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Hilarious Patent Antics, pt.xvii

some startup called ActiveBuddy has patented instant-messaging bots — in an application filed August 2000. Hilarity ensues…

ActiveBuddy founder Tim Kay: “We invented interactive agents. (jm: bwahaha) Anybody using his or her own tools (to make bots) is obviously using our technology without paying us to license the server, for example. We are a startup company and we have to protect out future. That’s basically why we secured this patent” (in 2000).

Chris McClelland of WiredBots: “The Net::AIM module (which allows bot developers to connect to the AOL Instant Messenger TOC protocol through Perl) was around since 1998”.

Aryeh Goldsmith (author of Net::AIM): “the Net::AIM module is distributed with a bot”.

Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg: (the patent is) a “big win for the ActiveBuddy folks,” especially if it holds up to scrutiny.

My emphasis. ;) Sounds like ActiveBuddy have just spent a lot of money patenting something with a whole CPANload of prior art, and are on their way down the dot.plughole.

Date: Tue, 01 Oct 2002 23:25:52 -0700
From: “Mr. FoRK” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Re: ActiveBuddy

Oh… and they patented it too, because “We invented interactive agents.”


August 15, 2002 ActiveBuddy’s Patent Win Riles IM Bot Developers By Ryan Naraine

New York-based ActiveBuddy has won a crucial patent covering instant messaging bot-making technology, but hobbyists and amateur developers aren’t buying the company’s claim that it invented the technology.

ActiveBuddy was granted Patent No. 6,430,602 which covers the method and system for interactively responding to instant messaging requests and the company said it would move swiftly to enforce the patent, a move that is sure to create a brouhaha in the bot developer space.

ActiveBuddy founder Tim Kay, who is listed as an inventor in the patent claim, told the clinching of the patent validates the company’s business model of creating interactive agents (bots) that respond to IM queries.

“We invented interactive agents. Anybody using his or her own tools (to make bots) is obviously using our technology without paying us to license the server, for example. We are a startup company and we have to protect out future. That’s basically why we secured this patent,” Kay said.

“Any company such as ours that is venture-funded has to protect itself. It’s standard procedure to file for patents when you invent something. This simply allows us to build a business,” Kay added.

He did not say whether ActiveBuddy had specific plans to issue cease and desist orders to Web sites that share code and bot-making techniques but, already, there are rumblings among developers that ActiveBuddy’s patent win is ludicrous.

David deVitry, who founded the RunABot site laughed off the patent win and believes it is unenforceable because of the availability of prior art. “They (ActiveBuddy) don’t have anything that’s really unique. They’re just the first to commercialize it and make money from IM bots,” he said.

deVitry’s RunABot site sells tools for bots that run on instant messaging, e-mails and the Web, but he is unfazed by ActiveBuddy’s patent win. “I’m confident that ActiveBuddy’s patent is unenforceable. “I can name a handful of IM bots that were running long before ActiveBuddy was even a company,” he argued.

WiredBots CEO Chris McClelland was also among the developer crowd wary of ActiveBuddy’s patent win. “Patents block innovation and hurt consumers. When big companies use their financial might to patent software, they undermine the very nature of software, its openness,” McClelland argued.

At WiredBots, McClelland distributes free code and tips on making and running IM bots and, like deVitry, he argued that bots have been running on instant messaging networks long before ActiveBuddy put in a patent claim in August 2000.

“I know for a fact that protocols that allow unofficial clients to connect to the AIM service have been around long before 2000. In fact, the Net::AIM module [which allows potential bot developers to connect to the TOC protocol through Perl] was around since 1998,” McClelland said, disputing ActiveBuddy’s claims that it invented the technology.

ActiveBuddy disputed McClelland’s claims. “I am fairly confident, there were no interactive agents on IM at that point when the application was filed (August 22, 2000). I’m certainly not aware of any,” said Kay, who doubles as ActiveBuddy’s chief technology officer.

