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Prediction: Spam-filtering patent lawsuit against Apple, Google, etc., will be knocked out early on Bilski “abstract idea” grounds

A so-called intellectual property licensing company, supposedly based in Texas, has filed a patent-infringement suit against a long list of big-name defendants, accusing them of infringing the company’s patent on a spam-filtering technique. Mike Masnick at TechDirt has more details, mocking the company in an acerbic fisking of the press release issued by its law firm.

Here are the claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,018,761; bracketed lettering and bold-face emphasis are mine:

What is claimed is:

1. A method of obtaining context information about a sender of an electronic message using a mail processing comprising the steps of:

[a] scanning the message, usinig the mail processine program to determine if the message contains a reference in a header portion of the message to at least one feature of the sender’s context, wherein the sender’s context is information about the sender or the message that is usefiul to the recipient in understanding more about the context in which the sender sent the message;

[b] if the message contains such reference, using the mail processing program and such reference to obtain [sender] the context information from a location external to the message;

[c] if the message does not contain such reference, using the mail processing program and information present in the message to indirectly obtain the [sender] context information using external reference sources to find a reference to the [sender] context information.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the reference to at least one feature is a reference to a location where context information is stored.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the reference to at least one feature is a hint usable to retrieve a location where context information is stored.

Take a look at the language I’ve rendered in bold. It strikes me, and probably strikes you, as precisely what the Supreme Court meant last month in saying that an “abstract idea” could not be patented. I look forward to seeing this patent eventually ruled invalid under the Court’s Bilski decision.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Karen G. Hazzah 2010-08-05, 11:49 pm

    You’re right that this is exactly the type of claim that many would say is “abstract”. We won’t really know until we have some decisions that interpret Bilski v. Kappos.

    I see this lawsuit was just filed. There are a number of cases which will be decided by the Federal Circuit in the near future that will give us a good idea this spam-filtering claim will fare under Bilski. RCT v. Microsoft will probably be the first case to be decided (oral arguments were held recently) but it’s claims look more like “math” so may be distinguishable from the spam filter claims.

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