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Google and Others Sued For Automating Email

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the promoting-the-progress-of-science-and-the-useful-arts dept.

Patents 273

Dotnaught sends us to InformationWeek for news of the latest lawsuit by Polaris IP, which holds a patent on the idea of responding automatically to emails. The company has no products. It brought suit in the Eastern District in Texas, as many patent trolls do — though the article informs us that that venue has been getting less friendly of late to IP interests, and has actually invalidated some patents. The six companies being sued are AOL, Amazon, Borders, Google, IAC, and Yahoo. All previous suits based on this patent have been settled.

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HAHAHAHAHAHA!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20392813)

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!! What a stupid fucking troll!!

Re:HAHAHAHAHAHA!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393043)

stupid as Cory Doctorow's stupid, stupid haircut?

finally on topic! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20392821)

A few years ago, while browsing around the library downtown, I
had to take a piss. As I entered the john a big beautiful all-American
football hero type, about twenty-five, came out of one of the booths.
I stood at the urinal looking at him out of the corner of my eye as he
washed his hands. He didn't once look at me. He was "straight" and
married - and in any case I was sure I wouldn't have a chance with
him.

        As soon as he left I darted into the booth he'd vacated,
hoping there might be a lingering smell of shit and even a seat still
warm from his sturdy young ass. I found not only the smell but the
shit itself. He'd forgotten to flush. And what a treasure he had left
behind. Three or four beautiful specimens floated in the bowl. It
apparently had been a fairly dry, constipated shit, for all were fat,
stiff, and ruggedly textured. The real prize was a great feast of turd
- a nine inch gastrointestinal triumph as thick as a man's wrist.

        I knelt before the bowl, inhaling the rich brown fragrance and
wondered if I should obey the impulse building up inside me. I'd
always been a heavy rimmer and had lapped up more than one little
clump of shit, but that had been just an inevitable part of eating ass
and not an end in itself. Of course I'd had jerk-off fantasies of
devouring great loads of it (what rimmer hasn't), but I had never done
it. Now, here I was, confronted with the most beautiful five-pound
turd I'd ever feasted my eyes on, a sausage fit to star in any fantasy
and one I knew to have been hatched from the asshole of the world's
handsomest young stud.

        Why not? I plucked it from the bowl, holding it with both
hands to keep it from breaking. I lifted it to my nose. It smelled
like rich, ripe limburger (horrid, but thrilling), yet had the
consistency of cheddar. What is cheese anyway but milk turning to shit
without the benefit of a digestive tract?

        I gave it a lick and found that it tasted better then it
smelled. I've found since then that shit nearly almost does.

        I hesitated no longer. I shoved the fucking thing as far into
my mouth as I could get it and sucked on it like a big brown cock,
beating my meat like a madman. I wanted to completely engulf it and
bit off a large chunk, flooding my mouth with the intense, bittersweet
flavor. To my delight I found that while the water in the bowl had
chilled the outside of the turd, it was still warm inside. As I chewed
I discovered that it was filled with hard little bits of something I
soon identified as peanuts. He hadn't chewed them carefully and they'd
passed through his body virtually unchanged. I ate it greedily,
sending lump after peanutty lump sliding scratchily down my throat. My
only regret was the donor of this feast wasn't there to wash it down
with his piss.

        I soon reached a terrific climax. I caught my cum in the
cupped palm of my hand and drank it down. Believe me, there is no more
delightful combination of flavors than the hot sweetness of cum with
the rich bitterness of shit.

        Afterwards I was sorry that I hadn't made it last longer. But
then I realized that I still had a lot of fun in store for me. There
was still a clutch of virile turds left in the bowl. I tenderly fished
them out, rolled them into my handkerchief, and stashed them in my
briefcase. In the week to come I found all kinds of ways to eat the
shit without bolting it right down. Once eaten it's gone forever
unless you want to filch it third hand out of your own asshole. Not an
unreasonable recourse in moments of desperation or simple boredom.

        I stored the turds in the refrigerator when I was not using
them but within a week they were all gone. The last one I held in my
mouth without chewing, letting it slowly dissolve. I had liquid shit
trickling down my throat for nearly four hours. I must have had six
orgasms in the process.

        I often think of that lovely young guy dropping solid gold out
of his sweet, pink asshole every day, never knowing what joy it could,
and at least once did, bring to a grateful shiteater.

Re:finally on topic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20392919)

Hmm. Are you a Mac user?

Re:finally on topic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393361)

No, he's clearly an MCSE. They specialize in shit eating.

I for one... (-1, Offtopic)

hikaricore (1081299) | about 7 years ago | (#20392823)

Welcome our Email automating overlords.

Re:I for one... (1)

Sergeant Pepper (1098225) | about 7 years ago | (#20392925)

Not for long, if Polaris has their way.

