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back to article AJAX patent threat to giants under the hammer

A patent scheduled for sale next month in San Francisco could threaten some of the biggest players on the internet leading Web 2.0. Listed in Ocean Tomo's spring auction catalog as lot number seven, patent number 6,418,462: "Discloses methods allowing clients to perform tasks through a sideband communication channel, in addition …

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Pirate

outrageous

Patents are supposed to protect inventors from being ripped off. How can you sell a patent to someone? (who is obviously not the inventor and therefore doesn't have anything to protect.) And they will then use this patent to blackmail random companies.

What an evil and twisted world we live in.

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Necessary IP protection

Truly, where would the world be if the person who invented the notion of communicating out of the main event loop wasn't able to reap the just rewards of his labor. Implementation is irrelevant, conceptualization is obviously sufficient. That, and having the enlightened foresight to hire some lawyers to stake the claim.

Better yet, be a lawyer-programmer and patent your brilliant ideas for free.

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The day our legislation...

...wakes up and abolishes these retarded software patents is the day that I shall once again have faith in the government.

Faith that would be again shattered within a few hours for some other stupid thing, but nevertheless it would be briefly renewed.

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Stop

prior art?

Wouldn't a mouseover be prior art?

If the patent's main claim is an asynchronous data request channel that doesn't cause the entire page to refresh, then the javascript onmouseover='this.src="/path_to_some_image"' is definitely prior art.

Web developers have used that same technique to asynchronously load dynamic data other than images since 1997 or 1998 easily.

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Gates Halo

Prior art

Internet Explorer 5.5 was released in march 1999. It had a new feature called "XmlHttpRequest" which had been put in there to support the new Outlook Web Access. OWA was the first AJAX application (before the acronym was coined) and used javascript, out-of-band communication (XmlHttpRequest) and asynchronously loading extensively. Seems like MS has some pretty solid prior art here.

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Absurd

Another patent that will be shot down due to obviousness.

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Stop

Nonsense. Flash 4, mid 1999

Had this capability with the 'loadVariables' action. Sits on the internet, sends and retrieves data via any number of 'sideband' channels. Doubtless other prior examples too (Java applets!).

Anyone who buys this patent is a vegetable.

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Bogus claim

The patent in no way describes AJAX technology. AJAX technology does not involve the server getting clients to perform tasks and send the results back via a secondary comms channel.

See http://www.davidarno.org/207 for more details.

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Anonymous Coward

What about FTP as prior art?

The FTP protocol uses two TCP connections - port 21 for commands and port 22 for data IIRC - so why does this not qualify as obvious prior art? After all, the requested files are also sent over a "side channel".

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This makes me MAD!

<rant 2.0>

What a great idea someone once had to go and create a patent for a simple yet transforming data transfer method.

This really pisses me off that instead of taking this into the public domain, some hot-shot corporate twats are instead (probably) going to purchase it and raise claims of infringement.

Soon some idiot is going to patent a colour scheme, or the very 'idea' of CSS, or god forbid, that awful txt language which the under-educated of the western world insist on using in full length emails and web pages.

AJAX, in its very notion, was the next logical step of the web - why even attempt to restrict the surrounding development?

</rant 2.0>

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poh

Filed in 1999

Could be wrong here, but I'm pretty sure that XMLHTTPRequest was in IE 5.0, which came out in March 1999 and was presumably in wide Beta before the Jan 7th filing of the patent claim.

eg http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000606.html

I wonder what they're claiming beyond the functionality XMLHTTPRequest provided.

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So, where is the "non-obvious" and "new" idea here?

Sounds like any background data updating task that world&dog have been doing since the invention of networks, coupled with some post-processing of said data into an interactive system. The first one to find prior art (wild guess: look at early 90's multiplayer games or industrial control systems) is going to be given a cookie.

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Coat

I doubt

This has nothing to do with a 'sideband' communication channel. The AJAX mechanism works purely through HTTP, which is the ONLY communication channel in this context. The whole idea behind a sideband system is to provide an extra source of data that can be used while the primary source is in use, which again isn't applicable to web browsing. Somehow I doubt that Google's lawyers would have much trouble getting this thrown out.

Mine's the one on hook 80.

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Ruddy American...

...patent laws...they'll try to patent the mp3 next, oops been there dont that, okay, it'll be the contact list next...oops been there done that, it'll be the whole web next...

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this sucks

man I want to patent Breathing....

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Probably yet another bad software patent

"filed in 1999 and issued in 2002"

The patent infringement analysis (found by a link from the article) refers to claims about server using idle computing resources in clients. seti@home which does precisely that was started in 1997 (see http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/sah_papers/woody.php )

There is probably tons of prior art also for the other claims. Many things that AJAX does have been done using Java applets right since the beginning of Java (circa 1994).

