re:Slashdot exercise: prove it was an "obvious ide (5, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483151)

I'm pretty sure the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy would qualify as prior art. That it is fictional in no way keeps it from embodying those ideas.

Re: prove it was an obvious idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19483155)

a database of information organized into a hierarchy of geographical areas wherein entries corresponding to each one of said hierarchy of geographical areas is further organized into topics; and

In other words, they invented Yellowpages ... on a computer. Asswipes.

Re:Slashdot exercise: prove it was an "obvious ide (1)

huckamania (533052) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483235)

I'm pretty sure that the world cup, in some form or another has used a system just like this.

During qualifications, the hierarchy of geographical areas would be South America, Europe, North America, Carribean, Austalasia, Africa. Topics would be matches played, matches scheduled, standings, statistics, leading scorers. During the actual Cup, the hierarchy would be the entire planet.

I'm pretty sure they put this on a computer some where. If not the world cup, then how about the Olympics. I would be surprised if there wasn't something on AOL or Prodigy prior to 1995 for events like these.

Re:Slashdot exercise: prove it was an "obvious ide (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483237)

Well, since I'm not going to be appearing in court I'm not going to drum up all the documentation... But the only thing that would be remotely hard to find evidence of predating 1996 would be the part about "at least one of said entries associated with a border geographical area is dynamically replicated into at least one narrower geographical area".

The first two bullets are simply describing the client-server model of networking which was old hat in the 60s.

The third bullet just describes a database with geographic location as the primary index. Aside from what are certainly many examples used within businesses, any electronic phone directory is an example of prior art. I recall using one as early as 1994.

The fourth bullet, aside from the part I mentioned, is nothing more than a search with geography as the primary search term, which is an obvious thing to do once you have a database organized by geography. Citysearch.com, yellowpages.com, I'm certain an example of this predating 1996 can be found. They may even include the technical detail of duplicating information into multiple geographies.

By the way, "obvious" is not supposed to require prior art -- prior art is by itself proof that the patent isn't novel, but isn't always necessary. It's just a sad fact of the USPTO that the non-obvious requirement is not enforced much at all.

Re:Slashdot exercise: prove it was an "obvious ide (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483253)

All you need is the database.

All the database has to do is be able to form queries suitable for returning the sort of search you are looking for. The whole thing is probably in some 50 year old math textbook somewhere.

Oddly enough, the library database at OCLC probably qualifies.

This ties into my earlier rant about how libraries are actually organized and locations are coded based on what the local organizational algorithm is.

Re:Slashdot exercise: prove it was an "obvious ide (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483307)

Two words: Oracle Spatial

Re:Slashdot exercise: prove it was an "obvious ide (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19483351)

Well, from 5 minutes in google, here's a paper that touches on several similar topics [psu.edu] , published in 1996. Here's another one by Larson, published in 1995 [berkeley.edu] (look up the title: "Geographic Information Retrieval and Spatial Browsing" and you'll find citations to it that indicate a publication date of 1995). The relevant process even has a term: Geographical Information Retrieval (GIR). Larson's paper also makes mention of a system called "Virtual Tourist" for finding and browsing web sites by their geographic location.

About the only aspect of the claims that is superficially novel is putting together a geographic location from IP address algorithm with a search engine, but that falls into the "Duh, obvious!" category.

Something tells me that searching for more than 5 minutes might yield *alot* more.

erm, isn't that fairly common? (-1, Flamebait)

untaken_name (660789) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482689)

...for getting rich off of a clearly obvious idea.

Yeah, that's NEVER been done before.
If it was so 'clearly obvious', why did it take until 1996 before anyone thought of it? Why didn't YOU patent it first, if it was so damn obvious to you?

Re:erm, isn't that fairly common? (3, Insightful)

crabpeople (720852) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482861)

"If it was so 'clearly obvious', why did it take until 1996 before anyone thought of it? Why didn't YOU patent it first"

Because most people arent stupid patent trolls?

Re:erm, isn't that fairly common? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483451)

Your equation of "thought of it" with "patent it" is really exemplary of the problem.

The whole reason these submarine patents become problems is because someone did think of it, but didn't think to patent it. So the real inventor gets shafted by patent trolls later.

This is as bleeding obvious as the yellow pages, or a realty database.

y'aint seen nuttin' yet (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19482707)

Graphon Inc. has a patent suite that covers, just for starters, two-factor authentication, use of firewalls (hardware or software), VPN, software licensing over networks, and on and on. Original patents issued in the 1995 - 1996 time frame, lots of recent divisionals & CIPs. Couple of 'em: 5790664, 5898830. First test case in play in 5th Circuit. Maybe a whole lotta snakes waiting in the weeds for big sectors of net-based industry.

