This story reminds be of the on where my ex-employers at British Telecom tried to enforce the patent that they (we) owned the patent on hyperlinks. Even worse I was managing the Internet Products at the time of attempted enforcement, and was a little bit high profile internally at BT. Folks thought or queried it was my doing so I earned the nick-name ‘MrInternet’ it has stuck ever since.
Here We Go Again
A Queensland man has begun enforcing international patents which he believes potentially entitles him to a license fee from every website in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States that publishes a URL-linked image, graphic or banner. Ronald Neville Langford of Battery Hill, Queensland successfully filed for patents over the connection of a visual image to an Internet URL between 2001 and 2004. Now a Singapore company, Vuestar, claims to have been appointed by Langford’s RN Technologies company to enforce the patents. It has recently begun sending invoices to Singapore website operators demanding “annual license fees” of about S$5,000 in order for them to have the right to embed URL links in graphics and images on their web pages. Vuestar, unashamedly, promotes itself with the tagline “Good Ideas with Vision.” Vuestar claims “a web site which has been developed by or for a URL addressee/ owner and uses visual images to hyperlink to other pages in which any first or subsequent page provides the contact details of an organisation would in legal terms appear to use the steps and methods outlined in a claim of the patent.” A Internet domain search shows Vuestar’s website at http://www.vuestar.biz is registered to South Brisbane-based Goldspirit Investments, in turn registered to Langford. Vuestar began issuing the invoices this week, creating a minor storm in the Singapore Internet community who believe, rightly or wrongly, that the patent claims are a scam. One messageboard poster suggested “it seems like the Aussies cannot escape their criminal mentality yet.”
LEGAL WARNING: Bryan Tan, a lawyer with Singapore tech law practice Keystone, issued a note to his clients stating “According to Vuestar, any website with visual images, Internet Service providers, telcos whose phones connect to the web and anybody else contributing to the use of the patent will require the license. In addition all search engine portals and web sites that have search facilities and images will require separate licenses.” Tan added “We believe that this development would have a wide-ranging impact on the Internet
community in Singapore given the wide claims being made by Vuestar on the intellectual property covered by the patents. Parties operating websites, offering web services or developing web-based and WAP based products and services need to be especially careful.” CommsDay has sighted Langford’s claimed patents. His US patent filing, no 7065520, provides an exhaustive definition of what constitutes his “original idea”, covering an “image, video, animation, mini-image of a web page, streaming video, logo of an organization associated with the web page, and trademark of an organization associated with the web page.” Both the US and later Singapore patent also specifically mentions the results generated by image search engines. Similar patents have also been recognised by Australia and New Zealand.
Singapore’s New Paper obtained an interview with the 68-year old Langford yesterday where he said the widespread use of his patents had damaged his company “to the tune of millions of dollars.” “Ironically, we have sat back and watched our technology used to generate millions in advertising revenue.”