Answers.com software patents lawsuit

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Answers.com software patents lawsuit

Erik Moeller-3
(I am copying this to wikien-l, since the 1-Click-Tool is relevant
specifically to the English Wikipedia. However, this is a Foundation
issue.)

Apparently Answers.com has filed a lawsuit against Babylon, a
competitor creating an innovative (if proprietary) software product --
see atttached message. Answers.com claims Babylon violates one of its
patents.

The Wikimedia Foundation has business relations with Answers.com.
Answers.com, which mirrors Wikipedia content, has provided funding to
Wikimania and Wikimedia, and there was an announcement last year for a
new partnership about a Wikipedia-branded version of Answers.com's
"One-Click-Answers":
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Tools/1-Click_Answers

This announced partnership, while initially controversial, as of the
last message from Jimmy Wales is scheduled to go ahead:
http://mail.wikipedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2006-February/006055.html

Certainly, it is not practical to only engage in business partnerships
with companies whose behavior in its entirety our community in its
entirety considers ethical. We are partnering with Yahoo!, in spite of
their cooperation with the Chinese regime, for example. However, the
proposed 1-Click-Answers partnership would go further than that, since
the patents covering this exact tool are apparently at the heart of
this lawsuit. From the article excerpted below:

  The technology is used in one of Answers' core software products,
  1-Click Answers, which can be downloaded for free from its Web site,
  said Jay Bailey, Answers' marketing director.

Babylon makes a one click answer tool, which as of recently integrates
Wikipedia content. I am a former Babylon user; their software made
huge waves when it first was released for Windows many years ago due
to it being fairly clever at identifying words on the screen even in
images (you then see translations, definitions, etc.). The Answers.com
patent in question was only granted in 2004 according to the article,
and Babylon claims they got a similar patent in 2001 already. It seems
very much like a predatory bad faith lawsuit to me, and an abuse of
exactly the kind of patents that software patent critics oppose, but
that is my personal judgment. In general, it is considered good form
in the IT industry these days to use software patents only
defensively.

>From the information I have seen so far, it seems to be entirely
within the realm of possibilities that Answers.com would also sue an
open source project which is allegedly in violation of its patents. I
have known about these patents for some time, so I have asked Jimmy
months ago to ask Bob Rosenschein of Answers.com for an affirmation
that they would use patents only defensively; Jimmy promised to ask,
but I have not heard from him since then.

Now, our own philosophy on these matters is clear. Wikimedia is
entirely running on free software and does not even allow the use of
patent-encumbered file formats like MP3. It does not therefore seem
proper to me to engage in a partnership with regard to the
1-Click-Answers tool. It would be like becoming friends with someone
while you watch them point a gun at someone else; the next bullet
might be for you. I don't have a strong opinion on the other
partnerships with Answers.com, but I think this specific one should be
cancelled ASAP.

This is especially true as the details of the deal -- how we highlight
the existence of this tool -- were highly controversial to begin with.
I have also seen no actual revenue projections which would indicate
this is a compelling idea, and I doubt such projections can be made
with any accuracy.

I would be interested in what others think, and in any missing pieces
of information. Failing this, I strongly suggest that the issue is put
before a Board vote if it is still relevant, given this fundamentally
new situation.

Erik

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mathias Schindler <[hidden email]>
Date: Mar 22, 2006 10:08 AM
Subject: [WikiEN-l] [Slightly OT] Answers sues Babylon
To: English Wikipedia <[hidden email]>

(...)

http://www.newyorkbusiness.com/news.cms?id=13132

Answers.com owner sues Israeli tech firm
by Amanda Fung

Answers Corp., the Manhattan-based creator of Answers.com, said
Wednesday that it sued an Israeli company to stop it from using
technology that links a user's computer with a central database over
the Internet.

The lawsuit, filed with the Tel-Aviv District Court, claims that
Babylon Ltd. infringed on Answers' Computerized Dictionary and
Thesaurus Applications patent. Answers got the patent in 2004, nine
years after it first applied.

http://www.tradingmarkets.com/tm.site/news/BREAKING%20NEWS/190036/
http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060308/ukw014.html?.v=45
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Re: Answers.com software patents lawsuit

Ray Saintonge
How does Iraeli law differ on this kind of thing?

It would certainly be premature for a vote in the absence of a
resolution, but prompt explanations of how this would affect us would
certainly be in order.

There has always been a consensus that everyone wants Wikipedia to
remain unencumbered by intellectual property restrictions in every
respect.  This move by Answers.com does not do much do reassure the
community that they will respect the principles of openness that
underlie what most of us do here.

