The Patent System is so Broken, Be careful if you are a developer!!

By Anoop Madhusudanan

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I was reading Fred’s rants about Yahoo crossing the line by suing Facebook, and got kind of Shocked when I went through the patents Yahoo is using to Sue Facebook. The point is, most of these patents are so generic that you can get sued if you run a web site. Why patents do exist for all trivial common tasks and architecture patterns in the world? A common sense design decision I’m going to take for my next website or my next customer project is already patented!! This is ridiculous.

“Dynamic Page Generator”

For example, have a look at this “Dynamic Page Generator” patent – It can be used to sue any CGI/Server side stack.  The patent states

An custom page server is provided with user preferences organized into templates stored in compact data structures and the live data used to fill the templates stored local to the page server which is handing user requests for custom pages. One process is executed on the page server for every request. The process is provided a user template for the user making the request, where the user template is either generated from user preferences or retrieved from a cache of recently used user templates. Each user process is provided access to a large region of shared memory which contains all of the live data needed to fill any user template

So, your website has an architecture similar to this? I’m sure most new age web sites are dynamic – but hey, you can get sued for this (Or correct me if I’m missing anything).


“Personalized Information Retrieval Using Profiles”

Such trivial tasks has got a patent too, for example  see this

An automatic method and system for retrieving information based on a user-defined profile (e.g. a personalized newspaper). A user-controlled client establishes communication with a stateless server, the server presenting a list of options to the client between the server and the client. The client provides an identification of the user-defined profile. The server engages a first application program, the first application program retrieving the user-defined profile wherein the user-defined profile identifies information which is of interest to the user.


So, is it that if I implement a Profile based customization for my website, I can be sued by Sun Microsystems (Oops, now by Oracle, may be?)


The larger perspective

To be honest, I think this entire Patent system is a time bomb that’ll explode pretty soon – large companies will use this to bomb small companies. And some one please fix it. Not sure why all these patents are getting approved, who are reviewing them and why these generic concepts are patented to this extent?

Or may be I’m so naïve that I’m missing something here!!


Update: Found that The Verge has another great article on the same topic, read that too.

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