, assigned to Oracle, is entitled "self service system for web
site publishing." The abstract for this patent makes it clear that its
scope is broad:
The web site system permits a site administrator to construct the
overall structure, design and style of the web site. This allows
for a comprehensive design as well as a common look and feel for
the web site. The web site system permits content for the web site
to originate from multiple content contributors. The publication of
content is controlled by content owners. This permits assignment of
content control to those persons familiar with the content.
The patent application ws filed in March, 2000; it was granted on
June 1 of this year.
Offhand, it would appear that Oracle has patented the content management
system. Such systems form the core of many thousands of web sites, so the
potential impact of this patent is large. It is worth a deeper look.
"claims" section of the patent is even more impenetrable than usual:
A method for displaying content, comprising: receiving input that
defines a set of perspectives, wherein each perspective in the set
of perspectives is a cross category grouping of one or more content
items, and wherein said one or more content items is in a plurality
of content items; storing, in a database, the plurality of content
items, wherein each of the plurality of content items belongs to
one or more categories; receiving user input that associates
subsets of said set of perspectives with each of said plurality of
content items; and in response to a request to display a web page
that contains one of said plurality of content items, displaying on
said web page a selectable control for each perspective in the
subset of said set of perspectives that is associated with said one
of said plurality of content items.
Translated into English, this claim would appear to be describing a
database-backed web site which allows the display of articles with category
metadata and comments
attached. Further claims add search capabilities, a form interface, etc.
All pretty standard stuff.
The "description" section is more readable, fortunately. It sets the stage
with a summary of the Bad Old Days, when anybody who wanted to put content
on the web had to hand it over to a site administrator who knew the right
incantations. The administrator becomes a bottleneck which slows the
process of getting content onto the net. Thus, says the patent:
Accordingly, it is desirable to generate a web site creation and
maintenance tool that permits non-technical people to publish
content on a web site. It is also desirable to generate a web site
creation and maintenance tool that apportions responsibility for
web site creation and maintenance task to the most appropriate
One wonders why nobody else ever noticed this problem. But it seems that
In the prior art, content contributors must go through the
information technology department in order to publish content. This
prior art methodology places content publication and maintenance on
a single source. In contrast, the web site paradigm of the present
invention provides for distributed control by, allowing the folder
owners ... to control content for a portion of the web site.
As an added bonus, Oracle's "invention" throws in web-based administration
of the site, a "quick picks" navigation bar for the most-used content, a
news box, etc.
This patent clearly covers no end of free content management systems - and
numerous proprietary offerings as well. There is no way that this
particular patent could have been filed for in good faith; 2000, remember,
was the end of the dotcom boom and content management systems were not
exactly hard to find. The authors knew they were patenting widely-used
technology which had been invented elsewhere. Oracle, after all, has not
made its name through innovation in the web publishing arena.
If Oracle were to attempt to enforce this patent, it could create trouble
for anybody producing or using an allegedly infringing system: Linux
distributors, web publishers, proprietary software houses, etc. With a
determined effort, this patent could almost certainly be invalidated. But
if you are a small publisher facing demands from Oracle's fearsome
lawyers, invalidating the patent will look like a distant, difficult, and
risky goal. For the time being, the threat seems low; Oracle seems more
interested in acquisitions than patent shakedowns and litigation. In the
future, however, when Oracle's core business has been gutted by free
database management systems, the company might just take a new interest in
enforcing its "valuable intellectual property."
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