18:41, Thursday 15 Aug., 2002 Link
ActiveBuddy's Patent Win Riles IM Bot Developers. Oho. So ActiveBuddy, commercial Instant Messaging 'bot agency, now have Patent 6,430,602 on (among other things): running a bot on an IM network to talk to really people; loadbalancing the processing; using the IM channel to form a simple kind of authentication to the www; having a presentation layer to use the same back-end to talk to many IM systems.
I find it difficult to dispute the patent because within the rules of the system that granted the patent, everything is fine. But a system that grants a patent that consists of well-understood components and patterns previously practiced and obvious, a system that does that has to be wrong. I've built IM bots. I admire ActiveBuddy's services, and I admire their scripting language. It's clever. But it's not revolutionary. It's been done before. Hell, I've done a lot of it before, and I'm just another not-very-good Perl hacker. All they've done is facade it with agency-speak and move it into the commerical arena.
And here's what fucking riles me. Their USP, the thing they and they alone have, the thing they really should be protected -- it's got fuck all to do with the technology. It's about their sales team, their PR machine, their position in the sector. They're doing very well. If I had the funding, I could start a company tomorrow to do what they do and quite possibly do it better. But I wouldn't beat them because they're established, and you don't need a patent to protect that. You just need to carry on working hard. Looks like they want to sit back.