Netmite Corp try to con the greedy into buying a worthless patent

! Warning: this post hasn't been updated in over three years and so may contain out of date information.

netmite.pngNetmite Corporation issued a press release on the 18th March announcing the sale of U.S. Patent 6,418,462 at the Ocean Tomo Spring 2008 Live IP Auction on April 2nd at The Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. So what? Well they rather boldly claim that the patent covers AJAX technology and that therefore every existing AJAX site could be in breach of the patent:

” The patent, which will be offered as Lot 7, discloses methods for allowing additional tasks being performed by a client through a sideband communication channel in addition to the main communication channel between a client and server. The patent contains broad claims covering general methods for diverse industries of web, Internet services, communications, and entertainment.”

If true, there are a whole range of big, rich companies out there, such as Google, ripe for suing for infringing the patent. Before you rush to get your cheque books out though, it’s worth pointing out a huge flaw in this reasoning by Netmite Corporation. Their supporting documentation describes the patent claim as being:

1. A method in a metacomputing, distributed network of utilizing remote client resources in the network, comprising:

server that implements tasks by utilizing idle resources in multiple clients;

individual communication channels between each client and the server;

a second, separate dedicated communication channel (sideband channel) between each client and server, through which the server distributes the tasks to the each client downstream and through which each of the clients sends the results of the task upstream to the server.

Anyone who has even the most basic understanding of AJAX will know that AJAX works through the same channel as all other communications between the client and server, and that it doesn’t involve the server distributing tasks to clients. However even if one could successfully argue that the asynchronous communications that underpin AJAX are described by this patent, there is still a problem. Since their creation (before this patent was filed), clients have asynchronously communicated with the server to fetch images. That constitutes prior art, I suspect.

However all is not lost for Netmite: there is one very obvious use made of this patent. Criminal gangs use these techniques to get “zombie” PCs to spam the world with emails offering cheap porn, penis extensions and fake Viagra. Perhaps the buyer of the patent could try suing these criminal lowlifes…

3 thoughts on “Netmite Corp try to con the greedy into buying a worthless patent

  1. The first thing that comes to mind is the Seti software that was distributed to run as a screen saver. This sounds a lot more like what they are doing than AJAX.

    For example, it says:

    “Normally, for sideband service to work, a specially designed client program is needed”

    Further it says:

    “…in particular, clients must be able to download executable codes form the server and the server must be able to transfer executable code to the clients.”

    (Note form, not from is on the .pdf)

    The only time executable code is transfered to the clients via a web browser is if Active X is enabled. If you are talking about Java or Javascript, that was available with Nescape Gold 3.0. I have a copy with time and date stamps on the CD of 10/22/1996.

    The patent does discuss using a Java applet to implement the invention.

    “…In addition, the clients must have the ability to execute remote programs locally.”

    This last part makes no sense what so ever. You can make remote procedure calls for remote programs to be executed remotely, or run local code locally. Perhaps what they meant to say was the server needed the ability to cause programs to be executed on the client machines.

    It looks to me as if the patent is a solution looking for a problem to solve. To stretch the meaning of the patent to include AJAX ignores the normal course of development of Java and Javascript.

    For example, in the book Java Unleashed, from Publishing ISBN 1-57521-049-5 Copyright 1996, it discusses creating server applets. Further it was not difficult to create a applet with a window of no size, ie it was running in the background.

    Note, that was three years before this patent was filed.

    Perhaps the patent is a creative way of using Java, but Gmail and such is not a use of this patent.

    Using something other than Java, (perhaps active X to trick code to being downloaded and executed on a computer), it seems to me, that the real benificiaries of this patent are the crooks that use hi-jacked computers to create spam spewing bot-nets.

    But to the best of my knowledge, there are no normal web sites that use client computers to perform work as a way of off-loading the server, except in the normal way a browser might cache a script, then execute it independent of the server for the benefit of the client machine user.

    It is an interesting concept, but you couldn’t depend on the client machines performing useful third party work, when the user can close the browser and clear private data at a button push.

  2. It should be USPTO to decide whether the patent should be issued or not. If it is issued, then it should be valid (until later being invalidated or challenged in the court, which is another story…)

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