Re:I for one... (5, Funny)

Tribbin (565963) | about 7 years ago | (#20392955)

== Auto-reply:

I'm sorry, I'm on a vacation to Italy,

I might respond to your post during the week if I get a chance.

Otherwise I will respond over the weekend.

Good luck,

ridiculous (1)

socsoc (1116769) | about 7 years ago | (#20392839)

I hope the patent is explained better in the filing than in the article, because it's ridiculous. It'll get thrown out easily if the big guys decide to defend themselves rather than settle

Re:ridiculous (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | about 7 years ago | (#20393085)

The patent was linked to from TFS. You didn't read it?

It would seem to me that IMDB had this down ages ago. I seem to recall reading somewhere that it was originally an email-accessed database.

Re:ridiculous (2, Informative)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about 7 years ago | (#20393105)

yeah it's probably explained better in the filing http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PT O1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fs rchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=6411947.PN.&OS=PN/64119 47&RS=PN/6411947 [uspto.gov] Everyone is entitled to an opinion, some are based on fact, others are based on warm fuzzy feelings. Congrats on first post though.

Storm botnet save us (1)

Crazy Taco (1083423) | about 7 years ago | (#20393525)

As long as we are all talking about this, I'd like to request that the storm botnet speak up and send a few automated emails their way, hopefully enough to blow these trolls off the face of the Internet.

Procmail v1.0 released in 1991 (5, Informative)

ebunga (95613) | about 7 years ago | (#20392853)

Subject says it all. Procmail v1.0 was released in 1991. That's a little earlier than 1997...

Re:Procmail v1.0 released in 1991 (4, Insightful)

larry bagina (561269) | about 7 years ago | (#20392943)

The patent isn't just email filtering, it also covers emailing the sender a canned response (from a repository) based on the content of the message. I'm sure procmail can do that, but unless they procmail included an example of doing just that, it's not prior art. I'm sure prior art does exist, though -- when usenet was king, moderated newsgroups did something similar.

Re:Procmail v1.0 released in 1991 (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393263)

Although my college was already on a T1 line when I went there in 1991, others had talked about the time before when the school only had UUCP connectivity ( which would be around 1988-1989 ). A user could send a message to the remote system ( a bigger university which had a dedicated line ), which would automatically fetch the file with ftp, then send it back to the user on the next UUCP exchange. The driving force for installing the T1 was because students using UUCP to request files from remote systems were getting to the point where the modem was staying dialed in for most of the day.

Re:Procmail v1.0 released in 1991 (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | about 7 years ago | (#20393579)

I can remember about fifteen years ago having a connection that didn't allow ftp. After a little bit of experiment, I learned how to send an email message to a site that would use the body as the instructions for an ftp session and send me back the file uuencoded.

Re:Procmail v1.0 released in 1991 (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393749)

>> it also covers emailing the sender a canned response (from a repository) based on the content of the message

This sounds an *awful* lot like what pretty much *every* mailing list manager has been doing for at least 15 years. This includes Procmail's SmartList, MajorDomo, and the
venerable BITNET LISTSERV which I was using in the mid-to-late 1980's. Anything
hooked up to -owner filtered the mail for administrivia and often sent mail
back in response to an admin request.

What about M$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393997)

Outlook does automated replies (Out of Office and canned replies from application mail boxes), is Uncle Billy paying his fair share???

Re:Procmail v1.0 released in 1991 (5, Interesting)

darnok (650458) | about 7 years ago | (#20392945)

Absolutely - Procmail covers so many bases in terms of "automated stuff that can be done with email" that it's hard to see how it wouldn't be prior art for just about any patent issues in this area.

On a broader topic, I can see the day when law firms engaged to provide legal defences against software patent claims start to employ older geeks specifically to identify prior art solutions. It's gotta be cheaper to keep a bunch of us around on some sort of "professional retainer" basis than to engage paralegals to trawl through old patent documents (and I'd "Procmail" probably wouldn't come up in a patent document search anyway) - many of us who've been around for a while would've thought "Procmail" before we'd finished reading this summary.

Re:Procmail v1.0 released in 1991 (2, Funny)

JordanL (886154) | about 7 years ago | (#20393181)

Why keep us geeks ona retainer? Just sue Google, and it'll appear on Slashdot, then you'll get all the free prior art guidance you need.

Re:Procmail v1.0 released in 1991 (1)

Original Replica (908688) | about 7 years ago | (#20393287)

Or maybe use "Ask Slashdot" ?

Re:Procmail v1.0 released in 1991 (1)

Tribbin (565963) | about 7 years ago | (#20392985)

Didn't postoffices have this kind of service much earlier?

Re:Procmail v1.0 released in 1991 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393083)

Yes, but this is "on the internet". Thus is a "invention" that's "worthy" of a patent.

There is only one solution to this crap: Software patents need to be abolished or cost $1,000,000,000 per hour.

