the whole shebang

November 5, 2006

Could successful IBM patent suit against Amazon affect website owners?

Filed under: Legal Issues — wholeshebang @ 3:18 am

In Why IBM’s patent suit against Amazon could be bad news for the entire Web, this author imagines what could happen if IBM’s lawsuit is successful. He even dreams up a sample letter that IBM could fax to website owners demanding royalties on any type of online advertising.

But let’s take a breather here! While pointing out that you can patent a process in the U.S., he doesn’t give any reasoning explaining whether or not IBM even has a “process”…the words he quotes from the lawsuit, and moreover, his own imaginings, seem to define a process merely in the terms of an idea! You cannot patent an idea, a generalization. He seems to think that merely the act of connecting an advertisement that is served with information contained in the static portion of a page is a “process”. (And maybe so does IBM? — could be IBM themselves is foaming at the mouth, I have to admit I have not read the contents of their lawsuit filing.) However, even not being a lawyer, common sense seems to dictate that they could only patent a technical process by which they achieve such an idea — not the idea itself!

So, read the article and decide for yourself, but take it with a grain of salt. After all, unless IBM is has a patent on a specific technology it created (and Amazon has stolen it, which wouldn’t affect your average website designer), who cares?

If all IBM achieved was a nice advertising system via the use of standard HTML or other-language code, they can’t patent the built-in functions of a code they didn’t create and which belongs to someone else (i.e., whomever holds the liscence to the code, which in most cases is “the community” of people who create and use the code). They can only patent their particular written program derived from it, not the built-in functions of the code.

Any professional web programmer worth their salt writes custom programs to their clients’ specifications the same way IBM or anyone else does, so unless web programmers are out their stealing entire chunks of IBM source-code (which I highly doubt), this “issue” is a case of paranoia run amok!

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