Thursday, 29 April 2004

First criminal charges under CAN-SPAM Act

Yesterday, Uncle Fed brought the first group of criminal charges under the CAN-SPAM Act. About time.

The Act makes it a felony to send multiple, commercial, unsolicited email under certain conditions. With most of the spam traversing the Internet, those conditions are easily satisfied. The lengths that some spammers will go to, to hide their identities, is well documented. In this case, one such length was rather funny in a cloak & dagger sort of way. The Washington Post reports that "investigators said, packages were sometimes delivered to a restaurant, where a greeter accepted them and passed them along to one defendant."

I would also like to note that the evidence keeps piling up that I was right when I predicted that it would take a high profile civil judgment or a high profile prison sentence before the CAN-SPAM Act would have any appreciable effect on the level of spam. One defendant, Mark Sadek, was reportedly "shocked" when Uncle Fed showed up at his door to arrest him. "No one's done this before," said Sadek's attorney. This man would obviously not have changed his behavior under the status quo. Arresting him personally is a pretty effective deterrant but so would be arresting one of his competitors. If the prosecutors win this one, it could be just the remedy I was looking for.

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Topics: Spam

Thursday, 1 April 2004

Tossing Amazon's cookies

I just heard about Amazon's new patent (No. 6,714,926) claiming a method for using browser cookies. (Via LawGeek) A quick reading of the claims puts me close to Jason's position, thinking that there must be a ton of prior art that would invalidate it. But that is not the most amazing fact. I have not studied the prosecution history, but Jason says that the inventor cited only one reference to the patent examiner that is, he told the examiner that he knew of only one publication before his priority date in February 1999 that described the use of cookies.

For those not familiar with PTO Rule 56, it requires patent applicants to disclose all sorts of juicy information to the examiner but only if they have actual knowledge of that information. I find it difficult to believe that a programmer working for Amazon would not have actual knowledge of more than one paper written about browser cookies. Anyone accused of infringing this patent would have a tailor-made inequitable conduct defense.

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Topics: IP, Technology

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