--
Hallowed are the Ori.

vacation(1) released in 1983 (5, Informative)

jqpublic (200129) | about 7 years ago | (#20393005)

man vacation

[snip]

AUTHOR
              vacation is Copyright (c) 1983 by Eric P. Allman, University of Berkeley, California, and Copyright (c) 1993 by Harald Milz
              (hm@seneca.ix.de). Tiny patches 1998 by Mark Seuffert (moak@pirate.de).
              Now maintained by Sean Rima (thecivvie@softhome.net)

Re:vacation(1) released in 1983 (1)

HaeMaker (221642) | about 7 years ago | (#20393107)

EXACTLY! This is the first example I thought of... Although, it doesn't meet all of the criteria.

Re:vacation(1) released in 1983 (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#20393347)

A method for automatically interpreting an electronic message, including the steps of (a) receiving the electronic message from a source; (b) interpreting the electronic message using a rule base and case base knowledge engine; and (c) classifying the electronic message as at least one of (i) being able to be responded to automatically; and (ii) requiring assistance from a human operator. The method for automatically interpreting an electronic message may also include the step of retrieving one or more predetermined responses corresponding to the interpretation of the electronic message from a repository for automatic delivery to the source.
That's abstract the patent. If you think that vacation meets even that then you're an idiot. And we haven't even started looking at the claims yet.

This is what is wrong with Slashdot.

Re:vacation(1) released in 1983 (5, Funny)

tsm_sf (545316) | about 7 years ago | (#20393447)

Please respond with "unsubscribe" in the message body to be removed from this news aggregator.

Re:vacation(1) released in 1983 (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393593)

So why does it have to be like that with you? Can't he/she just be, for example, mistaken, ill-informed, wrong, drunk, confused, or brain-farting? Why does he/she have to be, in *your* mind, an idiot? Would it really kill you to be just a touch more civil in your discourse, fucktard?

Can you be more specific? (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | about 7 years ago | (#20393775)

That's abstract the patent. If you think that vacation meets even that then you're an idiot.

Can you be more specific on exactly where he is an "idiot"?

A method for automatically interpreting an electronic message...

So far, so good.

...including the steps of (a) receiving the electronic message from a source;...

Yes.

...(b) interpreting the electronic message using a rule base and case base knowledge engine;...

Yes. If recipient == X then do Y.

...and (c) classifying the electronic message as at least one of (i) being able to be responded to automatically;...

Not only "classifying" but also responding.

Seems like he was right and you were wrong.

Re:Can you be more specific? (1)

Tower (37395) | about 7 years ago | (#20393965)

The point is, the abstract could describe this as "A method wherein the ice cream is scooped with a bare hand" and it wouldn't matter, because the specific claims are all that matters. In this patent, there are 66, like...

44. The system of claim 41, further comprising:

a repository of predetermined responses, one or more of the predetermined responses being selected by the knowledge base for proposed delivery to the source; and

an electronic router for forwarding the electronic message to the human operator when the classifier indicates that a response to the electronic message requires assistance from a human operator, the router delivering the predetermined response to the source when the human operator deems the response appropriate.

45. The system of claim 44, wherein the classifier categorizes the electronic message into at least one of a plurality of sub-categories based on subject matter content of the electronic message.

*Those* are what matters.

Re:vacation(1) released in 1983 (1)

geobeck (924637) | about 7 years ago | (#20393921)

A method for automatically interpreting...

I think that says it all. You can't patent an idea (although a lot of current patents seem to be based on that principle); you can patent a method or a device for implementing that idea. If everyone else uses different code to implement the idea, then the well-informed judges that hear patent cases will dismiss the suit.

Well-informed judges... Oh crap. They're screwed.

Even Earlier (1)

ewhac (5844) | about 7 years ago | (#20393231)

procmail? Try vacation, which has been present on BSD systems since the early 1980's.

Schwab

WOW! (5, Funny)

wamerocity (1106155) | about 7 years ago | (#20392887)

"Six major Internet companies have been sued for using computers to process their e-mail."

As opposed have PEOPLE sort ELECTRONIC data?

Seriously, I'm glad to see someone hop on this in such a timely manner, because if Polaris IP doesn't nip this in the bud now, automated email response could become widespread in no time!!

Wow, I break IP daily (1)

Crazy Taco (1083423) | about 7 years ago | (#20393491)

Wow, I break IP constantly on my project if this is true. I write lots of automated notifications that I send by email. Come and get me Polaris!!!

jesus - sendmail IS prior art / concept (3, Informative)

GuyverDH (232921) | about 7 years ago | (#20392891)

message received.
sendmail looks up in it's address base and either a) forwards to appropriate mailbox or b) replies with undeliverable.
further details within the rule base may determine whether additional copies need to be forwarded to other mailboxes, or further responses are necessary.
integration with things like spamlists, virus scanners all add to the *automated* handling of e-mail based on rules.

just because they are adding additional automation to the last leg in the e-mail journey doesn't mean that the mail was already processed, scanned, had rules applied and copies made/forwarded by the server before the client ever saw the message.

