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John Soat
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Patents, Hacking Back, And Bill's Next Book

THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE. Acacia Research, through its subsidiary Acacia Technologies, "develops, acquires, and licenses patented technologies," according to a statement from the company. "Acacia controls 30 patent portfolios, which include 128 U.S. patents and certain foreign counterparts." Acacia hit the big time last week: Its wholly owned subsidiary, KY Data Systems, licensed its portfolio of patents that apply to interactive television to Sony Corp. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The patents cover technologies that apply to "receivers such as set-top boxes and televisions used in digital satellite and digital cable systems that permit viewers to access interactive television features supplied by satellite and cable providers as part of their digital programming packages." Acacia is famous (infamous) in certain Internet circles for its protracted fight with the online porn industry over streaming-media patents (see "Patenting The Process"). Acacia acquired those patents from Greenwich Information Technologies in 2001.

PAYBACK IS A WITCH. Online vigilantes are taking matters into their own hands against phishing sites, according to Netcraft, a U.K. Web-monitoring firm. According to Netcraft, a phishing site that posed as PayPal was defaced recently with a page reading, "WARNING--THIS WAS A SCAM SITE." Another phishing site that was impersonating NatWest Bank also was defaced recently. The phishing site's home page was replaced with one attributed to The Lad Wrecking Crew, a group Netcraft said has been involved in other defacements. "Phishing sites are commonly hosted on compromised Web servers, where lack of security allows fraudsters to access machines and upload phishing content," Netcraft noted in a statement. "If a fraudster exploits these security weaknesses without securing the machine, then online vigilantes are just as likely to exploit the weaknesses to replace the fraudulent content." Netcraft noted that defacing any sites, even phishing sites, is "questionable," but also said, "So far it's reasonable to assume that only the fraudsters themselves have been disadvantaged."

THE ROAD MAP AHEAD. The Associated Press reported last week that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is working on a new book. Apparently, Gates is collecting his thoughts--and casting about for a collaborator--for an as-yet-untitled writing project. I immediately began to wonder what he might call his latest tome. Here's my top 10 list of possible names for Gates' next book:

10. The De-Linux Code

9. Startup Wars

8. Long Day's Journey Into Longhorn

7. All I Really Need To Know (About Operating Systems) I Learned In Kindergarten

6. I'm OK, You're Screwed

5. The Windows-Driven Life

4. Tuesdays With Ballmer

3. Good To Great Big Monopoly

2. IT Doesn't Matter--But I Do

1. What Happens In Redmond Stays In Redmond

Gates is looking for a ghostwriter--I mean, collaborator? Hey, what about me? I've been around the technology industry awhile. And I can write. But I use a Mac--think that might torpedo the deal? Don't tell Bill. But do tell me an industry tip--send it to or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about the increasing importance of patents or the morality of hacking back at hackers, meet me at's Listening Post:

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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