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SBC's patent-shakedown: website navigation

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Courtney CouchPerson was signed in when posted
09:55 AM ET (US)
The deal they sent museumtour is nothing compared to what we received. I am from the company that museumtour purchases its services from. They contacted us wanting a $950,000 settlement for infringment and because we host thousands of sites including museumtour. A bit rediculous eh? They basically want licensing fees for every infringement on our part (which is in thousands of sites) for instances of any navigation menus, footers, headers, side bars, ad bars, etc.
Jack CushmanPerson was signed in when posted
01:18 AM ET (US)
The links on the musuem website are broken, so you can't see the scans of the letter. It appears to be a typo -- they wrote instead of To see the images, just change that p to a b:

To summarize the text: "That's a very nice website, see? It would be a shame if anything were to happen to it. Wouldn't want to see any more links get *broken*, would we?"
Deleted by author 01-22-2003 03:26 PM
jleaderPerson was signed in when posted
07:00 PM ET (US)
Interesting. The link on points to,933,841
which is US Patent #5,933,841, filed May 17, 1996 and issued August 3, 1999.

Cypherpunks' link points to
which is US Patent #6,442,574, filed April 29, 1999 and issued August 28, 2002.

The abstracts are identical, but the details are different. The lists of references are almost identical, but #6,442,574 includes a reference to #5,933,841.

Then, under "Parent Case Text", #6,442,574 says:

This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 08/649,271, filed May 17. 1996, U.S. Pat. No. 5,933,841, which application is hereby incorporated by reference herein.

Shortly after that point, I exceeded my capacity to read patent claims while engaging in sentience, but it sounds like May 17, 1996 may be the date to beat for prior art.
adolphPerson was signed in when posted
05:16 PM ET (US)
Hmmm, I thought I filed a patent on filing patents a number of years ago...I wonder where it went? I filed one on lawyer letters complaining of patent violations too...
bungatronPerson was signed in when posted
02:57 PM ET (US)
They're *welcome* to a patent on frames. We may end up with a few more usable websites. :)

This doesn't have a leg to stand on. If they could spell properly, it might have a little more credibility.
ahaPerson was signed in when posted
02:55 PM ET (US)
"Of course the strategy for these patent-enforcement companies is to go after the little guy first..."

Hmmmm--I think Washington has prior use on this strategy...
Deleted by author 01-22-2003 03:26 PM
RKBPerson was signed in when posted
01:03 PM ET (US)
Oh, for crikey's sake. If I understand this complaint properly, they're claiming to have a patent on frame-based navigation, where your navigation bar is constant, and the "main" frame changes around.

This has been the method of navigation for many a crapola Front Page website for YEARS. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But let's go way back and see what Microsoft looked like in late 1996 (notice the strip across the top):

- Robert K. Brown
Edited 01-20-2003 01:04 PM
Joe DeckerPerson was signed in when posted
12:55 PM ET (US)
Charlie--you better check the patent link again, the USPTO says the filing date was in 1996, not in 1999, which means that the claimed invention date could be as early as May, 1995. That having been said, I hope your prior art holds up. If you've got records of drafts of the book that were dated and witnessed that'd be useful to the defendants as well. (I'm presuming that your book actually addresses the specific patent--I certainly hope it does.)
Steve IvyPerson was signed in when posted
12:53 PM ET (US)
SBC's actions are not without humor:

I did a large contract job for a gentleman back in 1999-2000 who had been granted a patent on, of all things, breadcrumb navigation. The links can be found in this post:

If you drill into SBCs site at all, you'll find something like this:

I found it quite funny.


Edited 01-20-2003 01:02 PM
SazeracPerson was signed in when posted
12:36 PM ET (US)

Any spokeslawyer for a major corporation who can't even spell "separate" tells me that said corporation is not to be taken seriously.
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
12:24 PM ET (US)
This pile of junk was filed on April 29, 1999.

Prior art can be found, documented, in "The Web Architect's Handbook", author Charles Stross, published Addison-Wesley, 1996 (ISBN 0-582-87735-X) on page 201 (heading: "Avoiding links entirely: an embedded web browser").

(If the victims of this extortion want me to show up in court as a witness, I'd be happy to discuss my air fare and dates :)

If example code in a book with an ISBN on deposit at the Library of Congress three years before they filed this patent isn't good enough, what is?
plughPerson was signed in when posted
12:00 PM ET (US)
As a side note, preventing more logos with swooshes in them would be a GOOD thing, IMHO :-)
ahaPerson was signed in when posted
11:49 AM ET (US)
...that reminds me--somewhere in the basement I've got my grandfather's patent on shakedowns. Does that mean SBC owes me?
yessrincPerson was signed in when posted
11:17 AM ET (US)
It will be interesting to find out whether some sites have already paid and encouraged this shakedown. Damn, where's that patent for electricity that I mislaid....
Edited 01-20-2003 11:18 AM
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