Obvious patent - apply server rule processing to email client.... BFD.

Re:jesus - sendmail IS prior art / concept (1)

just someone (13587) | about 7 years ago | (#20392935)

actually, sendmail rules are better than procmail.

Only thing is that they say "the electronic message 11 may take on a variety of data formats including digital formats, voice data, dual tone multi-frequency (DTMF) tones, or the like"

Parent looked out the window in English class. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393167)

sendmail looks up in it's address base and either a) forwards to appropriate mailbox or b) replies with undeliverable. When you mean to use the possessive form, use "its." You could also use some proper capitalization. Now go back to school and pay attention in English class.
Anonymous Coward Sig 2.0:
--
Madonna is the most skilled artist ever to exist! Madonna is the best musician. If you don't listen to Madonna music, you are one of the unwashed masses who aren't capable of enjoying the sound of the best voice in the world. Anything else is garbage. Madonna is like the C programming language.

Procmail (3, Interesting)

just someone (13587) | about 7 years ago | (#20392907)

http://www.procmail.org/procmail.HISTORY.html [procmail.org]

This file contains a summary of changes made in various versions of procmail up to and including the current release. It is derived from the HISTORY file that is included in source distributions. For information on downloading the current release please see the Procmail homepage.
Only the last entry is complete, the others might have been condensed.

1990/12/07: v1.00
1990/12/12: v1.01
1991/02/04: v1.02
1991/02/13: v1.10
1991/02/21: v1.20
1991/02/22: v1.21
1991/03/01: v1.30
1991/03/15: v1.35

e4c? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20392911)

one mans idea is another mans patent troll (0, Flamebait)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about 7 years ago | (#20392931)

Ftfp... >In order to overcome the disadvantages of the prior art, ... So let me understand, the company makes no product ... Only behemoths like Microsoft and Google should be allowed to dedicate massive resources to _succesfully?_ develop products based on other peoples insight? God forbid someone actually make money by THINKING. /dives into flame resistant suit/

Developing products on someone else's insight ... (1, Insightful)

joe_n_bloe (244407) | about 7 years ago | (#20392999)

Only behemoths like Microsoft and Google should be allowed to dedicate massive resources to _succesfully?_ develop products based on other peoples insight? God forbid someone actually make money by THINKING. /dives into flame resistant suit/

Normally, conventional practices and ethics dictate that when you make money by thinking, you use some kind of original thought.

Re:one mans idea is another mans patent troll (1)

larry bagina (561269) | about 7 years ago | (#20393019)

patents and copyrights are supposed to *encourage* the arts and useful sciences. If you think up an idea and then implement it, society benefits and advances. And if others are competing against you with your idea, you are disadvantaged. If you think up an idea and do nothing but sue other people over it, society does not benefit.

Particularly an idea like this one. If 6 companies (plus others that settled) independently came up with this idea, maybe it's obvious.

Re:one mans idea is another mans patent troll (2, Insightful)

Fyzzler (1058716) | about 7 years ago | (#20393889)

What about Paul Vixie and FTPMail? I was using that way back around 1988 when DEC still existed as a company.

Re:one mans idea is another mans patent troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393025)

HELL YES they are patent trolls,

I can't sit around thinking up good ideas and just patenting them without producing, marketing, or even developing them.

If I could, I here by start the patent process for the Fusion reactor, flying car, quantum computer, and the cure for cancer.

so whenever someone actually comes up with these... expect a call from my lawyer.

Usually patents that seem stupid aren't quite ... (5, Insightful)

joe_n_bloe (244407) | about 7 years ago | (#20392967)

... but I did skim the first half or so of the claims, and this is one of the most-thoroughly-and-obviously-covered-by-prior-art patents I have ever seen.

I'm sure that *well* before procmail there were products and academic papers covering exactly this subject matter in detail. How a patent like this ever passes the laugh test, I don't know.

Re:Usually patents that seem stupid aren't quite . (2, Interesting)

trawg (308495) | about 7 years ago | (#20393623)

Assuming this goes to court and they lose - what is the penalty? Surely they at least have to pay the court costs of Google and the others?

Others precede it (5, Informative)

Rinisari (521266) | about 7 years ago | (#20392969)

IIRC, Majordomo and GNU Mailman predate this patent by at least six years. In fact, the current mailman-users mailing list's earliest archive is May 1998, so work would probably had to begun far before that. A little research proved that LISTSERV predates all of them, actually. From Wikipedia:

LISTSERV is the first electronic mailing list software application, originally developed in 1984 by Ira Fuchs, Daniel Oberst, and Ricky Hernandez for the BITNET computer network.

