What a ridiculous system we all operate under. You come up with a mathematical formula for ranking some text on a page (in this case, what ads to show first), and you could now owe $250M/year to some company you've never heard of because they already bought the rights to that formula. It turns my stomach; sorry that I have nothing of more substance to add to this story.
* Obviousness. Patents are required to be non-obvious to a "person holding ordinary skill in the art", but obviousness is highly subjective and difficult to assess (especially for a non-technical jury). In contrast, evaluating whether something was independently invented, while not necessarily simple, is a more objective test.
* Utility. One of the rationales behind the patent system is that we want to encourage inventors to share their ideas with the world instead of just keeping them secret for as long as possible. While the patent system requires publication of the invention, it doesn't require publication in a manner that's particularly useful. If you could only assert patents against people actually using them, then you would have a strong incentive to make them useful (e.g. source code).
* Supply and Demand. The current system grants a flat 20 years to each patented invention, regardless of how difficult or expensive it was to invent. Recognizing independent invention creates the opportunity for a more flexible system. Inventions that are hard to reproduce independently are more valuable to society and should enjoy a longer term than easier ones.
The obvious problem with all of the above of course is how feasible it is to assess whether something was invented "independently". I've addressed that to some degree in this blog post (http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20121011/14171220681/yes-in...), but I admit it's a hard problem.
That applies to all economic domains. Patents worked back when it was extremely hard to sell your goods to its entire market, because you were either distance limited, communication limited, or production rate limited. In the first two situations someone could just take your idea, set up half way across the country, and made all the returns.
Today, I can invent anything I want and have it on ebay overnight and ship it anywhere in the world. I can advertise on most major ad services if I want, with an audience of the entire first world. The only limiting factor for me is demand, but that just means I have to be safe when bringing inventions to market, but it is good for the economy overall because it means if I can't meet demand, someone else will pick up the slack.
It is still, like I said, advantageous to the first to market with an idea, enough so that I wouldn't predict much of a drop in novel ideas. Like I said, I would expect more if technology and designs were more open and people could cheaply iterate and extend past concepts more readily.
Without patents, the rational thing to do is not invest any more in an invention than you can recoup in the short window before someone clones it and undercuts you on price. Moreover, it diminishes inventors and elevates manufacturers. The smart strategy in a world without patents is to build up massive overseas manufacturing capacity, because you can always quickly copy designs and then undercut the original designer with your manufacturing muscle.
'Andrewfong has a good point about independent invention being a defense. The idea of inventing something on your own only to have someone else claim they patented it is most of what bugs people about patents. In engineering circles where that is much less common, you don't have an anti-patent sentiment. When I was studying aerospace engineering in college, nobody I encountered perceived patents as anything but a good thing.
Though I think this mainly just points out the squishiness of the term.
(PS: Please don't use the term "India" to refer to certain Indian Biotech companies that reverse engineer patented pharmaceuticals developed in the US)
No one spends $1 billion to make a drug if anyone can copy it simply.
Additionally there are international problems related to abolishing patents.
it required research. Just like a car required crash tests, etc.
(I saw quotes yesterday from the founders or presidents(?) of Merck and Bayer, which espoused both philosophies, and both claimed successes.)
I'm not entirely convinced that patents are necessary to ford the research and regulatory approval. Even in a market where generics are relatively trivial, there are ample opportunities for profit.
I invented miracle-drug and can now produce miracle-drug at 0.04$ per pill, can you can produce miracle-drug at 0.06$ per pill. You would think I should win because I can product the pill cheaper, but the full story is your very first miracle-drug pill costs you 0.06$ and my very first miracle-drug pill cost 1.5 billion dollars. I lose because I invented.
The alternative is to not make any money at all. As long as that drug produces you a net profit in the long run, which I imagine would fund additional research after recouping anyone investing in the project, then the fact someone else can also make money is irrelevant.
Think of it from the alt-companies perspective: X is sold at $0.06 a pill, but I could sell it for $0.04! There is demand, I can create supply, and everyone benefits except X.
But I don't buy that selfish interests wouldn't still invest heavily in medicine even if it is a risky investment - nobody considers the emotional fact that rich people do get sick, and are likely (in the absence of big pharma research) to directly invest to see the diseases they suffer or are concerned about cured or abated. Think of how kickstarter works - you throw money at a project that may or may not succeed, but it happens all the time because people want the outcomes regardless of the financial risk associated. Same could easily happen with pharma.
