Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Ludicrous patent off the port bow!

"System and method for building a web site using specific interface"

(seen on Slashdot; if the URL below doesn't come out right
just head back over there)

http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=/netahtml/search-bool.html&r=10&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=ft00&s1=HTML&OS=HTML&RS=HTML

So in 1998 IBM filed and obtained a patent on template-based web puslishing systems (sound familiar?).

Now obviously there may be legal grounds to invalidate this patent, but what, in general, can a small company with limited resources do if a large wealthy patent-holder comes knocking at their door? I might soon be exposed to this sort of risk myself, but I haven't come up with a good response scenario yet.

(* apologies to Joel et al. for exposing you guys to treble damages by making you aware of the patent 8)

a regular reader
Wednesday, October 17, 2001

surely then software like frontpage, iisx, homesite, dreamweaver would fall under this.. as you do get templates that coem with them  which some people use???

warrick
Wednesday, October 17, 2001

The patent is much more specific than that.  I believe just because your product is similar to the patent application, it doesn't mean anything.  They patented their actual application, not the algorithm, so the process of using templates is not patented by them, but their app that uses templates is.

An example:
"Based on the identified templates and supplied data, the tool generates the customized Web site without the web site creator writing any HTML or other programming code. Based on roles-based, multi-level security, certain users of the web site may have access to certain information and others may not."

You use HTML when you create CityDesk pages, so therefore our app is different (they say the creator doesn't have to know *any* html).  There are about 1000 other differences between CD and their app, (and also FP and all the others), so no one really needs to worry about this.

Michael Pryor
Wednesday, October 17, 2001

I can't read ANY patent without getting angry. The simplest patent search turns up dozens of people patenting addition and subtraction and it's all prior art but the patent office is too stupid to care.

Joel Spolsky
Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Next thing you, George Bush will be patenting misguided missiles! :)

But seriously, isn't it high time they got someone in the US Trademarks and Patent office who *understands* a bit about technology?

Madhu Menon
Wednesday, October 17, 2001

How soon until a patent is issued for City Desk? 

Anon Lover
Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Patents other than in the US have to be demonstrated as a physical and novel object.  Patenting software is patently ridiculous and extending the patent process to product descriptions just pushes the bounds beyond belief.

Patents have their place but not in the realm of software.

Simon Lucy
Friday, October 19, 2001

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home