Cyber Ramblings - Sep 26, 2000

26 September 2000
Patent Clash Among Web Content Deliver Companies
Bloomberg reports that Akamai Technologies and its chief rival Digital Island are suing each other for patent infringement. The two companies, which both deliver services that speed up customers' website content delivery, are duking it out over which company's delivery process came first. Akamai uses technology licensed exclusively to them from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which received a patent for the technology last week. Meanwhile, Digital Technology uses a similar service, which they developed, they claim, before Akamai's version was created.

Content is King Even on Wireless
Even wireless needs good content, but without a Java standard, many hot offerings haven't made it to wireless phones. Sun Microsystems and its partners say that's all changed now that they've developed a standard for making the wireless Internet Java-enabled. The standard, called the mobile information device profile (MIDP) will reportedly be available on mobile phones by Motorola, Nokia, LG Electronics, Nextel and NTT DoCoMo, along with handhelds from Research in Motion. Java-enabled phones would be better able to deliver the most popular "killer aps" including games, stock market charts, and information feeds.

Court Upholds "Keying"
Just because Internet users search for information using your company's name as a "key word," doesn't mean that search engines can't be prompted to display a rival company's banner ad. An increasingly popular way to attract customers has been for companies to pay search engines to show their banner ads whenever pre-selected key words are entered. For example, whenever a Web user searched using the patented terms "playboy" or "playmate", banner ads from competing sites would pop up. Playboy went to court to stop the practice, and lost. Judge Alicemarie H. Stotler of the U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, California dismissed Playboy's suit, saying that "keying" did not violate federal trademark laws. The decision is controversial for many companies because it limits the trademark holders' intellectual property rights. "Five years from now, when a law professor summarizes how Net law developed, this decision will be cited as out-of-step with the leading cases," Playboy's attorney told the New York Times. Another lawyer viewed the decision a little differently, however. Intellectual property specialist Carl Oppendahl compared the decision to competitive adverting, saying "This is not so different from a drugstore that puts a generic product on the shelf next to a name-brand product. Nobody sues the drugstore."

U.S. Government Releases Internet Privacy Guide
A 31-page handbook, "Know the Rules, Use the Tools" has been released by the U.S. government aiming to help consumers protect their privacy while online. The handbook suggested Americans protect themselves online by using "identity scrubbers", self-destructing e-mail and various other tools that keep private information private.

Customers Can Sue Foreign Web Operators
Last week the European Parliament agreed that consumers should be able to pursue legal action against the operators of active foreign websites. The latest decision, reported The Industry Standard, will be a boon to consumers, as it also allows the customer to take legal action in their own court system instead of pursuing legal action against the company in that company's home nation. Diane Wallis, the U.K. parliament member who introduced the legislation, explained, "In my view, if we want to make European business really competitive, it's got to be more responsive to consumer complaints. Up until now within the European community, we've always had a high level of consumer protection." Opponents say that the measure will stifle pan-European business development, which Wallis scoffed at. "I think the fears have been vastly overexaggerated," Wallis responded.

International Cybercrime Treaty Under Development
The final draft of an international cybercrime treaty is being written by European and American officials, despite fears by some groups that the treaty could cause both consumer privacy and e-commerce to suffer. Officials have been working on the treaty for three years, which would ask nations to develop uniform laws that would ban hacking devices as well as give law enforcement officials power to conduct computer searches and seizures. Some opponents worry that the U.S. Justice Department's help in writing the treaty is an effort to sidestep limitations placed on the department by Congress.

AT&T Enters the iDTV Market
According to a CNET news story, a deal between AT&T and Liberate Technologies has driven a stake into the heart of Microsoft's own deal to develop iDTV software for AT&T. Microsoft has already sunk nearly $5 billion in its MicrosoftTV division, but the company has suffered a series of setbacks including a delay in getting out set top boxes for UPC, a cable partner in Europe. Now AT&T, who had signed a non-exclusive deal with Microsoft, will begin testing Liberate's interactive-television software on set-top boxes later this year.