Illegitimate Patent Used to Threaten Website Hosting Companies
San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is challenging a bogus patent on Internet subdomains that has been used to threaten small businesses and innovators.
Ideaflood, a self-proclaimed "intellectual property holding company," used this illegitimate patent to demand payment from website hosting companies that offer virtual, personalized subdomains -- like "action.eff.org" for the parent domain "eff.org." But in a reexamination request filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) today, EFF and Rick Mc Leod of Klarquist Sparkman, LLP show that the method Ideaflood claims to have invented was well known before the patent was issued. In fact, website developers were having public discussions about how to create these virtual subdomains on an Apache developer mailing list for more than a year before Ideaflood made its patent claim.
"This illustrates how an open-source project can establish a public record of technology development and thwart invalid patents," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "The public discussions on the Apache and other mailing lists have shown that Ideaflood's patent claims were without merit and that the patent should be revoked before it causes any more damage to innovation on the Internet."
The companies that Ideaflood threatened include Freehomepage.com, T35 Hosting, and LiveJournal, a social networking site where each of its three million users have their own subdomain. The patent has since been reassigned to a company called Hoshiko, LLC.
"Our patent system is intended to encourage innovation, not damage it by encroaching on the public domain," said Rick Mc Leod, who drafted EFF's petition. "Unfortunately, in recent years the PTO has been deluged with applications, making it difficult to determine whether many patents should be issued or rejected. When a 'bad' patent targets something as ephemeral as the Internet, it can be even more difficult to get that patent invalidated. Fortunately, a diligent, prior art searcher sent us a key reference."
The challenge to the Ideaflood patent is part of EFF's Patent Busting Project, which combats the chilling effects that bad patents have on public and consumer interests. So far, the project has killed one bogus patent and requested the reexamination of two others.
For the full reexamination request:
For more on EFF's Patent Busting Project:
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Rick Mc Leod
Klarquist Sparkman, LLP