Comparing Two Things: Still Patented After All These Years

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Yesterday I pointed out a little blast from the past: the origins of the term “asspatent,” in this September 2004 post. While you should, of course, read that post in its amusing entirety, the business end was an imagined dialogue between Lawyer and Boss at Commtouch: a “vendor of email technology, messaging applications, and comprehensive messaging platforms to enterprises, portals, large ISP and Telco organizations since 1991”, and also the company that purchased US Patent 6,330,590 towards the end of 2004. To wit:

Lawyer: Hey, boss? We may have a problem — apparently some guy has a patent on comparing two email messages to see whether they’re the same.

Boss: Yeah, right. Pull the other one, why don’t you? It’s got bells on it.

Lawyer: No, seriously. You know how the U.S. Patent Office is. I actually patented my ass the other day, just for fun. It was approved. I’m thinking about patenting respiration next week.

Boss: It’s been a long week and I don’t need to deal with this crap. We just got $3.9 million thrown at us, let’s buy the damn patent. There are too many companies in the anti-spam software space anyway, maybe we can pick up some extra revenue by suing people.

So yesterday’s post inspired me to check on what Commtouch has been doing since September ’04…after all, I’ll happily admit to being rather cynical on the patent front, and it would be unfair of me to assume that Commtouch was going the patent shakedown route without any supporting evidence, wouldn’t it?

I mean, in the absence of, say, a Q4 2004 summary press release noting that “[Commtouch] believes that its patent strategy is moving in the right direction, and that in 2005, it will be able to initiate a patent licensing program for the registered patent it purchased during 2004,” it would be unreasonable to opine that the imagined Lawyer/Boss discussion above seems eerily accurate, right?

Lacking something like a May 2005 press release in which Commtouch CEO Gideon Mantel gleefully states that “Coming on the heels of [Commtouch’s] agreement to market DCC commercially, the license to PineApp marks one of the first steps in implementing our global DCC licensing strategy,” and that “[Commtouch plans] to decisively enforce our licensing program and patent strategy in a comprehensive manner,” it would be just plain wrong to suggest that Commtouch plans to continue demanding licensing fees for an idea that it didn’t create, from companies that independently developed similar ideas, on the basis of a patent that should never have been granted at all…right?

Right?

Calling an Asspatent an Asspatent

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It was nice when Colin O’Malley noted the importance of the term “asspatent.” I was pleased to see that someone else understood how important (and fun) it was to be able to simply call an asspatent an asspatent, rather than having to go with a duller term like “patent of questionable validity.” I’ve been waiting, though, for an indication that the term was working its way into people’s everyday vocabulary — a sign that usage was not limited to gentleman scholars such as Colin.

I wait no longer. George Scriban yesterday referred to restaurant chain Ceriality’s patents covering serving cereal to their customers as asspatents. I’m so proud.

And for those of you who came to this party a little late, I’ll flatter myself by assuming that the term asspatent is pretty much self-explanatory, but it has its roots in this post that I wrote a year or so ago, if you’re curious.

Thoughts on California

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Been bouncing around California this week, hence the light (nonexistent) posting. A few days in Carmel (Mona’s grandparents), a few days in a cabin in the redwoods (peace and quiet), and now a couple in San Francisco (quick check-in with some friends).

1. Holy crap, every time we’re there I’m struck by how beautiful Carmel is…I’m jealous of Mona’s grandparents, though: sounds like it was a really incredible place to live in 1955.

2. Gwen thinks that the Pacific Ocean is the most incredible thing ever.

3. It’s a little weird that a wood stove-heated cabin four miles from the nearest town (population under 1,000) down a one-lane, twisty road has broadband internet access. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.

4. It’s even weirder that we managed to find what must be the only hotel in the San Francisco bay area that doesn’t have any in-room internet access of any sort. Beautiful view from our room, though, so again I don’t complain.

Back to the real world tomorrow with thoughts on family vacations, software development mindsets and methodologies, online identity, and my involvement with all of these things.

TechCrunch Blogs Attention Trust Recorder. Attention Trust Doesn’t?

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Seems a little odd to me that I’m hearing about the Attention Trust Recorder via techcrunch, rather than the AttentionTrust blog.

Given who’s involved with AttentionTrust, I would’ve expected more active communication from the organization. On the other hand, reading down that Board of Directors you see a lot of names have have had a lot of other stuff going on recently.

Attention and identity, attention and identity. Really need to free up some time to sit and think…

Explicitly Social Software: ning.com gets some attention

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People seem to be paying a little bit of attention to 24 Hour Laundry’s release of ning.com.

Hmmm…identity is one of the big questions for Explicitly Social Software: having discrete identities and data sets associated with different ESS is a pain, and I haven’t yet seen any really effective ways to address the issue. Perhaps providing a framework that allows people to quickly and easily develop their ESS under a single bigass umbrella is a reasonable way to sidestep the issue?

Users don’t currently support a centralized “ning.com profile,” but I’d be surprised if there weren’t ongoing discussions of the possibility of either creating one or supporting some sort of “shared profile” structure available to ning.com application developers as an option.

Our Secret Masters: McDonald’s vs. Starbucks

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Mona, Gwen, and I drove up to Amherst, MA this weekend for a visit with Mona’s mom. With this comes our road trip tradition: mmmmmmm, mmmmm fast food. I grew up in New York City in the 70s, and neither cars nor fast food made much of an impact on my life, so now I try to make up for lost time when road trip opportunities present themselves.

After a meal of McDonald’s finest on Friday night, we spent a painfully long time in line at the Starbucks booth, waiting for people to place their seventeen syllable, multi-lingual coffee beverage orders; this led into a discussion of what people mean when they “buy a cup of coffee” these days. Putting aside the cost of anything other than drip coffee at Starbucks, Mona and I placed bets on the McDonald’s nutiritional equivalent of Starbucks drinks, and upon returning home to a high-speed internet connection we checked our guesses…

You can get the details here and here, but I’ll give you the big winner. A Grande Whole Milk Caffe Mocha with Whip Cream is an almost perfect nutritional analogue to tossing a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger into a blender and drinking it down.

McDonald’s has gotten all the attention recently what with Super Size Me and all, but my vote for Super Secret Corporate Master has to go to Starbucks: the same calories, fat, cholesterol, and sugar delivered via a stealth mechanism that lets people think they’re “just buying a cup of coffee,” plus they charge the victim two or three times what the McDonald’s nutritional analogue costs. Genius…