Netmite 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…