Unfortunately, it's not alway possible, there are sometimes very few people in the first place:
My favourite part is just how good the Microsoft lawyers are - "we will pay 5% of whatever Google pays" is an incredibly good deal and shafts Google quite nicely at the same time.
And anyway, isn't this really obvious - to anyone? I have scanned the patents referenced and frankly I don't see any algorithm that is not "return information relevant to the search term presented, and mark the users profile if they liked it"
No implementation details, which frankly seems to be the whole difference in software vs hardware.
Edit: my calculation ignored US only
"the original participating manufacturers (OPM) agreed to pay a minimum of $206 billion over the first twenty-five years of the agreement" - 4 companies, 25 years, works out at $2.1bn a year each. 10x more than the article thinks Google will pay out...
Only if you take a very generous interpretation of "independent". For an reinvention to be truly independent, the reinventor would not only need to not have read about the original invention, but also to have not read about anything inspired by the original invention, and not talked to anyone who read about anything inspired by the original invention, etc.
Before software engineering, the probability of this happening may very well have been low enough to where nobody cared.
But if you're writing code, you are relying on and creating thousands of "inventions" a day. To "claim" one of those inventions so that nobody else can use it is absurd.
The law just doesn't get that yet, which is weird, because big tech companies have been getting burned by it for decades now. I guess they just figure the benefits>costs for them, and when peons get screwed, who cares?
Ie look at the patent, come up with a problem that would make this patent obvious, lock some engineers in a sealed room with the problem, and wait for something like the patent to fall out. Was that independent invention, then?
* More like discovered (don't want to imply math is patentable), but the point remains the same.
If several people would claim independent invention, it is obviously a statement about obviousness. So the patent would already be invalid under the current law.
Now, since everyone involved in patents, they don't want to interpret the law that way. So there is a non-written agreement that no one will go that route. and that is idiotic.
edit: I am rate limited from replying to fpgeeks reply below so I will post my reply here.
First, the author is extremely clear that he invested in Vringo, in fact the whole article is about why he did so., so I am not sure why you talk about it as if it is kind of a revelation. Second, the article is very informative about the history of the patents and is highly relevant. Third,which of my comments are pro Vringo, really? Fourth, can I be suspicious that you're short Vringo stock, or do you get a free pass just because you have an older HN account.
"Protection of intellectual property is what America is built on?" Hyperbole much?
"Smart people invent things. Then they get to protect [...] what they invents." Oversimplification much?
Not exactly a home-run defense of patents by Mr. Altucher.
: As admitted by the article, there was no "stealing" here anyway.
Is it? I recall the story of how the textile industry in America was built upon designs illegally smuggled out of Britain.
Also, the movie, auto, and aviation industries were all hobbled for years under patent lawsuits. It was so bad in the aviation business that development in the US pretty much ground to a standstill and the center for aviation progress switched over to Europe for a decade or two.
Intellectual property protection became important to America once it had leapfrogged other nations by ignoring their rights. Which is what makes the current stance on international intellectual property a little hypocritical, especially when it comes to generic drugs in third world countries.
However, the Yankees turned it around on the British and owned the term. Classic.
Edit: the actual origin of the word is lost in obscurity. There are lots of theories.
Separately, given the allegations in the Ars comment thread:
I'm more than a bit suspicious of a brand-new account that's posting pro-Vringo comments.
That link is definitely worth a few minutes. Thanks.
Being the Vringo is the motivation to invent things before the competition does.
Moreover, the current system creates a perverse incentive to obfuscate your patent. Although all patents are (eventually) published, there's no requirement that they be published in a manner that's useful (no source code) or discoverable (non-standard jargon). The incentive is not always to make the patent well known until after a party has already invested significant resources into an enterprise, at which point the patent can be used for something pretty close to extortion.
There's near-endless bitching and whining about Google being evil these days, but even today nobody sinks as low as Microsoft.
I don't think it's corrupt though. Sounds like MS said hey, here's some money (versus losing a settlement for far more, like they did over XML), and if you win against Google, then we'll pay likewise. Otherwise, you'll fight both of us.
Of course it'd be nice if MS stood up and fought, but it's easy to say what other people should do with their billions.
A million dollars isn't much for MS to pay to make this go away... and then only paying 5% of Google will be forced to pay if they lose in court.. Microsoft's legal advisor must be happy with himself today
How do you figure?
