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[FYI] Internet Patents Choking the Web?

Science Magazine: Internet Patents Choking the Web?
  Jun 3rd, 12:51:23 

Every day on average last year, the U.S. government issued nearly
50 patents on Internet tools and other software. But this
apparent blitz of creativity may belie a big problem: Many of
these inventions, some critics charge, aren't original enough to
have warranted a patent and could hinder the Internet's growth by
blocking free, unpatented standards. 

The latest dustup is over a patent awarded last January to
Seattle-based Intermind, for its software to help Web surfers
track how sites they visit use their personal data. The company
claims on its Web site... that its patent may be infringed by an
"open-source," or freely shared, privacy protocol developed by
the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an industry and academic
group that comes up with standards like HTML, the language for
writing Web pages.

W3C struck back earlier this month, launching an appeal for
people to send it evidence of "prior art," or earlier technology
that might help it challenge the patent (www.w3.org). (Intermind
says it has already done a thorough search.) "The success of the
Web has come about largely because of a commitment to open
source," says W3C spokesperson Janet Daly, pointing to the
Web protocol, which inventor Tim Berners-Lee "gave away."
Berners-Lee himself this month suggested companies forge an
ethics code to refrain from patenting such widely used
technologies. Intermind president Brian McManus disagrees, saying
patents mean "recognition for the amount of money and effort that
has gone in."

Some experts lay part of the blame with the U.S. Patent and
Trademark Office (PTO). Half of all software patents don't cite
any prior art, which means neither the applicants nor the PTO has
shown the inventions are novel, claims Greg Aharonian,
editor of Internet Patent News Service. PTO official Steve Kunin
says the problem is that examiners have no easy way to dig
through old computer programs that don't show up in journal
databases. The office plans to hold hearings starting in June to
seek advice.

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Kristian Köhntopp, NetUSE Kommunikationstechnologie GmbH
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