Ec

Erik Moeller wrote:

>(I am copying this to wikien-l, since the 1-Click-Tool is relevant
>specifically to the English Wikipedia. However, this is a Foundation
>issue.)
>
>Apparently Answers.com has filed a lawsuit against Babylon, a
>competitor creating an innovative (if proprietary) software product --
>see atttached message. Answers.com claims Babylon violates one of its
>patents.
>
>The Wikimedia Foundation has business relations with Answers.com.
>Answers.com, which mirrors Wikipedia content, has provided funding to
>Wikimania and Wikimedia, and there was an announcement last year for a
>new partnership about a Wikipedia-branded version of Answers.com's
>"One-Click-Answers":
>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Tools/1-Click_Answers
>
>This announced partnership, while initially controversial, as of the
>last message from Jimmy Wales is scheduled to go ahead:
>http://mail.wikipedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2006-February/006055.html
>
>Certainly, it is not practical to only engage in business partnerships
>with companies whose behavior in its entirety our community in its
>entirety considers ethical. We are partnering with Yahoo!, in spite of
>their cooperation with the Chinese regime, for example. However, the
>proposed 1-Click-Answers partnership would go further than that, since
>the patents covering this exact tool are apparently at the heart of
>this lawsuit. From the article excerpted below:
>
>  The technology is used in one of Answers' core software products,
>  1-Click Answers, which can be downloaded for free from its Web site,
>  said Jay Bailey, Answers' marketing director.
>
>Babylon makes a one click answer tool, which as of recently integrates
>Wikipedia content. I am a former Babylon user; their software made
>huge waves when it first was released for Windows many years ago due
>to it being fairly clever at identifying words on the screen even in
>images (you then see translations, definitions, etc.). The Answers.com
>patent in question was only granted in 2004 according to the article,
>and Babylon claims they got a similar patent in 2001 already. It seems
>very much like a predatory bad faith lawsuit to me, and an abuse of
>exactly the kind of patents that software patent critics oppose, but
>that is my personal judgment. In general, it is considered good form
>in the IT industry these days to use software patents only
>defensively.
>
>>From the information I have seen so far, it seems to be entirely
>within the realm of possibilities that Answers.com would also sue an
>open source project which is allegedly in violation of its patents. I
>have known about these patents for some time, so I have asked Jimmy
>months ago to ask Bob Rosenschein of Answers.com for an affirmation
>that they would use patents only defensively; Jimmy promised to ask,
>but I have not heard from him since then.
>
>Now, our own philosophy on these matters is clear. Wikimedia is
>entirely running on free software and does not even allow the use of
>patent-encumbered file formats like MP3. It does not therefore seem
>proper to me to engage in a partnership with regard to the
>1-Click-Answers tool. It would be like becoming friends with someone
>while you watch them point a gun at someone else; the next bullet
>might be for you. I don't have a strong opinion on the other
>partnerships with Answers.com, but I think this specific one should be
>cancelled ASAP.
>
>This is especially true as the details of the deal -- how we highlight
>the existence of this tool -- were highly controversial to begin with.
>I have also seen no actual revenue projections which would indicate
>this is a compelling idea, and I doubt such projections can be made
>with any accuracy.
>
>I would be interested in what others think, and in any missing pieces
>of information. Failing this, I strongly suggest that the issue is put
>before a Board vote if it is still relevant, given this fundamentally
>new situation.
>
>Erik
>
>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>From: Mathias Schindler <[hidden email]>
>Date: Mar 22, 2006 10:08 AM
>Subject: [WikiEN-l] [Slightly OT] Answers sues Babylon
>To: English Wikipedia <[hidden email]>
>
>(...)
>
>http://www.newyorkbusiness.com/news.cms?id=13132
>
>Answers.com owner sues Israeli tech firm
>by Amanda Fung
>
>Answers Corp., the Manhattan-based creator of Answers.com, said
>Wednesday that it sued an Israeli company to stop it from using
>technology that links a user's computer with a central database over
>the Internet.
>
>The lawsuit, filed with the Tel-Aviv District Court, claims that
>Babylon Ltd. infringed on Answers' Computerized Dictionary and
>Thesaurus Applications patent. Answers got the patent in 2004, nine
>years after it first applied.
>
>http://www.tradingmarkets.com/tm.site/news/BREAKING%20NEWS/190036/
>http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060308/ukw014.html?.v=45
>_______________________________________________
>  
>


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