Comparing Two Things: Still Patented After All These Years


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?