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AOL Now Owns Patent to IM'ing Technology

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This is just.. totally, totally, absolutely astounding.. how stupid and uneducated those law makers and patent pushers are. This just totally blows me away.

News Article

In a nutshell:

"The new patent defines AOL's IM application as one that enables users to chat with and identify one another across a specific "communications network," opening up the possibility for AOL to collect royalties from rivals."
"communication network". Defined as? Where's the limits? What's the cost for others? What about other peer-to-peer networks? What about those little messages via Kazaa? Any kind of 'message' sent over the net uses the same types of protocols as "IM" messaging, one way or another. Absolutely, horrifyingly disasterous. All forms of communication via the same way of thinking is now kaput if AOL decides to enforce this, and they will. Not to mention the disaster it will mean for applications like Trillian.

I'd really like to see how Linux and open-source users will respond to this since "IM" style messaging has been available to them since what.. the late 70's? Pu-leeease...

Next they'll try to patent Telnet and IRC.... or is this technically under the same way of communication? Where's the end?



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If they AOL were to try to sue anyone over this they'd learn quickly enough this is utterly unenforcable, just like Amazon's "One-Click" patent. There are about a hundred cases of "prior art" that should easily overturn the case.

This is another case not of "corporate greed" or "people overreacting" but instead "all of the above." Articles about amazingly broad and "potentially threatening" patents that have been granted are posted almost twice a day to Slashdot. Each time there's a huge fervor over it, with shouts of gloom and doom about what this will mean for [favorite open-source/freeware/what-have-you application]. Each time it's completely overblown and logic wins out in the end (Remember when somebody patented using a laser as a cat toy?). I mean, come on... somebody tried to patent hyperlinks, and the entire community cried out that this would be the end of the Internet because royalties would have to be paid on URLs, oh me oh my. Yet it was overturned, and here we are, merrily including A HREF tags in web content.

"We use them for divine retribution."

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The actual use is unenforcable, but it allows AOL to go after companies for royalties, putting /them/ in a position where not only are they paying to let people use a service for free, but also having to pay someone else just for the RIGHT to do what they're doing.. and what about Trillian? That company is only a couple guys coding on their free time.. they have absolutely no money to pay AOL like I know they're gonna charge...

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"they have absolutely no money to pay AOL like I know they're gonna charge..."

You know how much AOL has planned to charge only a few days after the patent was granted? You must be very well informed, indeed.

But now that I've had my fun I promise I'll address your point in a serious manner. You illustrate exactly my point with regards to overreaction. When people overreact, they start to ignore basic facts surrounding the case.

I agree with the statement that this is a bad patent. I agree it gives AOL the legal precedence to try to exert the patent upon other people or companies to collect royalties. I disagree that they'd actually be foolish enough to try to do so. Public opinion of AOL is important to their membership count. Their membership is not doing so well these days. If they were to attack other companies for royalties, I think public opinion would swing against them even more, putting them in an even less untenable situation.

As I mentioned before, when people panic they tend to forget basic facts surrounding a case. In this situation it's pretty clear that there are multiple instances of "prior art" in existance, ranging from IRC to Zephyr to plain old UNIX "talk." So what if AOL decides to sue an IM company for royalties? Any defense to such a lawsuit would surely bring this up. With evidence like that produced the patent would quickly lose any teeth it might have had and would either be directly overturned or made into something that not even the most smug legal counsel would attempt to collect on.

As to the remark about companies or individuals lacking money with which to defend themselves should AOL actually risk such a lawsuit: If you feel so strongly about this matter (and the numerous other potential patent time bombs that could "destroy" the usability of the Internet the way you seem to feel this will "destroy" IM usability) I suggest you hedge your bet and make a donation to the Electronic Frontier Foundation at They'd most certainly get involved with such a matter were it to occur, and with their help I'm sure the case would be quickly overturned. The EFF has been involved in a number of cases and this one seems right up their alley were it to go to a trial.

However, until it comes to that I think it's safe to say the sky is in fact not falling.

If I may do a bit of stumping for something I believe in here.... if bad patents like this and frivolous copyright lawsuits really bother people as much as they like to claim it does then I find myself wondering why more people aren't making their opinions known to the government and more donations aren't being made to groups like the EFF. The solution to these problems are votes, donations and involvement. Hollywood and big companies win because they have lobbyists working in their favor. Doesn't it make sense to be a lobbyist working in your own favor?

"We use them for divine retribution."

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If PBS is to be believed, Nicola Tesla applied for and was granted a
patent on radio broadcasting and detection. When, instead of using it
for long distance communication, he tried to adapt it to power
transmission, (something he thought more important), his patent was
taken away and given to his rival, Marconi. Then, just as it was about
to expire, the US Patent Office relented and restored it to Tesla...
just before he died.
If MicroSoft wants to fight this patent, they probably still can. I
wonder how much it would take to point out that, (as somebody already
said), the technology's been in the public domain for 30-odd years.
Ya gotta wonder....

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Didn't Nicola Tesla also design the world's first deathray?

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No, no, that was distinctly the Martians. Didn't you ever see The War of the Worlds?


"We use them for divine retribution."

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Unix's "write" command.

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Sign the Petition for a patent free Europe:

To learn more about patent law please go to

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Yes. Because there have been a few bad patents we clearly need to ban pantents entirely because they serve no useful purpose except to prevent us from obtaining our utopian society.

While we're on the trend of banning things that momentarily inconvenience us, can we please outlaw the following?
1) Traffic jams
2) Traffic lights
3) Stop signs
4) Pedestrians
5) Chlorine (it stings my eyes when I'm swimming)
6) Waiting lines at airports
7) The dentist

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