Feeds

Sony refused peer-to-peer patents

'Computer programs are not patentable'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.