This wasn't obvious in 1996 (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482795)

And you aren't going to see me crying for the company that beat Vonage down with it's patent bat.

Go go geomas!

Gosh a patent story.... (1)

janrinok (846318) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482883)

It seems like every few days, somebody post another patent story to prove the the system in the US is broken.

Then we get the same arguments repeated

Can't we just wait until we get a patent story where there is something unusual about it and then start a discussion?

Prior Art, Dial '0' For Operator (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482917)

Way back when, you used to be able to pick up the phone and ask for the phone number and the address of a particular place. The nice lady at the other end of the phone would access the proper directory and give you the address. (I know, I am old.)

Stupid (0, Redundant)

labtec6 (443718) | more than 7 years ago | (#19482953)

{sarcasm}
I'm just going to patent the process for turning a cow into meat.

I'm going to first sue the people that process cows into yummy meat.

Then I'm going to sue anyone that sells or eats meat.

Then I'm going to sue California for having too many hippies that don't eat meat!

I'll make BILLIONS!
{/sarcasm}

Yellow Pages (4, Insightful)

borgasm (547139) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483119)

um, the Yellow Pages ?

Re:Yellow Pages (1)

theantipop (803016) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483403)

The yellow pages may have made a decent primary reference. However it may have been a bit of a stretch to knock out all the claims under a "obvious"-type rejection based on it. Specifically:

5. The system of claim 1, wherein said hierarchy has a structure comprising plural geographical levels into which the geographical areas are geographically categorized by size to provide a low level, one or more intermediate levels and a high level, each of the geographical levels above the lowest level encompassing a plurality of lower level geographical areas.

Also, depending on what kind of case law existed back then, you may have had a hard time arguing the obviousness of the computer/network system and device claims. This isn't as much a cut-and-dry issue as the one-click patent in my opinion.

Prior art: Phone book? (2, Insightful)

dwheeler (321049) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483161)

Once there was something called a "phone book". The "Yellow pages" let you do geographic searches based on keywords; the "White pages" let you do geographic searches based on name. You could do this by hand, or dial an operator to do this search for you.

Say it again: "No software patents".

Fire with Fire (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483179)

If you filed a patent on a process that the patent office would need to use in the future to protect the process of filing patents, what would happen ?

wouldn't work (1)

PatentMagus (1083289) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483365)

a couple things Firstly, the examiners are experts at one thing - the process of filing patents. They could dredge up so much prior art that you'd likely never get the patent.

Unless you are brilliant and really forsee a future need.

Then, because of a national need, they can seize a license to your patent. Eminent domain. It applies to more than real estate.

Obvious Patent? (1)

TheBearBear (1103771) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483221)

Was this obvious back in 1996 or 1999? probably so, probably not. But does that matter? Let's look at this in the broader sense. In the field of databases, "location" is just that, a field - a criteria. it could be hair color, height, race, planet. Replace location with those other criteria. In this case, should we allow a patent for each of those criteria? A race-based search. A hair-color based search? Should we have to define every single criteria so we can decide if they are patentable or not? NO!

This was totally obvious. it's what a database search is. a criteria based search. be it location-based or whatever

Oh yeah, it's ON THE INTERNET!! :P

Yes! Wait, no! (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483313)

Root for Verizon or root for software patents? My head's exploding.

I need to see this positively. It's a Win-Win situation. Whatever the outcome, the bad guy loses.

obviousness of problems vs. solutions (3, Insightful)

nothings (597917) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483377)

I see a lot of comments talking about this idea being non-obvious in 1999.

You do not get a patent on a problem or an idea. You get a patent on a solution to a problem, an implementation of an idea.

"Location-based search" is an idea. "A machine that can trap/kill mice" is an idea. "A sturdy container made from cardboard" is an idea. "Heating water to create steam to power the motion of a vehicle" is an idea shading towards an implementation. The intention of patents was not to patent the idea. Yes, ideas are often clever, creative, novel, or "innovative": "nobody ever thought of doing that before". But that means very little; somebody has to think of it the first time. In the grand scheme of thing, ideas are cheap, and not what patents are supposed to protect (in the interests of encouraging).

