Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Patent on Embedded Content in Hypertexts?

Author:Mark Bernstein
Posted:12/7/1998; 1:57:50 PM
Topic:Patent on Embedded Content in Hypertexts?
Msg #:925
Prev/Next:924 / 926

The broader claims of the Eolas patent, as described by Cringley, may well be doomed.

Note the date of the Eolas patent. Cringely describes the patent as stemming from "work done in 1993". Then compare Proceedings and Position Papers of the Hypertext Conference in its early years -- notably Hypertext '87.

For example, one of Eastgate's first hypertexts, _The Election of 1912_, included an embedded election simulation in a hypertext on Progresssive politics in the US. 1912 was demonstrated at Hypertext '87 and was published in 1988.

Intermedia -- the pioneering Brown University hypertext system -- may also be directly pertinent; it was already widely known by 1987. Microcosm, an open hypermedia system developed by Wendy Hall and Hugh Davis at the University of Southampton, was described at the first European Conference on Hypermedia in 1990; its entire architecture is based on embedded content under the control of an external link service. The implementation details of Janet Walker's _Symbolics Document Examiner_, which ran on LISP machines, and Richard Stallman's original EMACS and its successors, may both provide prior art. Note that EMACS was open source long before 1993.

Other examples will not be hard to locate in the hypertext literature. Research in computer languages may also yield a number of pertinent antecedents: Andreas DiSessa's Boxer seems very pertinent, and Gul Agha's work on Actors might also anticipate parts of the claims. (A case might also be made that some of the claims fail the test of obviousness in light of the traditions of LISP programming, stemming from McCarthy's work in the 50's.)

While some organizations have attempted to claim broad patents in this area before, none of the patents have survived scrutiny. To expect this patent claim to swiftly resolve (before Christmas!) the ongoing Microsoft litigation appears most improbable.

A bibliography of hypertext research may be found at

Mark Bernstein Eastgate Systems, Inc

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