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Boston Phoenix claims patent on interactive Web pages; sues Facebook

Tele-Publishing, Inc., a subsidiary of Phoenix Media/Communications Group, Inc., yesterday filed a federal lawsuit against Facebook, alleging the social network's personal pages violate a patent Tele-Publishing was granted in 2001.

The complaint, filed in US District Court in Boston, seeks unspecified treble damages and an end to Facebook's alleged infringement of Tele-Publishing's patent, which sets out a method by which a remote user can upload images and information to a server to build a personal Web page.

From the Tele-Publishing patent:

Phoenix page

Tele-Publishing bills itself as "the leading provider of revenue generating Personals content to the newspaper industry."

If Tele-Publishing wins, the decision could have a profound effect on the Web, since many sites now use similar techniques for letting users set up personal pages, from large social networks to, well, Universal Hub.

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Comments

...so what they're saying is that they hold the patent on a personal profile page?

Good luck disproving prior art, considering that even web-based discussion boards were robust enough in 2001 to allow photo uploads, favorite links, other categories, etc.

Or is there Something Special here in their argument?

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Especially when it came to high-tech patents, which were newfangled 'n' stuff. Anyway, here's the abstract from the patent:

The apparatus of the invention includes a local computer network. Remote users may connect to the local computer network through a larger network, such as the Internet. The local computer network has at least one server computer which can be accessed by remote users. The local computer network also has at least one computer software program and at least one database located therein. The computer software programs prompt a remote user to select a page template for displaying the personal page. The programs next allow the remote user to contribute text and graphics to the personal page. The programs also allow the remote user to authorize others to review the personal page. The programs store attributes representing the layout of the personal page, the text and graphics contributed by the remote user, and the authorization information entered by the remote user in the one or more databases located on the local computer network.

IANAL, natch, but yeah, I bet you're right: There would be prior art even before 1997, when they first filed.

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They should throw this out on that basis alone. My first website was on Tripod in 1994-95 and it matched the above description. I'd like them try to prove how they were "harmed" and why they didn't say anything for the past 8 years while Blogger, Wordpress, etc. provided these tools.

God this pisses me off.

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For what its worth, I don't think were any sites like this then. They also patened the allowing/blocking access to other individuals(friending).

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Considering that Geocities started as BHI as early as 1994 and this patent was filed for in 1997, I am going to have to assume prior art on this one.

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I took out a patent on "a biological system for tidal inhalation and exhaltion with oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange" that year.

just.kidding.

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God patent laws are screwed up...

Patents on "methods" need to die. Seriously, I'm going to patent this abstract idea then sue the crap out of ya when you find a way to put it into use to make millions.

I'm totally fine with patenting propitiatory code, but patenting a page that has a picture, a way to upload data, and hyperlinks to other websites. Doesn't anyone see something wrong when you're allowed to do that?

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Considering how much the Internet has evolved globally since 1997, from content-rich social networks to even the smallest social media discussion forums, good luck trying to enforce this one. Even worse, as some commenters have already pointed out, this technology was already widely used in primitive (though far lesser known) social networks use prior to 1997.

I expect that when all is said and done, this lawsuit will probably be dismissed. In the extremely improbable event that the Boston Phoenix actually scores an "RIAA VS Napster"-like victory over Facebook, the ramifications could be so big that there may even be cries for US Copyright Law reform and greater "Fair Use" provisions.

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its common to have dial tone, buttons to punch and dial.. but yet 1 person own the patent for the exact same thing and anyone who makes a phone, phone system or application using the tones generated by pushing a button, lcd key pays one guy. so its enforcable.

companies every day infringe on patents because if they are successful its cheaper to pay then to have not started the business to begin with.

just like Mobile website companies have had to change the way they receive txt messages with http and ftp because recent pantent lawsuits... not always fair but well its the law if people dont like it then try to change the law not the reverse

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Most likely this suit will never reach the inside of a courtroom. I know a lawyer for blackberry and they routinely settle these kind of suits because it's cheaper than litigating. It's apparent that the phoenix is in trouble (as are most newspapers) and looking for a quick score. JMTC

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This is amusingly sleazy even for the Phoenix, which has never been too picky when it comes to revenue streams.

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Leave it to Mindich! That old degenerate, now stuck with irrelevant legacy media products, was bound to concoct a new revenue stream sooner or later. This one's particularly clever--it will be fun watching him waste his kid's money on legal fees until this frivolous suit gets dismissed.

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he should save the money for his son's er, "socializing" in Newton...

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this is just one of many reasons why all patents regarding software should be thrown out.

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While I don't see all software patents being thrown out anytime soon, I DO think there will be a political movement for Copyright Law Reform if big companies keep abusing patents the way they do today.

Today, patents are abused to reap in big profits, whether it's the Boston Phoenix frivolously suing Facebook because they patented an idea that already existed in 1997, the RIAA suing someone who shares MP3s online with their friends, or a drug company patenting a revolutionary new cure so they can monopolize it and overcharge for it. While it's one thing to Copyright a new invention or an idea and take credit for it, it's another to abuse your patent to the point where it limits progress and cripples future advancements.

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