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Ru
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Oh yay

Another invalid patent from a patent troll.

First thing that springs to mind is 'DNS', but I have no doubt there are a bajillion other protocols out there that these idiots won't have ever heard of.

I continue to be puzzled as to how a system that grants this sort of thing continues.

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Patents

I couldn't have put the case against patents more succinctly!

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Prior art ?

Liberate (as used on virgin media for it's middleware) had NetRequest objects which allow basically a simialr method of communicating with a server long before XMLHttpRequest came along, and probably before this patent was filed.

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End the madness now

It is time to stop this madness, right now.

"Intellectual property" should not be allowed to be bought and sold in the same way as real property. The original purpose of patents and copyrights was to reward sharing of knowledge. If this end is not being served, then it is time to re-evaluate the means. The privilege of a temporary monopoly should be strictly non-transferrable, except to the Public Domain.

Governments also need to greater make use of their power to annul copyrights or patents in the event of abuse.

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Stop

Pah

Since IE4 supported this programming model via DHTML in 1997, providing explicit support for precisely the "methods" described, I'd say this patent (filed in 1999) is worth half of fuck all.

John

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Here we go again !

Software patents are a plague.

Need i say more ?

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I don't buy it

"Discloses methods allowing clients to perform tasks through a sideband communication channel, in addition to the main communication channel between a client and server".

A web browser makes a request for a page using the HTT protocol on port 80. The web browser then begins to render the returned HTML (assuming html is returned). As the browser discovers requirements for other resources (.css files, javascript files, images, flash content etc) it makes new requests, asynchronously and often in parallel for these new files using the same 'channel' it used to get the main page - http, port 80.

User clicks a link, the browser loads a new page, user clicks an 'ajax link' browser loads another page in exactly the same manner above but instead processes it according to a new set of instructions supplied in the original request.

As far as the server is concerned, there is no difference between any of these requests other than they ask for a different bit of information each time.

Anyone going after companies for this is a cockpouch and deserves only pain and destitution.

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fails the non-obvious...

i'm sure there are hundreds, if not thousands of developers like me that started to do ajax style programming before anyone even coined the phrase! non-obvious? more like a bleedin' obvious way to use the technology!! ... or maybe i was the first, hmmm, i have prior art.... stop using my idea, or pay me lots of money!!!

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Unhappy

Java Applets

Surely Java Applets were doing this way back in the late 1990's. I certainly wrote several that communicated back to the server on a separate socket (i.e. a 'sideband') as far back as 1997.

The real problem lies with the lawyers, and judges, who don't know the difference between a server socket and a pile of shit, presiding over these cases.

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Ed
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Someone should...

Someone rich (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Amazon) should just buy it and make it freely available. Would be a good PR gesture, and they've got the money :)

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Tom
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what a lot of rot

I cant remember when frames were added to HTML but about 5 minutes after they were I was using them to exchange data and I think I got the idea from something mentioned in the spec.

Theres nowt new under t'sun.

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Anonymous Coward

WAY Prior Art

I worked for a little mom and pop called "GE" in the eighties.

We had a product that communicated with the server along a number of connections, using proprietary protocols (across a modem).

I know, because I wrote some of the host drivers. I got a lot of my async education from that.

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Coat

Friend of the Court

In support of the argument against this patent, large legal departments will bring every possible action they can against it. Eventually those with deep enough pockets to support them will "win" the others will be held in legal ransom they cannot pay. The sad truth is many formerly productive, growing companies discover patent mining and enforcement (a term I use loosely)is a wonderful way to make money without producing a product and it's associated liabilities. Many people are surprised to learn that those big towering corporate headquarters are filled with patent attornies.

Imagine icon of me hanging a moon

over there next to coat rack.

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Boffin

@A J Stiles

>"Intellectual property" should not be allowed to be bought and sold in the same way as real property.

This is the underlying principle behind a market economy : any type of property (i.e., something that someone can own) will eventually be sold, bought, traded, and give rise to speculation. What's more, there will eventually emerge a global marketplace where such sales and trades will be formalized and 'industrialized' so to speak, which in turn gives rise to more sophisticated and/or derivative products based on the original commodity.

This principle applies to just about everything : raw materials, currencies, stock, real estate... but also debts (your bank owns your debt, so why shouldn't it be free to sell it to another bank ? Hey, can anyone say 'subprimes' ?), stock options, derivative products (whose sole purpose is to be bought, sold, and speculated with), and much much more...