Re:Others precede it (-1, Flamebait)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#20393363)

I dunno what you're talking about.

The patent is linked in the summary.. if you want to argue that listserv software invalidates this patent, then you're an idiot.

Re:Others precede it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393535)

So why does it have to be like that with you? Can't he/she just be, for example, mistaken, ill-informed, wrong, drunk, confused, or brain-farting? Why does he/she have to be, in *your* mind, an idiot? Would it really kill you to be just a touch more civil in your discourse, fucktard?

Re:Others precede it (0, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#20393565)

We're on Slashdot. It's an article about patents. 99% of the people who post a reply have never filed a patent in their life. Yes, they're idiots.

Re:Others precede it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393757)

I've known people who were wrong about something, and I've known some idiots too, and those sets aren't identical. I think your logical fallacy is self-evident, but I won't belabor the point. I must be a throwback to a more civilized age.

Re:Others precede it (4, Informative)

TekPolitik (147802) | about 7 years ago | (#20393837)

99% of the people who post a reply have never filed a patent in their life. Yes, they're idiots.

The problem with idiots is that they are usually too stupid to recognise their own idiocy.

In my experience it is idiots that file patents believing their trivial, worthless idea actually merits one. Smart people are more likely to realise that what while they may have been pretty clever coming up with a particular thing, that doesn't mean it's so innovative it merits the protection of a statutory monopoly, and are less likely (for a variety of social reasons that I am sure are beyond you) to pretend otherwise in order to cheat the system.

Based on the abstract, LISTSERV would seem to be prior art. As I recall LISTSERV could indeed respond to commands in the content of messages, forwarding messages lacking valid commands to the list operator. Even if LISTSERV and Majordomo do not implement all of the claims, they would certainly provide part of the evidentiary basis for invalidating the patent on grounds of obviousness.

Going through the claim, many of the claims are obviously just plain silly. Take as an example claim 5 which is for "The method of claim 4, wherein the sub-categories include product service subject matter and product sales subject matter". That adds nothing even remotely capable of being described as an inventive step to claim 4 and so it necessarily stands or falls together with claim 4.

Even if there is some implementation that is much more involved and complex than the descriptions in the patent, the patent has to be interpreted standing alone, not in the context of an external implementation, and in that context the stuff that's there involves no innovation, let alone invention, and lacks anything even slightly complex.

I am not going to go through all 66 claims since the first 20 or so are so silly as to make it not worth my time examining all of them in detail. Suffice it to say, Amy Rice and Julie Hsu (the "inventors") are indeed idiots if they think there's anything meriting a patent here.

Re:Others precede it (0, Flamebait)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#20393869)

What the patent covers is responding to customer queries with technical help.

There's no prior art of such.

Claiming that listserv is prior art is like claiming that telephone is prior art to a fax machine.

And you look just as stupid.

Re:Others precede it (1)

sholden (12227) | about 7 years ago | (#20393389)

I think they all skip the "requiring assistance from a human operator" classification in the patent. Which is where it matters since there's obvious prior art for a purely automated system - once that interprets the mail and forwards it to a human operator with a prioritised list of potential replies seems less likely to have such obvious prior art. Though it seems likely someone did this earlier, it's an obvious way to use a imperfect classification system after all.

Majordomo (4, Informative)

Y2K is bogus (7647) | about 7 years ago | (#20392971)

Majordomo did just what the patent says. It parsed a message, determined whether it could be automatically responded to (as in subscribe, unsubscribe, list members, help, list charter, etc) or needed to be forwarded to the list owner. Majordomo did much of the list management entirely automatically, hence it's name. They describe something entirely comprised of Majordomo's functionality. Our company was using Majordomo to manage email lists in 1995, well before this patent was filed.

Clearly their intent is an "Ask Jeeves" type service that is email based. You send a support query to an email address and the server tries to guess at what canned FAQ is most appropriate and sends it.

--Perry

Re:Majordomo (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 7 years ago | (#20393229)

Clearly their intent is an "Ask Jeeves" type service that is email based. You send a support query to an email address and the server tries to guess at what canned FAQ is most appropriate and sends it.
OK, now this is not quite the same as a dumb autoresponder, and maybe even not something for a rules based autoresponder like procmail could provide (though obviously, I'm no expert).

Bounces (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20392995)

Aren't bounce messages automated email responses? I might be stumbling in the dark but I think bounce messages are required by the RFCs covering email.

Unbelievable (1)

Eccles (932) | about 7 years ago | (#20393001)

In 1989 I wrote various shell scripts for automating the retrieval of back issues of an electronic magazine I edited. Ill-formed ones would come to me.

Re:Unbelievable (1)

dougmc (70836) | about 7 years ago | (#20393273)

And you're not the only one who did things like this. Though in your specific case, you'd have to be able to provide some proof for it to be used as prior art (which might be difficult to find in your specific case, but lots of proof for other cases is certainly out there.)


