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> From: “Mr. FoRK”
> Date: Thu Dec 19, 2002 9:05:58 AM US/Pacific
> To:
> Subject: AOL patents IM?
> nm/20021
> 219/tc_nm/tech_internet_aol_dc
> Patent
> Thu Dec 19, 8:56 AM ET Add Technology – Reuters to My Yahoo!
> By Bernhard Warner, European Internet Correspondent
> LONDON (Reuters) – Media giant AOL Time Warner has quietly won a U.S.
> patent
> for instant messaging (news – web sites), a potential goldmine as the
> online
> activity rivals mobile phone text-messaging as the most popular new
> communication tool.
> The patent, issued in September, grants AOL’s instant messaging
> subsidiary
> ICQ broad ownership rights to the technology, which enables users to
> chat
> quickly and cheaply across the Internet.
> The broad wording of the patent means AOL could get an important legal
> leg
> up on rivals Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo, the other players in the
> potentially
> lucrative instant messaging (IM) arena that have their own proprietary
> technologies.
> AOL has offered little comment on the patent or whether it intends to
> enforce it.
> “There are no plans to do anything with the patent at this time,” a
> London
> spokesman for AOL’s Internet division, America Online, told Reuters on
> Thursday.
> Microsoft and AOL have recently embarked on a project to develop
> secure chat
> applications for corporate users, the first major effort to cash in on
> what
> has been a largely free software tool. Reuters Group is one of the
> biggest
> corporate clients, using Microsoft’s IM technology.
> AOL has scores of other technology patents, including one for Internet
> browsing memory tags, or “cookies,” and another for Secure Sockets
> Layer
> (SSL), an application that secures e-commerce transactions. But it has
> never
> sought to enforce these.
> It has, however, been notoriously protective of its IM technology. It
> did
> not permit rivals’ proprietary IM applications to communicate with its
> own
> AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and ICQ for years. It now allows this,
> albeit in
> a limited fashion.
> The new patent defines AOL’s IM application as one that enables users
> to
> chat with and identify one another across a specific “communications
> network,” opening up the possibility for AOL to collect royalties from
> rivals.
> Developed in the mid-1990s by a group of Israeli technologists at a
> company
> called Mirabilis, ICQ was the first breakthrough chat application. It
> filed
> a patent for its technology in 1997 and was acquired by AOL in 1998
> for $287
> million.
> AOL said it has 180 million registered AIM users and 140 million
> registered
> ICQ users. The company said 2.1 billion instant messages were sent
> across
> its network daily.