Y2K patent holders trying to collect fees

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Y2K patent holders joining up to collect licensing fees


NEW YORK (February 9, 2000 7:21 p.m. EST http://www.nandotimes.com) - Two software developers who hold patents covering fixes for the Y2K computer bug are teaming up to try to collect licensing fees from the nation's largest companies.

Their effort is likely to face skepticism. The government is already reviewing one patent after critics complained that the repair method it covers is not so original.

The Y2K glitch stems from a programming shortcut of using only two digits for a year, leaving a computer confused about the correct century.

Thomas B. Soeder, who runs a software company in Columbia, Md., said he has three patents and two pending applications covering a repair technique called compression. It uses computer coding to fit four digits worth of data into the space for two digits.

He is teaming with Bruce Dickens, who owns the patent for a more popular fix called windowing, which involves tricking the computer into thinking the century change is decades away.

"I always felt that one and one makes three," Soeder said Wednesday. "There's some strength in numbers here."

William C. Cray, an attorney representing the partnership, said patents still apply even if companies already completed their fixes for the new year. He said licenses will be sold as a package. Fees are still being worked out, but presumably they be in the millions of dollars.

Last fall, Dickens sent letters seeking licensing fees from Fortune 500 and Information Week 500 companies. The companies balked, claiming the idea was already in use before the government granted the patent in 1998. The Patent and Trademark Office is reviewing the patent.

Kazim Isfahani, a Y2K analyst with Giga Information Group, called the partnership by Dickens and Soeder "another shot in the dark, another attempt to hijack some organizations with deep pockets."


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 09, 2000


Martin, this is a great post, useful for the file, thanks.

*However* these guys trying to patent windowing and compression...it is utterly absurd. The Patent and Trademark Office had so much negative feedback they actually came out publicly with the statement that they were "reviewing" the petition grant...that was very unusual for PTO to do. It is equivalent to trying to patent file folders in 1999.

-- Bud Hamilton (budham@hotmail.com), February 09, 2000.

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