Hopefully google and friends will fight and win.

prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393003)

I used email for the first time in 1975. And I remember getting a demo then of an automatic reply mechanism. I think it was a bit of a nasty sendmail, or whatever was used at tht time, related extension or hack in unix. I can't remember the details, but perhaps someone else does. I'll see if I can track that down.

Wow (5, Funny)

marcello_dl (667940) | about 7 years ago | (#20393021)

1. work at the patent office.
2. award patents with the magic 8 ball procedure (pat. pend.)
3. nobody fires you for that!
4. profit!!!
5. ??? (these are coming from those being sued for infringement)

Re:Wow (3, Funny)

EvanED (569694) | about 7 years ago | (#20393153)

award patents with the magic 8 ball procedure (pat. pend.)

Clearly they aren't using a magic 8 ball. The magic 8 ball sometimes says no.

Re:Wow (1)

Original Replica (908688) | about 7 years ago | (#20393327)

3. nobody fires you for that!

If you want suddenly start holding government officials responsible for their actions, I can think of a lot better places to start than the patent office. But hey, at this point any start is a good start.

Related Arcitles (5, Funny)

BronsCon (927697) | about 7 years ago | (#20393033)

Firehose:Google and Others Sued For Automating E-mail by Dotnaught (223657)

Who'da thunk it... Betrayed by one of our own...

Any differentiated automated response? (1)

wytcld (179112) | about 7 years ago | (#20393053)

Does this patent really presume to cover anything beyond "vacation"? Is it merely enough that (1) there's more than one response, and (2) they aren't just random? If so, I propose listserv [wikipedia.org] as prior art. First version: 1984. Not sure when the ability of the software to automatically respond to email content (e.g. "subscribe") was added - but it was a long way back.

Dueling Automated Email Replies in 1995 (4, Funny)

Esion Modnar (632431) | about 7 years ago | (#20393155)

I had automatic reply setup on a Vax email system, and I forget the exact situation, but my auto-reply got into a duel with another auto-reply while I was at lunch. Anyhoo, 2 hours later I had some 1200 emails in my inbox, all auto-replies to another auto-reply, which was replying to my auto-reply, etc, etc, ad nauseum. Good times. (Da Da Ding-Ding Ding-Ding Ding-Ding Diiiing.)

Re:Dueling Automated Email Replies in 1995 (1)

blackest_k (761565) | about 7 years ago | (#20393527)

I remember something worse,
  some guy set up not one but two auto replys on a college mail server, unfortunately he was on a mailing list his auto reply sent two emails to the listserve who faithfully mailed these replys to everyone on the list including him 2 4 8 16 32 .. it didnt take long till 1000's of emails were flying back and forth. combined with it being a weekend there was no official way to stop it. The only method available was to fake an email request to majordomo from this idiot to unsubscribe from the list. luckily all it took was faking the from field. luckily it worked and the flood stopped after a couple of hours. Back then emails were individual text files making it easy to fake an email from bill.clinton@whitehouse.gov :)

Wikipedia Link (1)

fleco (672451) | about 7 years ago | (#20393173)

I'm not living in the US, so I was curious about "venue picking".
Off-topic, I know, but interesting link anyway:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forum-shopping/ [wikipedia.org]

WHO? (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 7 years ago | (#20393187)

FTFA:

Crouch pointed out that the message routing patent at issue has been involved in litigation many times. "There are no published opinions associated with these cases and they have all been settled," he said.

Who the hell would settle something like this with such a well established history of "prior art"?

Re:WHO? (4, Informative)

AJWM (19027) | about 7 years ago | (#20393587)

Who the hell would settle something like this with such a well established history of "prior art"?

Someone who, when they appeared ready to fight it, was offered a settlement and patent license for a very nominal sum. Easier and cheaper to pay even a few hundred bucks and walk away than pay for lawyers and months of a lawsuit.

Re:WHO? (2, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 7 years ago | (#20393769)

Someone who, when they appeared ready to fight it, was offered a settlement and patent license for a very nominal sum. Easier and cheaper to pay even a few hundred bucks and walk away than pay for lawyers and months of a lawsuit.

But doesn't that mark you as an easy target?

Countersuit? Extortion? (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | about 7 years ago | (#20393943)

Isn't this exactly the kind of situation where they are so obviously a patent troll that they'd be required to pay the legal fees of the defendant? Can't you bring a ridiculous countersuit of your own, charging them for the "emotional trauma" of bringing you to court on such a BS charge?

This is almost as stupid as one click shopping. (2, Insightful)

3seas (184403) | about 7 years ago | (#20393265)

The whole point of using and programming computers is to automate....

