Thursday

Thursday 23/01/03At the beginning of the week, I wrote a story about SBC Communications trying it on with a patent it owned, and that it claimed covered such things as putting links in frames on Web sites. As is traditional in these matters, the company's so confident about its claim that it's going for the smallest sites least able to mount a legal defence -- in this case, it seems as if SBC, a large and voracious telco, is warming up on some educational Web sites.

Thursday 23/01/03
At the beginning of the week, I wrote a story about SBC Communications trying it on with a patent it owned, and that it claimed covered such things as putting links in frames on Web sites. As is traditional in these matters, the company's so confident about its claim that it's going for the smallest sites least able to mount a legal defence -- in this case, it seems as if SBC, a large and voracious telco, is warming up on some educational Web sites. That's class. I heard about the story from DJ, a friendly Web software developer, who found it on a blog -- and as he pointed out, it was Martin Luther King Jr Day in the US and nobody seemed to be doing journalism over there for a bit. So we managed to get the story out before anyone else. Good old-fashioned scoop journalism -- it's great fun. Since then, the story has quietly developed as other sites and agencies have picked it up, and as predicted SBC is being very reluctant to comment, pretending that it's just business as normal and of course it has the right to exercise their intellectual property. "It's not a story, and we're not going to talk about it" is all you'll get out of the company, which of course proves that it is. Nobody I've talked to thinks the patent will hold water if it goes to court, but unless SBC can be shamed into sense that's the only way it'll end. Interestingly the patent authors themselves, who were working for a different company at the time, got a dollar for their efforts. An American reader sent in an email saying: "The lead inventor is Robert Schumacher. He is now at User Centric, Inc. (www.usercentric.com). He is three times removed from Ameritech-SBC. Previously a VP at Universal Access, he now is a Managing Director with User Centric and now consults on Internet-related technologies. I am not sure of his obligations, but the poor soul sold his intellectual property to the patent for $1.00 (common practice at companies like Ameritech)." It'll be interesting to hear what he has to say on the subject. We're on it.