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Oracle, SAP, Others Sued Over Disc-To-Web Hyperlink Technology

Disc Link claims companies are in violation of a patent that describes an 'information distribution system.'

A subsidiary of a California company that buys and licenses intellectual property is suing several major software makers, including Oracle and SAP, claming they're violating a patent that governs the use of hyperlinks that connect information stored on compact discs to data residing on the Web.

In court papers filed last week, Disc Link claims that Borland, Business Objects, Compuware, Corel, Eastman Kodak, Novell, and several other companies, in addition to Oracle and SAP, are in violation of a patent that describes an "information distribution system."

U.S. Patent No. 6,314,574, is assigned to Disc Link and governs "an information distribution system [that] encodes a first set of digital data on a plurality of portable read-only storage devices. Additional information is stored in a database that is accessible by using a bi-directional channel."

Translation: Disc Link claims the patent applies to hyperlinks written into documents stored on a CD that can be used to call up specific Web pages -- such as a product guide -- via the Internet.

Disc Link is a subsidiary of Acacia Research, which on its Web site says it "develops, acquires, and licenses patented technologies."

Critics of the company say Acacia is nothing more than a patent troll -- slang for businesses that acquire patents for the sole purpose of suing other companies in the hopes that they'll agree to a licensing deal to avoid expensive, lengthy lawsuits.

An anonymous Internet blogger who calls himself Hari Seldon, the name of a character in an Isaac Asimov series, claims he works for a software developer that has been threatened with legal action by Acacia. Seldon said his company received a letter in which Acacia claims its hyperlink patent "has been enforced via prior litigation."

"So what we have here is a claim that putting a hyperlink on a CD is patentable. This is clearly bull----, as I'm sure they well know, and means that nearly every software product in the stores now infringes," wrote the blogger.

Acacia representatives weren't immediately available for comment. A call to the attorney who filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for Eastern Texas on behalf of Disc Link -- Edward Nelson of Friedman, Suder & Cooke -- wasn't immediately returned. The companies named in the lawsuit have yet to file a legal response to Disc Link's charges.

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