Virtual subdomain patent struck down

One of the more obvious, though still practical, permutations of domain name usage is now no one's intellectual property in particular.

Ever use an Internet site that automatically gave you your own subdomain...like Google's blogspot, which automatically gives you "your blog title" @blogspot.com "http://blogspot.com" or LiveJournal, which gives you "your journal title" @livejournal.com?

Somebody who thought they could patent that, and, who since 2004 has been attempting to shake down Web sites for it -- including Google and About.com -- has been shot down by the US Patent and Trademark Office, on the grounds of prior art ("you can't patent something somebody else already did") and obviousness ("duh").

The patent was initially owned by an intellectual property holding company called Ideaflood, and was since reassigned to Hoshiko, LLC. In 2007, the Electronic Frontier Foundation won reexamination from the USPTO (PDF available here). The EFF submitted a number of discussions more than a year older than the patent about the notion of subdomain addressing, and using that information, the Patent Office reached its decision.

The Google case was dismissed shortly after being filed, while the case against About.com was settled shortly after the defendants filed a motion seeking summary judgment and their attorneys' fees.

The next step is that Hoshiko can try to convince the USPTO to change its mind, amend and narrow the scope of its claims while arguing that the narrower claims were non-obvious even if the original claims weren't, or give up on this patent, the EFF said.

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