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The titles of the patents:

5978791: Data Processing System Using Substantially Unique Identifiers to Identify Data Items, Whereby Data Items Have the Same Identifiers.

6415280: Identifying and Requesting Data in Network Using Identifiers Which Are Based On Contents of Data.

6928442: Enforcement and Policing of Licensed Content Using Content-based Identifiers.

7802310: Controlling Access to Data in a Data Processing System.

7945539: Distributing and Accessing Data in a Data Processing System.

7945544: Similarity-Based Access Control of Data in a Data Processing System.

7949662: De-duplication of Data in a Data Processing System.

8001096: Computer File System Using Content-Dependent File Identifiers.

8099420: Accessing Data in a Data Processing System.

It would appear, based on many incidents underway at the moment, that the software patent apocalypse is beginning.

All software infringes something, so it should get interesting. Hopefully the absurdity will stink so badly that even the U.S. congress will do something.

And you think that a Congress that lets the economy slide towards depression in favor of the rich at the expense of the rest of us really gives a damn about patent reform. Except for what their handlers want.

Apologies. This comment is not worthy of a HN regular, but I am feeling really cranky these days.

Many people in large technology companies are threatened by software patentes, and spend lots of time and money defending and preparing to defend against them. Were these people (who are among the richest in the world) left out of the controlling congress conspiracy club?

Yes. Congress is made up mostly of lawyers, who get rich off such nonsense.

It's also largely controlled by old money and Eastern money, not nuevo riche California tech money.

Your congresspeople know this is a critical issue for you. They will be happy to take your campaign contribution. They're studying this issue closely. Study results expected in March 2057.

Seriously, beginning? Patent-a-geddon has been on-going for a couple of years now. Its like a forest fire though, the more stuff burns the vortex effect sucks in more fuel and causes even more burning.

I am hopeful about what happens N years after the patentocalypse, when everything has been broadly patented a million times over and then all of those patents expire, and it is no longer to patent anything again.

1. Prior art doesn't stop the patent office from issuing patents, so that's not going to help.

2. Patentocalypse is a great way to kill off startups that actually succeed and open source projects, so big business campaign contributors will keep congresscritters from doing anything about it.

3. This won't really hurt the big public corporations too much, once the dust settles a little, because they'll just reach detente to avoid mutually assured destruction.

If something changes things for the better, it will almost certainly be the general public ultimately reaching a point where everyone ignores patent law altogether, thus making it irrelevant.

Won't there just be new broad patents? It seems the patent office doesn't really consider prior art.

My current mental model for how the software patent issue is likely to progress is roughly along the same lines as the Kessler syndrome, but with legal action taking the place of orbital debris.


Sample complaint against Google re: 5978791



On November 2, 1999, United States Patent No. 5,978,791 (the “’791 patent”)was duly and legally issued for an invention entitled “Data Processing System Using Substantially Unique Identifiers to Identify Data Items, Whereby Identical Data Items Have theSame Identifiers.” PersonalWeb was assigned the ’791 patent and continues to hold all rightsand interest in the ’791 patent. A true and correct copy of the ’791 patent is attached hereto asExhibit A.13.

Google has infringed and continues to infringe the ’791 patent by its manufacture, use, sale, importation, and/or offer for sale of its products and services utilizing Google’s Query-Serving System and Google’s File System and its contributing to and inducement of others to manufacture, use, sell, import, and/or offer for sale infringing products. Google is liable for its infringement of the ’791 patent pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 271.14.


My wild guess is that 90% of the software systems ever developed are infringing those patents.

What else left to patent? "Method and apparatus to read a bit"?

From having a read through the claims of - 6415280: Identifying and Requesting Data in Network Using Identifiers Which Are Based On Contents of Data. - It appears they have patented using hashes as identifiers for the data that is hashed. Which is a bit like patenting the use of a shovel for digging.

I would not be surprised if the patent office itself used this method for filing patent information in various DBs.

Every filesystem in the world probably uses this method. The identity function (i.e. storing an item under its own name) seems to be a special case.

No, the patent claims the identifier is derived from the data, and only the data, which a file name is not. It also have several other constraints and steps. (i.e. a patent describes a a system as a whole - the fact that individual parts of a patent is in wide use elsewhere doesn't necessarily mean those systems infringe or invalidate this patent)

One file system that comes to mind using the approach described in the patent is Venti though: http://www.stanford.edu/class/cs240/readings/venti-fast.pdf

Wait. This isn't true. Most filesystems don't have an algorithmic identifier for the data being stored. They do often have checksums, but that's different.

You could argue that most book titles fall under this as well, at least conceptually. And the Dewey decimal system.

In fact, before the growth of the internet, Identifying and Requesting Data in Network Using Identifiers Which Are Based On Contents of Data would sound almost exactly like a long winded academic description of finding a book through the public library inter-lending network.

Perhaps someone should file a patent for assigning values to a variable!

You think someone hasn't done this already?

If someone had done it, that someone would be pretty damn rich right now!

It would be fun to include it, and license it as free to use for anyone who gave a dollar to Unicef or something.

And then, the next time this shit happens, the patent defenders would all go “How would these children get their basic needs met if it weren't for patents? Why do you hate children?”

It would be glorious.

>>> Access to data items uses names based on the data in the data items;


None of these patents were original at the time they were adopted -- they all have obvious prior art.

Someone should take away Level 3's patent card. And PersonalWeb really ought to be liable for abuse of process.

I'd recommend that no one ever click on patents to read them. If you do your company, if found guilty in court of infringement, faces 3x higher damages (at least in the US). When I worked at SAP, the only sites blocked by our proxy were patent sites.

8099420: Accessing Data in a Data Processing System. That sounds more like a joke. Does it really pretend to have invented the IDs?

"All your data processing codes are belong to us." Unfortunately, this is not as funny as it should be.

... depend on all of the data in the data items and only on the data in the data item ... WUUUUT?

An md5sum

git uses SHA1

Well . . . use a salt and it seems this patent is trivially bypassed. Voila!

Or use the contents of the files AND Linus's email. Then it's not just the contents of the files!

Yet more proof, as if were needed, that software patents are BS.

Looks like most of these patents can be killed by prior art. The first one is hashing, for instance.

As mentioned elsewhere, a patent describes a system as a whole, and just because individual steps in a patent is/was in wide use elsewhere doesn't necessarily mean anything.

Saying that this patent is invalid because it uses hashing would be similar to invalidating every patent describing a device made of iron because iron was invented before.

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