OT: eBay being sued over patent infringement (et al)

From: Brian Chase <vaxzilla_at_jarai.org>
Date: Thu Apr 24 15:50:01 2003

On Thu, 24 Apr 2003, Patrick Rigney wrote:

> [...]
> For myself, I'm very concerned that the USPTO has issued many
> frivolous and unwarranted patents for processes that existed
> previously and/or are too obvious or trivial. eBay was also recently
> sued by a company that claims to have a patent on the caching of data
> for presentation in a user interface, for example. The patent
> describes a caching mechanism that is generally the way most web
> browsers interoperate with a web server. The USPTO is, IMHO,
> overwhelmed and missing critical resources and subject matter experts
> in the evaluation of its applications. Grave mistakes have been made,
> and to me the article to which Sellam refers is just another (quite
> alarming) reminder of that fact.
> [...]

I'd agree that US patent law and the USPTO allows far too much
"intellectual property" to be protected by patents. The patenting of
business processes and practices seems absurd to me, and I'm not
entirely supportive of the idea of patenting software. In my opinion,
eBay is getting a raw deal with this, but only because I don't think
that patenting the concept of online auctions should be allowed.
However, our laws allow for it to be patented, so, unless eBay can get
that patent thrown out, legally they're obligated to abide by the patent
holder's licensing terms.

On a more personal note, I like to believe that there is some sort of
legal karma coming into play. A little over a year ago, I'd registered
the domain name joebay.org, putting up a website for an acquaintence of
mine, a guy named Joe Bay. Within a few weeks of registering the domain
and setting up the site, I received a cease and desist letter from
eBay's legal department stating that I was infringing their trademark
with "joebay". They cited the 1999 Anti-cybersquatting and Consumer
Protection Act and insisted that I stop using the domain name or face
litigation and levying of monetary damages. Mind you, there wasn't
anything on my site even /remotely/ related to eBay, online auctions,
or any sort of e-commerce. It was strictly a personal site for a guy
named Joe Bay.

Fortunately I was able to have some helpful folks at the Stanford Law
School volunteered to handle the C&D letter for me, and they put
together a very stern reply for eBay telling them they really didn't
have a leg to stand on. We never heard anything back from them, but I
did decide to let the domain name registration expire this year to avoid
any further hassles from them.

I'm very happy with the service eBay offers to sellers and buyers; it's
a great business idea and they've executed it very well, IMHO, but I've
little sympathy for their situation. What goes around comes around.

Received on Thu Apr 24 2003 - 15:50:01 BST

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