Feeds

Sony refused peer-to-peer patents

'Computer programs are not patentable'

Top three mobile application threats

Sony cannot patent inventions in the UK that remove the anonymity of the peer-to-peer (P2P) user experience and put social networking at the heart of file-sharing.

The Patent Office ruled last week that the inventions are not eligible for patents.

Sony filed two patent applications for complementary inventions. One describes a means of exchanging information between computers or other devices in a network. The other describes ways of using that information.

The application for the "system and method for reviewing received digital content" describes building a web community.

When a P2P user downloads a piece of content from another user's computer, be it a song or a game or a movie, he normally knows nothing about that user – or where that user obtained the content. Sony's proposal would change that experience.

Sony describes a method for attaching a user history to content when it is shared among computers or other devices. When one user downloads a song, he can see who had it last and what he thought about it.

The patent application explains: "For example, the user, Clark Kent, may give a classic jazz music file a rating of '7' and include the user comment 'like cool man'. Also, instead of using his true identity ('Clark Kent'), Clark uses an alias, 'Superman.'" Clark may also choose to supply his email address.

Unlike social networking websites, Sony's proposal does not rely upon a centralised server. The thinking is that an accumulated history of users of the digital content could add value to the digital content itself, without requiring the file to be available for download from only one location. A user may also receive a credit towards the purchase of music when a subsequent user of an exchanged music file plays the song.

"Over time," suggests the application, "if a particular user consistently recommends interesting content before other users, then they will emerge as a kind of expert recommender."

Other possibilities include your PC determining which song to play based on a favourite list of another user having a common interest in music. And the user history information could be sold to marketers.

Sony-BMG has embraced P2P before: it partnered with a British broadband-provider called Playlouder MSP last year to make its catalogue available on a P2P network in which subscribers can exchange music from participating record labels freely within the walled garden. A portion of the subscription fees compensates the rights holders.

The decision

Patent examiners initially objected that the inventions described computer programs and were not eligible for patent protection in the UK.

Sony's patent agent, Dr Jonathan DeVile, challenged this before Patent Office Hearing Officer Bruce Westerman. Dr DeVile said the examiners were wrong, that the inventions cannot be a program for a computer because, in operation, there are at least two computers involved, communicating over a network. Westerman disagreed.

"To be a participating member of the peer-to-peer community within which these inventions work, it would seem to me clear that each data processing device must contain all the functionality to act as a 'first user' and as a 'second user' or 'previous user'," wrote Westerman. "Therefore, in reality, each device has all of the software, whether or not all of it is in use at any one time."

The view of the patent examiners was upheld.

See:

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.