However, back in August 1999, programmer Aryeh Goldsmith wrote the Net::AIM module, which is timestamped at CPAN.

“I’ve had bots running a little before that date (1999) and since that time. I’m sure there are plenty of others who have built bots and have been running them as well,” Goldsmith said in an e-mail exchange.

“It’s important to note that the Net::AIM module was also distributed with a bot. It may have been a very simplistic one — having only the function of waiting for messages and replying with a random quote — but it was a bot none-the-less. Intelligent bots simply do a little more “processing” between the receiving and replying phase,” Goldsmith added.

“I’m not familiar with that,” Kay said in response to claims that interactive bots were in existence even before ActiveBuddy launched, with venture funding from Reuters and Wit Soundview.

“Clearly, we use our patented technology in our products. If you want to do things that our products allow you to do, your best choice is to use our products,” Kay said, referring to the recent launch of the Lite BuddyScript Server, which can be used by hobbyists to develop and run IM bots.

“The buddyscript suite of tools is the best that’s available. We’re confident they are the best choice (for users) who are building interactive agents. The subject of enforcing the patent shouldn’t even come up. Anyone wanting to build a very good interactive agent will find that our tools are the very best,” Kay added.

Kay said ActiveBuddy was not worried about competing firms offering bot-making tools. “Our primary level of comfort comes from the fact that we have the best choice for developers and others. When given the choice, we’re confident people will choose ours,” he said.

Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg isn’t surprised by the brouhaha surrounding the patent win. “This is just the latest example of a company that has picked up a key patent on critical technology and is going to use it to exploit the market. It’s not surprising that the smaller developers are crying foul,” he said.

Gartenberg, who covers emerging platforms from the research firm, described the news as a “big win for the ActiveBuddy folks,” especially if it holds up to scrutiny.

“This underscores the notion of how powerful the ownership of key patents are in the technology landscape. We saw it in the “one-click” case and the recent controversy over the JPEG patent. This is just the latest example of it,” Gartenberg added.

—– Original Message —– From: “Mr. FoRK” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Cc: “Rohit Khare” (spam-protected)
Sent: Tuesday, October 01, 2002 11:07 PM
Subject: ActiveBuddy

> Kind of interesting application of ‘agent’ technology.
> A mix of telnet and Eliza?
> (wonder if KnowNow needs this as a partner…)
> ==
> ActiveBuddy, Inc. has developed patented technology for building and
> deploying interactive agents. ActiveBuddy’s BuddyScript technology powers
> business solutions that leverage the functionality, convenience and appeal
> of instant messaging to provide an efficient and immediate means of
> communication with customers and constituents.
> ActiveBuddy technology is proven in the marketplace by the smash success of
> SmarterChild, ActiveBuddy’s showcase interactive agent launched in June 2001
> and visited by over 8 million consumers in its first year of life.
> Interactive agents allow your customers and constituents to receive
> information and services in a natural, conversational interface.
> Software Products
> BuddyScriptT Server – an end-to-end software solution for deploying
> interactive agents. BuddyScript Server provides every component required to
> operate an interactive agent, including connectivity with the messaging
> network, message routing, data access, message formatting, user and session
> management, and detailed tracking. BuddyScript Server is offered in four
> configurations to meet your capacity needs. Its scaleable architecture
> supports virtually unlimited usage. More…
> ===
> Here is a sample conversation on (MSN Messenger with ‘SmarterChild’):
> Mike says:
> how are you?
> SmarterChild says:
> Great thx! You?
> Mike says:
> Fine. What is the weather like in seattle?
> SmarterChild says:
> Current weather conditions for Seattle, WA:
> Currently: 57 F
> Condition: Few Clouds
> Real Feel: 57 F
> Dewpoint: 44
> Humidity: 62 %
> Visibility: 10 mi
> Wind: N/0 mph
> Next time, just type “weather seattle, wa.”
> To get the forecast for Seattle, WA, just type “forecast.”

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