Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jeff wags Dave

In an entry ("Dave Wags the Dog") on his blog, Jeff Bohren takes me to task for today's IdM newsletter.

He mentions Sxip Technology's applications for patents on systems which appear to cover OpenID and which I've been assured will be covered by forthcoming non-assertion statements. Jeff comments, "I find it odd that a company would spend the time, effort, and money to pursue IP that they already don’t intend to enforce." Now, as I said, some of the functionality of OpenID is based on Sxip's proprietary products (which are also "patent pending") but the primary reason to apply for these patents is so that no Eolas (the folks who claim a patent on browser plug-ins) can come along and claim them - and then attempt to stick it to everyone. In today's patent-happy climate, someone is going to own those patents, and I'd rather it was Sxip and Dick Hardt.

But Jeff also takes me to task for touting Sxipper, which I described as "Sxip’s well-designed Web-based single sign-on solution plus (SSO+). The 'plus' is a form-filling tool that allows the first visitor to a form to map the fields and send the resulting semantic map back to the Sxipper site. Subsequent Sxipper-enabled visitors to that form will see their own data automatically populated into it."

Jeff doesn't like the fact that it won't work with Internet Explorer (although maybe it's time that BMC upgraded it's corporate standard) and really gets his knickers in a twist over the implied lack of security in the product. As just one problem, he mentions " Suppose you use Firefox/Sxipper in an office environment. If you go to lunch or home and don’t lock your PC..." Well, if I were setting policy, that wouldn't happen. Or, it wouldn't happen more than once. Give anyone physical access to the storage device and you have no security. Some of his other points are well taken, but his moral does cause me wonder:

"The Moral: never convert a 'Something you Know' credential into a 'Something you Have' credential."
I sure hope the folks at RSA, ActiveIdentity, and Gemplus are aware of those words of wisdom!

Not that relevant to the discussion so far, but

Has it occured to anyone that the real, true, and hidden purpose of using phraseology like this

"In another embodiment, the received request includes an ordered list of the plurality of sets. The ordered list can be an indication of a hard priority or a soft priority from the membersite. The indication of soft priority can include an indication of an association between each of the plurality of requested sets and a plurality of levels of access."

is to distract, confuse, and overload the patent examiner such that they won't be able to recognize that the claimed invention is really just another high-falutin' way of describing something that is already obvious to practioners in the field?
That's why patent attorneys make the really, really, REALLY big bucks!
I'd disagree that the phrases are intended to "distract/confuse/overload" the examiner. This part of the description of the claimed invention is using the terminology of the claims section of the patent app. US patent claims language in particular has a controlled vocabulary and restricted non-plaintext structure. This is no different from an internet standard using terms such as "envelope", "datagram", or "big-endian", or including a diagram of a packet format in ASCII art.
Really? I wasn't talking about terms like "embodiment". I was talking about phases like "ordered list", "plurality of sets", "hard priority", "soft priority", "plurality of levels of access", etc. If you want me to believe that these are part of a controlled vocabulary that patent examiners understand, then I sure would like to see the reference on the USPTO site that defines them.

But we're getting away from the real point. Namely, that in the software field, patent examiners really don't have a clue about what's "obvious" to practioners in the field and what isn't.
It sure does look to me like they throw in the towel, issue the patent, and let the courts sort it out. Yeah, I know that's overly harsh.
"In today's patent-happy climate, someone is going to own those patents, and I'd rather it was Sxip and Dick Hardt."

That's a pretty short-term view of patent ownership. If the IP were to become truely valuable, control of that portfolio would certainly transfer to someone with more ability to extert control.
>>If the IP were to become truely valuable<<

All IP is valuable to someone, and - as I said - it's better to have that control in friendly hands.
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