Software Patents are acts of fraud against the consumer and users.

http://threeseas.net/abstraction_physics.html [threeseas.net]

I'm against the death penalty but.... (5, Funny)

MosesJones (55544) | about 7 years ago | (#20393271)

Extending it to patent trolls would, I feel, certainly act as a deterrent.

And this is Texas after all....

Simple (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#20393345)

just tell the judge that you hired some dude in Baghdad to type each email by hand. Who the hell's gonna go to Baghdad to verify?
     

Re:Simple (0, Offtopic)

GISGEOLOGYGEEK (708023) | about 7 years ago | (#20393781)

Interesting question, considering the USA went to Bagdad for things that we all knew didn't even exist.

there aught to be a law againts this.. (1, Redundant)

josepha48 (13953) | about 7 years ago | (#20393349)

.. there really should be a law against someone getting a patent and not using it, especially in software. The whole purpose of a patent is to give someone the opportunity to make money from selling their patent before it become public domain. The idea of getting a patent and then just using it to sue other people who implement that technology without them knowing of your patent, seems to me that it would invalidate your patent, but showing that it is 'obvious to one of ordinary skill, in the art...'. Thus the patent should be voided for being an obvious invention.

Re:there aught to be a law againts this.. (1)

wikinerd (809585) | about 7 years ago | (#20393403)

I one day somewhere read something about a law that prohibits people from using the legal system to launch fraudulent lawsuits or wasting the court's time. I don't remember the country where this law applied, or whether it's common or not. I wonder whether such a law could be used against a patent troll (IANAL).

Re:there aught to be a law againts this.. (1)

mdmkolbe (944892) | about 7 years ago | (#20393503)

But what happens when someone starts trolling the trolls? (i.e. bringing fraudulent lawsuits against people claiming that they were filing fraudulent lawsuits)

I'm gonna get sued for THIS? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#20393413)


  msg = readNext(mail);
  if contains(msg.text, "viagra") {
      reply(msg.sender, "Go fuck yourself, spammer!");
  }

       

Re:I'm gonna get sued for THIS? (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | about 7 years ago | (#20393529)

Don't do that. It only flags your email as being 'live'. Unless of course you already get millions of spam an hour, at which point you can likely assume that you have been flagged as 'live' by every spammer on the planet.

may I should sue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393457)

I had scripts and process that responded to email back in 82-83 time frame. Where is my money?

stop settling with patent trolls (2, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | about 7 years ago | (#20393459)

God damn it. Don't they see what happening? everytime you settle with a patent troll, you give birth to a new one. These guys will go away with the big boys would just make mince meat out of a few of them.

Re:stop settling with patent trolls (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | about 7 years ago | (#20393559)

Just fight the suit 'til the troll shrivels up and dies from legal fees.

Welcome (0, Offtopic)

NynexNinja (379583) | about 7 years ago | (#20393523)

I for one welcome our patent troll overlords.

(plus onZe Informative) (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393625)

the longest or variations on the uS the courtesy Of america (GNAA)

Too late! SOL, morons. (1)

soldoutactivist (1137475) | about 7 years ago | (#20393669)

Why doesn't this invoke some sort of statute of limitations? ProcMail was developed in 1991, as I've read it, and now they sue sixteen years later? And years after this kind of ability has existed in web mail? Did they not see it, or maybe forget they developed it way back when? Did someone walk down the hall and trip over an old computer that magically booted ProcMail to jog Mr. Ima Useless Dumbass' memory?

Yes, I know: patent troll, but still. Why would a judge even look at this case? You don't report a car stolen years later unless there was never a car to begin with or you yourself had performed illegal activities relating to that car. This has to fall under the same context and as such be immediately dropped. Whether or not the company has a valid case.

Re:Too late! SOL, morons. (1)

perlchild (582235) | about 7 years ago | (#20393831)

The fact that they don't have a useful product, clients or an actual company beyond the IP itself would seem to indicate why they filed suit.

Why would a judge allow a spurious, lacking in merit case? Well one possibility would be that the patent laws got changed to not require merit...
Another would be that the government actually benefits from only successful patents.
A third would be that if the defendants actually defend the patent in court, they might actually kill this type of thing... And the judge might actually become famous if that happens, for the good it did all of us...

Listed in order of likelyhood...

majordomo (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 7 years ago | (#20393689)

Uh, majordomo. Anyone? Anyone?

Can Some Please Clarify? (1)

Comatose51 (687974) | about 7 years ago | (#20393715)

It brought suit in the Eastern District in Texas, as many patent trolls do

IANAL but I'm a nerd who've occasionally picked up a law book to read for fun. In the one about patent laws, I remember reading about the court system being restructured and the creation for a Federal circuit for all patent suits precisely to prevent this "forum shopping" that patent trolls do.