Microsoft earned $3.2 billion in the Online Services division in fiscal year 2013. According to Microsoft's annual report, advertising accounted for "nearly all of" that division's revenues.
$3.2 billion is about 5.6% of Google's trailing 12 months revenues of $57 billion. Subtract out Motorola, and it's about 6% of Google's ad revenues.
What's more, the settlement locks in Microsoft's liability at 5% of Google's. If Microsoft were to grow its share vs. Google, then it would get to pay less than the proportional amount.
... Actually, could google buy vringo, then just get money off MS?
Vringo already had the jury verdict against Google before the MS settlement. Also, maybe Bing has only 5% of Google's revenue/profit.
Funny that you seem to be falling victim to what you accuse others of doing i.e kneejerk birching and whining.
But not unexpected for Mark Cuban.
This is the man who owes his status as a billionaire to hedging. If he hadn't hedged out his Yahoo exposure at the very top of the dot-com bubble, then he would've been worth about $60 million by the time his lock-up period expired.
$1.4 billion vs. $60 million. Being one of the richest 500 Americans, vs. not even being able to buy the Dallas Mavericks. You can see why Mark Cuban believes in hedging.
Patent trolls win => his legit companies lose value, his patent troll gains value
Patent trolls lose => legit companies gain value, patent trolls lose value
Imagine if some startup "hedged" by covertly transfering funds from customers' bank accounts when they cancel their subscriptions:
Great product => paying customers
Bad product => steal money from customers
Even if you hate Google, this is a pretty raw deal for the industry.
By making creative work "property" that can be owned and making minimal creative acts "possessable" in a way, that other creativity is inhibited or at least "billed", actual work is diminished for pure "property" holding.
The only way, non-possessing people can climb up "from rags to riches" is by their work. But working is less and less valued in this system.
And with the patent system, the true inventors are getting very limited money (in big companies, it is most often just a fixed amount per patent) -- the rest of the value goes to lawyers, the companies investors and the buyers of the patents when the company goes bankrupt or looses interest. Thus creating a system, where part of the mobile phone or the software or whatever gadgets price must pay the royalties for the patent owner (not the inventor!). Thus this amount goes away from the money that can be paid to workers and inventors. The whole system improves income generated by possessions, but reduces income possibilities for workers and creative people.
But that is not the point. The point is, that the manual labor gets less and less earnings, but the possession of the properties. How many creative products with high value are in the hands of their creators?
In reality, the high earnings are not made by the inventors or creators of things, but by those that have acquired them in any way. In corporations, it is normal, that inventors just get some small fixed amounts for their inventions. Even in the music business, the musicians have the smallest part of the earnings. Often time, the musicians have to sell the rights to the companies, so the companies are earning most of the money. Only very few musicians can make extra-deals and get rich.
To answer your second question: No, it is absolutely not the intent! By making "intellectual property" the same level as other property, the intent is not, that the inventors should have them (as normal copyright once was intended), but the intention is, that it is a trade-able good, that can be accumulated by the wealthy and used against those that are creative (something, that money is not, so creativity must kept cheap).
So what is the alternative? Reformation of patent laws, or no patent laws in general?
There are few things which can effect change better than billionaires in fear of losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year. When it happens to small fry you lament because they can't do anything to change and end up settling to save themselves or losing and losing everything. When it happens to the 55th largest company you rejoice because they have the power and motivation to change the rules.
I've been wrong before, but not usually that wrong.
I fear Google one day understands that they should join this mafia and start suing for their patents, under the pressure of their shareholders.
Despite what hacker news comments would have you believe, Google is (in my strongly held opinion) a force for good in the tech world, and very genuine in what it tries to accomplish.
Becoming a patent troll would undermine that sentiment.
What change would you like this to effect? I thought Google already had a solid reputation of being against patent trolls and software patents. For example:
Or they just settle next time.
Or they realize that fighting the system is a suckers game and join in, this cementing the system against their competition.
What I do not understand is why the big companies do not all get together and lobby to abolish software patents. Do they think that if they acquire enough patents, they will win? They all seem to be losing as many patent suits as they win. Pyrrhic victories all around.
It is also why I will not create a startup company, and have my dream crash because of a failed and corrupt system.
Now legal costs and/or Lodsys like trolls might be a real threat to a fledgling business but they seem to have gone quite quiet for the moment.
