US Patent Office Rejects Subdomains Patent

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rejected 20 patent claims on the idea that a subdomain of a domain name could be patentable. Had the patent claim by the company Hoshiko been allowed, domain names such as news.cnet.com or business.timesonline.co.uk would have been subject to the patent.The USPTO ruled the concepts were obvious and therefore not patentable, however Hoshiko now must decide whether to amend its claims to narrow them while arguing that the narrower claims were non-obvious even if the original claims were not or to give up altogether.The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Patent Busting Project had this patent claim on its Ten Most Wanted List, and successfully challenged the patent application using “a combination of prior art that EFF had supplied and similar Internet newsgroup postings”.As the EFF notes in a blog posting:
The patent essentially attempted to claim ownership of the idea of virtual subdomains. But that idea was well known long before the patent issued. For example, over a year before the patent application was filed, members of the Apache developer mailing list were discussing how best to create virtual subdomains.The patent was originally lodged by a company called Ideaflood back in 1999 who, the EFF notes, “billed itself as ‘an intellectual property generation and holding company,’ with their entire business model built on bullying smaller companies into paying licensing fees for overbroad software patents.”The patent was then granted in 2004. The company threatened many small website hosting companies, such as Freehomepage.com and T35 webhosting as well as the community site LiveJournal, whose 3 million users each have their own subdomain, and thus standing in the way of LiveJournal users’ ability to speak freely in groups.Against larger companies it was more aggressive, filing a lawsuit against Google in October 2004 and About.com in May 2005. CNET reports the “Google case was dismissed in March 2005, and IdeaFlood reached a settlement with About.com within months.”The patent was subsequently reassigned to a company called Hoshiko, LLC.More information on the patent claim and the EFF’s efforts to defeat the patent application are available from:
w2.eff.org/patent/wanted/patent.php?p=ideaflood
www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/01/u-s-patent-office-rejects-all-twenty-claims-subdomAlso see:
Patent office rejects subdomain patent claims
news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10147722-38.html

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