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Patent Schmatent

First Amazon patented clicking. Now, it seems, AOL has been granted a patent on instant messaging networks.

The patent (6449344), originally filed in 1997, and granted in September this year, gives AOL instant messaging subsidiary ICQ rights as the inventor of the popular IM Internet application. The patent covers anything resembling a network that lets multiple IM users see when other people are present and then communicate with them.

I'm all for technology patents. They're what allow companies to keep their edge on property, technology, and ideas they invented. I am, however, very much against the technology patents we seem to hear about weekly. The patents granted to people who have not invented a damn thing. Clicking? If anything, I imagine Douglas Englebart should get credit for inventing that. Amazon, sorry... Though not worse, it's certainly a scary thought when a patent is granted on a much broader level than it need be:

"The claim is it's a system where you have a network; you have a way to monitor who's on the network; and if you want to talk to them you hook them up," said Gregory Aharonian, publisher of Internet Patent News Service, a newsletter that's critical of technology patents. "If you're doing something like that, you're potentially infringing."

AppleTalk had this. Rendezvous has this. AOL did not invent "monitoring who is on the network." That's about as vague as saying "blondes have more fun." And if this latest patent is any proof, blondes don't have more fun, because they must work at the patent office...

Einstein worked in a patent office, right? Well, it's safe to say we've gone downhill since that time. No longer are the smartest people in the world earning their sp money stamping patent applications. No... the patent office is now a craphole of paper pushers who apparently don't even understand what's written on the paper they're stamping.

The patent office needs to hire 50 geeks. I'll do it. Amazon's one click? DENIED. Someone claiming they invented something that lets computers "see" when another comes online? DENIED. Someone claiming they invented scrolling wheels? Nope, sorry, show me proof.

All told, a little common sense, coupled with a little technical savvy, could go a long way towards helping the patent office do its job instead of simply serving as the butt of jokes and blogs.