The only upside is that patents are currently used defensively mostly -except in the good ole district of Eastern Texas of course- and that there isn't yet (to my knowledge anyway) any agreed-upon mathematical formula for estimating the value of a patent. So using and abusing patents is still a somewhat artisanal process: you have to fight it out in court, there's no guaranteed return on investment, etc.

The day we know how to put an accurate value on a patent without 'exercizing' it (i.e. going to court), is the day patents will become just another commodity. Don't believe me ? Think stock options and the Black & Scholes formula.

All this leads me to wonder what will be the next 'property' playground. My bet is on privacy and/or private data. You own your private data right ? So... if you own it, it can be bought. If it can be bought, it can be sold again. Or traded. Or sold in bulk. This is already the case on the black market, it's only a matter of time before it becomes another legal avenue of financial frolicking.

IANAL, but it might be a good thing we don't actually 'own' fundamental rights (if I remember correctly, they're granted by the state although I suspect Your Constitution May Vary) or some poor sods are bound to sell them one day... or be defrauded of them.

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world's gone mad

Thank goodness no one patented the Client Server architecture, or what about using electricity to represent binary logic? Supprised no one has tried it yet.

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Stop

Nothing to be alarmed about

Go home. Have a cup of warm milk. Calm down. This is just a manifestation of how the US Patent system really works, as opposed to what most folks think.

The usual assumption, and quite possibly the way it is supposed to work or used to work, is that by the time a patent is granted some real vetting has verifyied that the submission is new, and works. Nope.

What happens: After submission you receive from the patent office a short list of potential prior art that is obviously the result of a pure keyword search, using keywords chosen by someone with no real understanding of what you submitted. So you spend about a half hour writing up why nobody in his or her right mind would think the examples cited have anything to do with what you sent in, feeling like a complete lunatic and trying hard to remain polite while writing things like this: “It is true that, like my invention, case 28703910776 is also eaten. However, it is an orange. My submission is a fish. This case has orange-colored, pebbly skin, and grows as fruit on a plant on dry land. What I submitted is an animal, not part of a plant, has skin that is slippery and scaly, and lives in water, not on dry land.”

You send that back. You get a patent. Simple.

Oh, occasionally there’s a true hit that requires some thought to rebut, or even genuine prior art invalidating your submission. But that happens so seldom it’s clearly a random occurrence.

The only real test of patent validity is whether it stands up in court after someone sues for license fees, and the target of the suit decides putting up a fight is worth it. That a patent has merely been granted, or even produced some license fees, is not a terribly meaningful event.

I’m told this has changed or may change relatively recently, due to the US Patent office posting at least some submissions on the web for others to look for prior art. This could be a good way to get the wisdom of mobs applied to the problem, and may work well. I hope it works for a while, anyway, before getting trashed by spammers and by shills posting bogosity to protect their employers’ interests.

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Hm...

Maybe it would work to kill all that stoopid "Web 2.0" hype? Still, the patent is stupid, as there are a crapload of applications and a few protocols that do exactly this:

- FTP (PORT) uses 21 for control, 20 for data. PASV works in mysterious ways, but basically uses one for control, one for data, just like this.

- Java applets since inception, as somebody else noted.

- One of my early socket experiments did this, and that is from 1998 or something.

- Most P2P software do this, especially those depending on a "central catalog"

- You might even argue the 3270 terminals do this to an extent, as it could update the entire screen, or just some of the fields.

And if the definition wants to be "out-of-bands", well, there is an OOB flag on TCP sockets. Which those who remember the WinNuke days must remember very, very, well...

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stupid patent office is the problem not the concept of patents

patents are essential.

the solution is an intelligent and competent patent office not to outlaw patents.

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RW
Joke

Sideband not an extra socket

"Sideband" is a technical word in radio technology and relates to the modulation of the signal. Since our beloved intrawebnettubesthingie uses God-knows-what kinds of modulation schemes at different levels, perhaps not using sidebands at all, it's hard to believe this so-called pseudo-invention has any relevancy.

What puzzles me is the mix between hardwareish details that would be down at the bottom of a tcp/ip stack and applicationish details that would be up near the top. Since the whole point of organizing comms via a stack is to provide layered abstraction, this Does Not Make Sense. Oil & water do not mix, and this pseudo-invention is a pile of horse crap.

Has somebody devised a patent generator that assembles buzzwords in arbitrary, but grammatically correct, sequences and fires them at the US patent office? Rather like throwing shit at a wall to see if any sticks.

Footnote for the linguistically impoverished: "pseudo" = false, "quasi" = "as if". There will be a pop quiz on Wednesday.

