Register.com, Dotster, Join the DNS Patent Follies
Date: Wednesday June 02 2004, @01:18PM
Topic: Lawsuits and Judicial Decisions

jberryhill writes "There are two entries this week in the race to pile up DNS-relevant patents. Joining notables such as the Sitefinder Patent, The Multi-TLD Menu Patent, the two pending WLS patents, and the Namespinner Patent, come a pair of miserable flops from Register.com and Dotster."

"U.S. Patent No. 6,745,248, which issued on June 1, 2004 to Register.com provides a classic illustration of what can go wrong when your patent attorney does not understand your invention. The patent, entitled "Method and Apparatus for Analyzing Domain Name Registrations" purports to provide a method by which one can search a TLD zone file for domain names that are similar to an input search string. Well, that's one of the things which it was apparently supposed to describe. The problem is that the person who wrote it does not understand the difference between a root zone file and a TLD zone file. Compounding the irritating reference to "root servers" is the pretty amazing inference that one can determine either a registrar or a domain name registrant from zone file data, let alone root zone file data.

Claim 1 is hopeless:

1. A method of identifying at least one domain name and determining at least one domain name server corresponding to the at least one domain name, the method comprising:

downloading a root zone file, the downloaded root zone file comprising an authoritative list of domain names, the downloaded root zone file associating each domain name with a registrar and at least one domain name server;

establishing a search characteristic and performing a string search in the downloaded root zone file;

identifying in the downloaded root zone file one or more domain names matching the search characteristic and, for each matching domain name, a corresponding registrar and a corresponding domain name server; and

storing each matching domain name in a data file, the data file associating each matching domain name with the corresponding registrar and the corresponding domain name server.

Five inventors listed, and you would think that at least one of them would have mentioned that the root zone file merely contains TLD's and their associated nameservers. Of course, the TLD zone file doesn't list the registrars either, so it is pretty much anybody's guess what it was that the drafter managed to so profoundly garble well beyond the limits of intelligibility, or 35 U.S.C. 112 for that matter. Maybe they meant the registry whois database, but that still doesn't net you a list of domains registered to a single entity, which the patent purports to describe (but fails to claim anyway).

The real punchline to the Register.com waste of money is that they filed the application the same week they sued Verio for, ummm, mining whois data (which is what the patent more appropriately should have described for its intended purpose). Cute trick, eh?

The Dotster entry in the patent sweepstakes is U.S. Appl. No. 10/295198 entitled "Automatic Domain Name Status Monitor. This is another dropcatching, or expired-name re-registration, system along the lines of the Bayles/SnapNames/Verisign WLS Patents mentioned above.

Claim 1:

1. A method for notifying a user of the availability of domain names, the method comprising:

monitoring a domain name search performed by a user;

creating a user-specific domain name database including at least one domain name searched for by the user during the domain name search;

automatically performing periodic checks to determine whether a domain name in the database is available for registration;

and notifying the user that the domain name is available.
The filing date here is November 14, 2002, which is hopelessly late in the dropcatching art. For example, the Archive.org Wayback Machine record for Snapnames circa September 25, 2001 is rock-solid 35 USC 102(b) prior art, as are other programs that were already available before then (such as Russ Smith's whois monitoring program). For all the good such a notification would do, they might as well add the step of "buying the domain name from Mike Mann" since Buydomains would register it long before anyone would respond to a "notification".

Note to George DeCarlo: ask your patent attorney about 37 CFR 1.56 mentioned in the fine print of the Declaration you signed."

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  • This article comes from ICANNWatch
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