You are supposed to patent an implementation of an idea: a detailed, specific approach to solving the problem. The solution is not supposed to be "obvious to a skilled practitioner", but there is no enforcement of this in the patent system, which is where many valid grumbles about patents arise.

I don't know anything about cardboard box patents, but there are some obvious constraints on the problem. You'd probably like to be able to tile the plane with the unfolded shape, so you can cut them out of a larger run of the material. You'd like to be able to fold the thing up into something along the lines of a box (a rectangular parallelpiped)--boxes pack well for shipping. You need overlapping flaps to allow sealing it.

Given those constraints, there are probably only a few basic plausible methods for a design for making a cardboard box that's efficient and effective. Given so few plausible designs, somebody who invents one and patents it is not significantly helping or advancing science (because the constrained solution space is so small, any skilled practioner could invent one of the few possible solutions). Actual advances are what patents are intended to encourage, but (at least as I've characterized the problem) I doubt anything like that happened in the basic design of cardboard boxes. (I also know nothing about what, if anything, got patented. This is just trying to offer an analogy.)

This happens constantly in software; most of the time the idea is the only novelty, and the patent is either interpreted as covering all possible solutions to the idea (making alternative implementations irrelevant), or it patents the obviously best solution (if you're going to draw a cursor in a manner that's reversible, XOR is the most effective algorithm; there were apple ][ / Atari 800 games that drew sprites the same way--but the patent only covered uses of the algorithm for drawing cursors on windowed workstations). Someone long ago patented the idea of a networked game with sound and was semi-recently extorting game companies with it; the patent was old enough that the most viable candidate for prior art fell through, because although people used a port on the old Commodore Pet computer to create a networked game, and used the same port to drive a simple sound output, nobody ever did both at the same time (I guess it only had the one port); and without prior art, nobody involved in the patent system accepts that the idea that combining the two is obvious, or at least that the two or three obvious ways of implementing game-sound-in-networked-game are, indeed, obvious. Or (more accurately, I expect) they've abandoned all pretense of 'obviousness' as meaning anything other than 'prior art'.

Cant someone (IBM?) set up a war chest to destroy (1)

ourcraft (874165) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483447)

the companies that do this? And their relatives and their friends? If enough of the trolls were destroyed big time, including their investors and their families and their friends, wouldnt it stop happening? I mean nothing illegal of course, just equitable legal quick-sand. I'm not suggesting child custody battles, or property confiscation, am I? Private investigators and church groups could help.

Internal Corporate IT projects (1)

micromuncher (171881) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483465)

Have been doing this as long as there has been networking... and there are quite a few that have "really deep pockets" and tons of "prior art" to squish this - perhaps the legal folks at Ma Bell will go on a rampage.

Mix a few words around and you have locating a computer in a building based on its network address, corporate yellow pages, and a floor map...

Which is what we did in colledge 30 years ago to see what cute chick was sitting at that terminal.

Ok, solution (2, Interesting)

pavera (320634) | more than 7 years ago | (#19483481)

Seems like every company that wants a website has to do the following anymore:
a) create a subsidiary for the website
b) incorporate subsidiary in non-software patent country
c) host website and everything related to it in said country

These are just the patents I know about, but they pretty much preclude anyone from making an ecommerce website:
a) 1 click patent
b) CC payment over the internet is patented
c) "find nearest location" is patented

So if you want to accept money, allow customers to find your physical locations, or conveniently store customer information for repeat purchases (all normal, rather obvious things) then you have to pay licensing fees for each of these features (if licensing fees are available). The owner of these patents could just as easily say "No you can't license it, you have to pay me $100,000 to develop your website with this feature". Or, "No I'm the only one that can have a website with these features".

Basically, if software patents aren't done away with soon, all progress in the US will halt. The writing is on the wall.

For those of you stating that this is "non-obvious" in 1996, have you ever heard of the yellow pages?! This is a patent on online yellow pages. I'm 100% certain that the yellow pages companies have been storing their directories in DATABASES and accessing them across a NETWORK for decades. I'm also sure that whatever function they use internally to convert the digital yellow pages into a physical printed yellow pages book would violate this patent, running an SQL query on a database across a network would constitute a search engine on a database based on location and topic.

Creating an online web based interface to an existing database of listings which can be searched by location and topic is not novel, its not even an idea. It's been done for decades, just because its online doesn't make it any different.

Prior Art: infospace.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19483515)

I used a web application called infospace.com prior to 1995. It clearly had location-based searches, all the way down to the street level. Infospace.com is still online, too.
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