It's no indication, but it would generate fear and doubt when I code. What if the code I'm writing right now is patented by some company taking advantage of a system, with resources searching everywhere just to sue? I probably wouldn't, but I could become paranoiac because of this, looking on the internet to find if I am infringing patents, instead of being productive.
It's true 1.36% seems like nothing, but for a small company, it could mean a lot. Plus, it would be heart-breaking (or even outraging) to know that a program I made on my own, with no knowledge about some software patent, nor ill intention, gives money to someone that has nothing to do with it.
And, as you mention, legal costs, time wasted and stress could easily be real threats to a startup.
Patent holders generally need to target big players to get worthwhile payoffs so unless you are big (in which case you have already won) then it is only the Lodsys type scum you need to worry about trying to extort you (in which case your paranoia and research won't have helped because the accusation doesn't have to be valid to cause you problems). Lodsys and their ilk seem to have gone quiet (I don't know why) but I suspect that if you don't look like an easy target they may ignore you.
You also fear your emotions, try to look logically at the situation. Making $1M and having to pay out $13K to someone you feel is unworthy is annoying not heartbreaking. Making much less and you are hardly worth targeting.
I'm not saying that you have to like the current situation but that it isn't bad enough that it should be a major driver of your life. There are many reasons not to do a startup but I wouldn't let this be one if I were you.
Uh, yeah, exactly. I don't know what you think Lodsys is that's not a "patent holder", but that's exactly what they are, and they're a great example of patent trolls going after small businesses. This happens all the time.
In this whole thread you've also ignored the fact that this is 1.36% of revenue for one small aspect of a product. Now consider the fact that your product is also highlighting certain parts of data returned from a database, or you have a a certain type of UI interaction when you scroll past the bottom of a widget, etc etc etc and you have a whole lot of companies ready to claim their 1.36%.
I don't know if it's enough that it should stop people from wanting to start at all, but it is a very real problem that is very much affecting real people. For instance:
The Patent, Used as a Sword
I agree expense of the US legal system that makes settling vexatious (Lodsys etc.) suits financially attractive is a real problem.
The 1.36% of revenue is for an aspect of the product that Google were not happy to remove or change sufficiently following a loss in court and includes an increase for willfulness. If I understand correctly it includes the key revenue maximisation process. It is not just for a minor UI feature and that is presumably why Google didn't just work round it. Yes the stacking of percentage royalties could be a real problem but that would mostly happen on standards if FRAND wasn't enforced and everyone stayed outside patent pools and claimed 2.4% of final retail price (Motorola/Google).
Regarding your article that does sound troubling although a large part of the problem seems to have been a dependence on winning some big deals. I do suspect that speech recognition is one of the patent heavy areas along with codecs as I mentioned, probably autonomous cars, audio and video tagging, watermarking and recognition. In these areas I would definitely want to be careful and perhaps apply for patents before proceeding too far (this would both mean patent searches were conducted and give something to defend attacks with). Alternatively I would be studying the literature and material that was 20 years old and documenting the process of obvious steps when combing approaches. Most software is not in these patent thick areas.
A proper list of dangerous areas for patents would be really quite useful...maybe an Ask HN topic?
Thanks for the healthy dose of optimism and realism :). I'll keep that in mind.
"Vringo also sued Microsoft over ads in its Bing search engine. Microsoft settled that case in May, agreeing to pay $1 million plus 5 percent of whatever Google ultimately pays."
It's strange agreeing to pay 5% of Google outcome on the same and quite clever the more I consider the pros/cons.
Or maybe link me to the explanation. I am interested because from what I have understood this sounds really obvious, just application of good business practices to the internet. If customers like a particular product (click on one link a lot), you get more of that product (show the link more often), so you can sell more. Is there more to it? There has to be, right?
That's the foundation of nearly all software patents these days. Its business, but on the internet.
It seems to work because of the built in novelty factor. When there was no internet, it was impossible to do business on it, now that there is, its suddenly possible and so seems novel. It feels like a new invention when in fact, its really just an application of the technology to the same old same old.
I call it "the meta patent troll".
The guy got crushed in the market, being just a little fish, he was gobbled right up. But he bought back his patent, and took the fight to Google and Bing and won.
You can argue the percentage calculation is a too rich by an order of magnitude or two (and I think it is), but you can't argue whether the patent is valid or whether they infringe. A judge and jury said it is, and they did, and that will stand until a higher court says otherwise.
