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Letters Re: SBC enforcing all-encompassing Web patent


In regards to your article on SBC Communications attempting to enforce their patents on frame presentations, I can assure you there most definitely IS prior art. I worked for Office Workstations Limited (OWL International in the US) from 1986 to 1994. During that time, we published the first commercially available hypertext systems (named "Guide"), for the Mac and later Windows. The original concept was based on (and licensed from) Unix work that Dr. Peter Brown did in the UK, with hot spots for pop-ups, hyperlinks and in-situ expansions, concepts with predated the Web, Windows Help and even Hypercard.

One of the limitations we saw early on was the problem with not having a frozen area for control objects. When our version 2.0 was released in 1988, we incorporated a new feature that allowed a separate document window to be used to house such navigational controls. Configuring the control window with no borders and allowing its buttons to be "live" while maintaining the focus on the main document window allowed us to created documents EXACTLY the same way that Web frames are built. Code behind the main document linked to its open event would bring up the control window.

Had we known such trivial things were patentable, OWL could have become the dominant company in electronic document delivery. However, larger corporations saw opportunity, and now OWL (which later became InfoAccess) was absorbed and the Guide product died.

SEB should forget about trying to cash in on such obvious concepts. Because other people were there first. Just do a web search on "Guide" and "OWL." You'll see.

Sincerely,

David R. Coffman


Doug Hood adds -


People have been doing "frames" via curses since the beginning of time... or arguably since before 1986 because that is when my copy of O'reilly&Associates "Programming with curses" is copyrighted.

I'm guessing that curses is almost as old as U*ix, which predates the Netscape Browser by about 15 years, and predates SBCs patent by more than 20!

Dan Gillmor has been gathering prior art, too, and you can read more here and here.

As Dan notes, SBC was the defendant in BT's equally fatuous claim to have invented "hyperlinking". That case was thrown out last August.®

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