YAH!!! (1)

axia777 (1060818) | about 7 years ago | (#20393717)

*sings in high Munchkin voice* We're all members of the Patent Troll Guild, the Patent Troll Guild! We're all members of the Patent Troll Guild, the Patent Troll Guild! And we just want the Cash!!! *sings in high Munchkin voice*

oh shit, I use procmail (1)

mwilliamson (672411) | about 7 years ago | (#20393793)

I even use procmail scripts commercially. I guess I'm double screwed.

funny, already done by most mail servers. (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 7 years ago | (#20393809)

Most old mail servers already did the following:

"A method for automatically interpreting an electronic message, including the steps of (a) receiving the electronic message from a source; (b) interpreting the electronic message using a rule base and case base knowledge engine; and (c) classifying the electronic message as at least one of (i) being able to be responded to automatically; and (ii) requiring assistance from a human operator. The method for automatically interpreting an electronic message may also include the step of retrieving one or more predetermined responses corresponding to the interpretation of the electronic message from a repository for automatic delivery to the source."

a) definitely.
b) examples: sendmail.conf and aliases
c) Bounce with appropriate message or deliver to human operator...

So how innovative is that patent?

What's innovation is the stuff in Douglas Engelbart's Demo in 1968.

The thing about real innovation (where it is non-obvious to someone in the field) is that it can take > 20 years before people realize what it's useful for and that they want it ;).

Smart people can think of innovative ideas all the time, the trouble is if you're too far ahead, nobody else "gets it", or the rest of the stuff hasn't been built yet. Think of a caveman coming up with a bicycle when roads weren't built yet. It'll just be a toy or mild curiosity in most places (the aztecs or whoever come to mind - the wheel's not so useful when it's just one more thing you have to carry up the mountain ;) ).

So the trouble with patents is immediately useful inventions tend to be fairly obvious, because at least nowadays when the "world is ready", either you or hundreds of others will come up with the idea, because either it's obvious or required. All the experts in the field are "thinking in the same context".

If you're thinking out of the box and beyond all those experts, then the odds your stuff get built/implemented are very low.

I don't see the point of rewarding people for inventing something that's practically inevitable, maybe if they "_dragged_ everyone to something that was good" (which people just didn't realize was good), or in hindsight tried to (oh that was a good idea of yours after all, sorry bout ignoring you ;) ) then they could be rewarded.

This guy may have beaten him to the crunch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393819)

Inventor(s)
Robert J. Hall

Assignee
AT&T Corp

Application
No. 208446 filed on 1998-12-10
US Patent Issued on February 15, 2000

http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/6026396-descript ion.html [patentstorm.us]

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

"In accordance with the principles of the present invention, an automatic moderator for electronic mail help lists is provided which builds and supervises a knowledge base of queries and responses. The automatic moderator is a list agent computer program (hereinafter, simply "list agent") which provides information for a list of people interested in a certain subject matter."

"To avoid loss of effectiveness of such help lists, it would be desirable to build a knowledge database of queries and responses and provide an automatic moderator to formulate responses to queries from, for example, new users. In this manner, old list members would not have to answer repetitive questions and would be encouraged to stay subscribed to the help list.

An early system for providing automated question answering was Eliza, described in Communications of the ACM, 9, 1966, at pages 36-45 by J. Weizenbaum, in his article "ELIZA-A Computer Program for the Study of Natural Language Communication Between Man and Machine." It is believed that Weizenbaum and others pioneered a shallow natural language understanding based on pattern matching against a user's input and then generating responses based on pattern-action rules. It successfully fooled some people into thinking a human was answering their questions."

CHANGE OF @#(*&# VENUE! (1)

keraneuology (760918) | about 7 years ago | (#20393883)

This ain't rocket science. Get a statistician, show that the juries in EDoT have a demonstrable bias and move the case.

Ah Yes! Outsourcing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20393905)

That's the great thing about the new economy! We've shipped many of the good jobs overseas, leaving our refuse class: the lawyers. They producing nothing, but cost us all much.

IETF doing this in 1984? (2, Informative)

Skapare (16644) | about 7 years ago | (#20393987)

I can't recall the exact year, but it was around 1984 (scary, eh?). The DECsystem-2060 system running TOPS-20 at The Ohio State University Computer Science Department was connected via a network I believe was CSNET. While using that system I learned of a facility to obtain RFC documents that described things like the format of email headers ... by sending email to a specific email address. It would them email the document back. I received over 20 some RFCs that way. They came back within a couple minutes, so I doubt they had someone just sitting there answering it. I suspect this was an early IETF or ARPA facility. Maybe they have some documentation that still remains about this. Maybe it's in an RFC itself. I'll have to Google for more of this.

Not just listserv, majordomo, and vacation (3, Informative)

TuballoyThunder (534063) | about 7 years ago | (#20393989)

let us not forget the email-to-ftp gateways that BITNET [wikipedia.org] used to have. Another example is the AutoDRM [seismo.ethz.ch] protocol used for seismic data, which dates to 1991.
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