Newspapers Sued for Violating Abstracting Technology Patent


You better believe it: if you think you were developing a subscription service and writing a “tease” abstract for each story, you may be in trouble. A dozen small newspapers scattered across the country have been sued by one Paul Heckel of Los Altos, CA, for infringing patents that allegedly apply to technology.

The two patents — RE 36,654, issued in 2000, and 4,486,857, issued in 1984 — concern the use of software to group multiple files into a system that allows computers to display abbreviated portions of the files on a single screen: it allows websites to display the headline and abstract of a news story with a link to another file that displays the entire story. The ability to “zoom” into a related file from a Web page is apparently a key element of the complex patent claims.

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