Did Google invent it first? Nope. Did Google find any prior art? Nope. Was the patent obvious? Nope.
I don't have a problem with large companies paying large sums to inventors who actually produce a product, patent their invention, but get crushed by the market a few years later.
This is actually kinda how it's supposed to work. If this is an example of what is "wrong" then there there must be no patent that is "right".
Was the patent obvious? Nope.
These comments seem to be at odds with on another. If the patent covers an algorithm that is a natural solution to the problem multiple companies are trying to solve, doesn't that mean the solution is 'obvious'?
Is that how we want software development to work? I solve a technical problem in an application, but because someone I've never heard of on the other side of the country happened to patent that solution first, I can be sued for money? Sure, it benefits the people who file patents, but I don't think patents should exist solely because they can profit a revenue stream to the people who file them.
'Natural' to me means a product or feature which just fits perfectly within the system. A natural solution is the most valuable and often hardest to come by. They also tend to seem incredibly obvious in retrospect, and yet examining history will demonstrate that others suffered for years for lack of that exact functionality.
For example, the intermittent wiper, or the teleprompter, or maybe even the paper clip. It's the ideas that seem the most obvious in retrospect which need the strongest patent protection. But only if you can show it's novel.
One way the patent office will let you demonstrate something is 'non-obvious' is if you can show something is both novel and actually solves a large existing problem in the market. The novel, simple, elegant solution to a large problem is by definition non-obvious, or else someone else would already be doing it.
The fact that multiple entities came up with this idea, without communication of the idea between them, means that it was more a function of the environment the idea was conceived in than the person who did the conceiving.
Patents are NOT just to prevent copying. Patents are not supposed to be worthless against larger companies who can just replicate your work without your help.
If you could just re-engineer any patented invention, patents would be worthless. Companies would be incentivized to bury their heads in the sand so they could be sure they were not 'inspired' by anything out there that might have been patented. The only way to prevent this is to say, we don't care if you "knew" about the patent you still can be found infringing.
The thing I hope will be reversed on appeal is willfulness. It seems to me this was not willful. Or perhaps the definition of 'willful' should be tightened to mean reverse-engineered or copied from a practicing entity. That's one way to get the damage award to be more reasonable.
If people can replicate your work without having to look at any specific about your work, why should your work be patentable?
What about if you reverse the actors in your example? Should large companies with vast warchests filled with patents be allowed to strong arm smaller competitors who likely don't have nearly as many patents with which to defend themselves?
Patents aren't about protecting an idea because the person who came up with it was uniquely qualified to create that particular thing. Any number of people could create the same thing independently. But only one person can be the first person to create a thing.
Patents reward those who come first, those who push a boundary, who create something novel. Novel doesn't say anything about how many hours it took to come up with the idea.
Remember, this patent is from 1996, and soon to be expired. 16 years later the algorithm powering AdWords can't live without it. I'd say this patent was 'ahead of the curve' when it was written.
Injunctions are becoming more rare, and if the penalty is apportioned correctly it would always make very little sense for a much larger company to sue a smaller one, because even a win would cost more than it was worth.
Even with recent changes, the law could due with some strengthening to protect against harassment suits. From large companies against small, and from trolls against anyone. Reasonable costs for the defendant could be carried by the plaintiff in some cases.
Already the case, because willful infringement penalties are much worse than accidental infringement. Any lawyer will tell you that, as an engineer, you should never read patents:
If the benefit of society as a whole is the objective then inventions are only worth protecting if they would not have occurred without such protection.
An idea clearly does not fall into that category, it's worth is in the execution and not in "having it".
Back when I was actively studying this stuff, it was noted that there are four specific industries where intellectual property just doesn't work as intended. Software was one, pharma was another, and I forget the other two but a quick Google ought to surface them with more credibility than I can drop here.
That's not to say it works much better outside those industries, but it's not completely pointless.
I thought pharma relied on patents to offset the massive cost of regulatory control over the product. (FDA fees, cost of running patient trials, etc)
Also, pharma companies have been known to get patents on drugs that have existed for many years- which does not support innovation (though pharma argues it supports government regulation of these drugs, which have been on the market for many years)
Dont't get me wrong, I am for abolishing all patents. Even if, say 80% of the patent were unimbigiously justified, the bureaucracy and costs it introduces are tremendous.
I would loved to know the percentage to the total budget of the legal departments of companies like MS, Google and Apple
One of the ways of making a product defensible is to patent its underlying technology.
