EFF Wins Reexamination of Internet Subdomain Patent

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has approved the Electronic Frontier Foundation petition for reexamination of a patent on Internet subdomains, marking the fourth successful request from EFF's Patent Busting Project.

The patent, which covers the assignation of subdomains associated with a parent domain, currently is held by Hoshiko LLC, which acquired it from the previous patent owner Ideaflood.

Ideaflood had used the patent as a basis for demand payment from hosting companies that offer personalized domains; including Freehomepage.com, T35 Hosting and LiveJournal, a social network where millions of users have their own subdomain.

The EFF reexamination request, made in conjunction with Rick McLeod of Klarquist Sparkman LLP, demonstrated that the method documented in the patent was publicly discussed by webmasters on an Apache developer mailing list, over a year prior to the patent claim by Ideaflood. This public record of the technology's development served as "prior art" and became the key to the EFF's patent challenge.

"The hard work of open source developers should not be taken out of the public domain and used to threaten other legitimate innovators," said Jason Schultz, who heads EFF's Patent Busting Project. "Fortunately, the open source approach to development helped protect Apache and other web projects by creating the evidence needed to challenge this illegitimate patent."

"Based on the PTO's initial analysis in the reexamination order, it appears likely that all claims will be rejected in view of the techniques disclosed by Apache developer Ralf Engelschall and others," Mc Leod said. "We look forward to the PTO's detailed analysis of our request."

According to the EFF website, the mission of its Patent Busting Project is "to take on illegitimate patents that suppress non-commercial and small business innovation or limit free expression online" — a mission which so far has resulted in the invalidation of one bogus patent and won the reexamination of three others.