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I'm gonna patent patents

BWAHAHAHAHA!!!!

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Um...

"patents are essential.

the solution is an intelligent and competent patent office not to outlaw patents."

No, patents are essential in CERTAIN MARKETS. Software isn't one of them, and patents like this just prove it. Software development is a lot like the development method of mathematics; what appears to be new is generally someone reorganizing or adding to existing knowledge. In this sort of market, patents simply block entire development branches (good example: encryption, which can only be developed by groups with LARGE wallets, due to massive patenting; now no one can develop encryption algorithms without a large bank account to back it up with).

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Pirate

Lying to obtain money is criminal fraud.

When you submit a patent, you are representing that you have created an invention, and therefore have (intellectual) property rights over it. If the "invention" is in fact utterly obvious common practice, such as in this case ("using two tcp sockets instead of one"), then you cannot possibly own it - since you did not invent it - and any claim you make to do so is therefore a lie for the purposes of obtaining money by deception. Or "criminal fraud" as it is known in the legal system. If they then issue threats to damage your business if you don't pay them, it becomes extortion and blackmail.

Next time some patent troll approaches your firm, report them to the police. Explain that they are demanding money and issuing threats to illegally damage your business. They are offering to "licence" you the right to something which they do not own and you do not need, and threatening some harm - which in fact only they possibly could originate - will befall you if you don't buy their misrepresented goods. This is in no way any different from the situation when a mafia representative calls round and threatens that your business "might" burn down if you don't buy his "fire insurance", and should be treated the same way: with serious jail time.

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Old as Dirt

That fact that the patent examiner doesn't know what async communications are, as evidenced by the fact this patent was granted in the first place, should worry us all.

Software patents have to go. Or at least suspend them until we get some competent software engineers in the patent office.

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TCP OOB...

...does not actually exist. The term was popularized by BSD, which came out of Berkeley around the time that LSD was popular. TCP _does_ have an "urgent data" flag, and the RFCs discuss how to use it, but OOB it is not. Almost as much pain has derived from this misunderstanding as from the IBM PC using edge-triggered interrupts, or MSFT creatively violating the ESMTP RFC :-)

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Stop

Not a threat to AJAX

Having read Claim 1 of the patent, it's obvious that this only relates to distributed computing using "idle resources" on clients, much like SETI@home and suchlike - it's not about the general application of "sideband channels" such as AJAX techniques. So relax - move along - nothing to see...

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Stop

Only software developers/engineers should grant other software patents

This whole charade of granted inviable patents falls on the shoulders of those that lack sufficient breadth and depth of in software development arena.

If we insist on maintaining and granting software patents (i'd prefer not), then the solution would be to grant such patents only by a consortium of other software engineers and their ilk. No lawyers. No otherwise uninformed or ill-versed judges. Just software folks granting kudos to other software folks for truly novel ideas.

This horse$hit just couldn't occur with any discernible frequency if the granting audience couldn't be dazzled with smoke & mirrors.

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Happy

I don't care...

...because software patents are illegal in the European Union!!

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Jobs Halo

Giants are evil too

So far has not heard about any response from Giants (Google, Yahoo, MS...). Personally dont like patents, but also donot like those giants, They made billions out of stupid products, like G... search. Google/MS are evils anyway...... Guess what would be their responses....

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Anonymous Coward

how

HOW THE DUCK DO YOU PATENT A CONCEPT?

God the Americans are so stupid it makes my brain want to strangle itself.

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Stop

Netscape 1.1 multipart/replace was AJAX style

Some of us recall that Netscape 1.1 introduced the multipart/replace MIME type. There were a whole range of 'push' applications built on top of this feature including slideshows, IRC clients, etc.

This feature provided true (and efficient) asynchronous applications that were delivered out of band via a long lived socket connection to the server.

Netscape 1.1 was released in 1995.

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Anonymous Coward

prior art

does this make the old TV fasttext facility an infringement too ?

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Anonymous Coward

img tag - prior art, so to speak

I always thought that the img tag loaded images asynchronously. It lead to the invention of the web bug.

Or the frameset. Doesn't that load pages asynchronously? That was the predecessor to AJAX.

What about TCP/IP?

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Paris Hilton

Why not...

...just go all the way, patent the process of evaluating and giving out a patent? One could patent the process of applying for a patent as well. Who cares about prior art? Doesn't seem to have a meaning anyway.

Paris Hilton - because it's just too bloody obvious

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Anonymous Coward

Ha ha ha ha ha!

Just ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Thanks Reg, I needed a good laugh!

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