If a software startup doesn't hold a patent, there is a chance a larger player could just copy the startup's product or service and drive the startup out of business.
This sort of 'litle parent that could' story are the post child for pro patent folk.
No, that's not how it works. No, small one-time inventors to not benefit from the current parent system. Irritating as anything seeing it being played out this way.
This is a commercial patent trolling company, from the inception it was so, and it remains so now. These are the people who the current patent system benefits.
Not true at all. Copyleft licenses as currently written wouldn't work without copyright law; all-permissive licenses like MIT and BSD would become the default state. I'll happily take that trade, and several folks at the FSF and other FOSS organizations are on record saying the same.
Please read my other post in the same forum about "intellectual property" to understand.
All the patent system by itself also does not end human civilization (I did not want to imply that), but the patent system is another symptom of the current state of human civilization and the state of human greed that drives western civilizations down.
But think about it - what exactly does American produce these days?
Yes, they still have a heavy manufacturing base - but that's declining and fast.
If you stifle innovation, you've basically shot yourself in the foot.
(it's understood this doesn't cover '10-'13, but it still makes the point it was intended to: 1) manufacturing is not declining; 2) America still has a truly massive manufacturing base)
"According to United Nations data, the U.S. is still the largest manufacturing country in the world. In 2009, American manufacturing output (in real terms) was nearly $2.2 trillion. That’s about 45% larger than China’s, at just under $1.5 trillion. (For statistical reasons, I chose to use figures that include mining and utilities as part of manufacturing.) Though China, of course, is growing very quickly, the U.S. has also maintained its global share of manufacturing, at 20% in 2009 compared to just over 22% in 1980. What’s more, American manufacturing is becoming more productive. In 2009, productivity in U.S. manufacturing increased by 7.7%, more than any other country followed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics."
Secondly, of your haphazard list, only Boeing does any manufacturing. Maybe instead of knee-jerking with "America is great" you should read a bit more carefully?
All of those industries produce, and all of them make significant money, and the GDP backs that up. Producing stuff while going into debt, is still producing stuff, so your reasoning about debt has no relevance.
So maybe you should take your own advice?
Just for the record: I think America is a shit hole, and I'm generally anti-capitalist. But it's nonsense to pretend they don't produce anything.
American voters stuck too much with personal values and elect a congress that does not do anything and gets 10% approval rate. Now we have to deal with this kind of stupidity. #thanksobama
I personally don't care for patents, but even more unfair than what we have would be letting some, but not all, actors get and enforce these patents.
How can I, as a small start up, produce a new mobile phone? Every concept from the hardware to the software is layered in patents. What other things are small companies not bothering to produce because of the patent minefield? At every turn and corner you may be stepping on another patent troll waiting to take a percentage of your earnings as well as drain your bank account on legal fees.
Given Google's structure and revenue recognition, I'd be surprised if they had to pay out anything significant.
And the patent system will still not get reformed.
A hostile take over might be cheaper than paying royalties.
Sort of the inverse of the Mosaic licensing, where Spyglass got a royalty off of IE revenue, and MS proceeded to give it away for free.
It looks like the auction model based on the number of hits is pretty obvious now, but it was not quite obvious in 1999. The re-targeting model is definitely novel in 1999.
I know that this is not very constructive. I know that violence is not a solution. But seeing what these [insert insult here] do to our industry I just can not help myself.
I think people in that type of position frequently tend to get over-confident after winning, and rather than take one big payday, they keep rolling the dice.
Then all previous knowledges we get from ancestors should be protected. The dead also deserve a share.
A search engine system comprising:
a first system for receiving informons from a network on a continuing search basis, for filtering such informons for relevancy to a query from an individual user, and for storing a ranked list of relevant informons as a wire;
a second system for receiving informons from a network on a current demand search basis and for filtering such informons for relevancy to the query from the individual user; and
a third system for selecting at least one of the first and second systems to make a search for the query and to return the wire or demand search results to the individual user.
here is the money claim for the other patent:
. A search system comprising:
a scanning system for searching for information relevant to a query associated with a first user in a plurality of users;
a feedback system for receiving information found to be relevant to the query by other users; and
a content-based filter system for combining the information from the feedback system with the information from the scanning system and for filtering the combined information for relevance to at least one of the query and the first user.
man, that second one is a pretty broad patent.