A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Friday, February 17, 2006

Are patents a plague on the web? 

EcoblogIT has covered some of the issues around software patents, such as those held by Amazon and frankly I have a big beef with their award.

Patents have been awarded for things such as the way that Wi-Fi hotspots direct you to a login page and file locking on a file server. Of the vast number of software patents, many are frankly pretty vague (just look at some of those highlighted in the Amazon post linked to above) and rely on the fact that the awardee was the first person to go to the trouble of filing for a patent rather than the first person to think of what in most cases is little more than an idea.

A company called Acacia Technologies now has a pretty good business in chasing patent violators for license fees. Ok, so what's the big deal? Well, they own patents that cover use of streaming media, pop-up ads, offline browsing, laptop docking stations etc. etc. As I said Acacia are getting a name for themselves because they're actively going after individual patent infringers, but other patents are held by the likes of AT&T on the MPEG4 format....

Pretty soon using the Internet could become a more costly experience.....
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