AT&T received a U.S. patent earlier this month that will give intellectual property (IP) attorneys ground on which to stand when pursuing spammers.
The patent, number 6,643,686, grants AT&T IP protection for its system and method for circumventing schemes that use duplication detection to detect and block unsolicited e-mail (spam). What this means is that spammers can now be sued under the patent infringement laws for trying to defeat the anti-spam filters that run on mail servers.
In its patent application, AT&T provided significant details regarding how spam filters work and how they can be defeated, and this release of information has brought on a firestorm of protest from the e-mail security and anti-spam communities. However, AT&T anticipates that creating the legal grounds, however technical and specific, to pursue spammers will, in the long run, benefit the general Internet community more than the risks posed by releasing the details of anti-spam filtering systems.
AT&T is following a tried and true legal tactic of patent and then sue. These booby-trap or submarine patent suits are a staple of the legal profession, and in many cases they work well. I hope that AT&T shares its IP rights freely with those who want to put spammers out of business and are willing to pursue the legal process to do so.
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