Deep-Links are OK, Judge Says

If the World Wide Web has any major theme, it’s linking. People use hypertext to point from one page to another, one site to another, and from one page inside a site to a page inside another site. This is the whole idea.

But Ticketmaster believes it has the right to ban deep links in its page. It wants people who point to the site to point to the pages where Ticketmaster sells advertising. The arrogance — and maybe stupidty — of this stance is beyond comprehension, given that people pointing at Ticketmaster are sending the company more business. But Ticketmaster has shown repeatedly it is in an arrogance class almost by itself.

Thank goodness, then, that a judge has pronounced deep links to be legal. Ruling otherwise would have been a direct threat to the fundamental nature of the Net.

If Ticketmaster wants to block deep linking by perceived competitors or anyone else, there are technical ways to do it. Nuking the essence of the Internet is a bad approach.

The Patent Office Thinks Harder

Q. Todd Dickinson, commissioner of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO), says the agency will change the way (Wall Street Journal) it looks at business process patents — the kind of patents that Amazon and other Internet companies have been getting for blatantly obvious and already-invented “inventions.”

Dickinson was in Silicon Valley yesterday to speak at a patent-lawyers’ conference. I was also a speaker at the meeting, and told the group that there is something deeply amiss with the patent system, and with most intellectual property law, for that matter. Several of the lawyers said — off the record — that they thought I was more right than wrong.

Dickinson, in an interview, made it clear he couldn’t disagree more. The system works well already, he said, though any system can work better (hence today’s announcement).

I asked him about the recent New York Times magazine article, “Patently Absurd,” which notes a sign at the patent office — “Our Patent Mission/To Help Our Customers Get Patents” — and says the PTO has forgotten its other customers, the American people.

A cheap shot, Dickinson says — the sign refers to providing better customer service. But that’s not what the sign says. Anyone watching the PTO lately knows that its primary mission genuinely is to award patents, and the quality of the patents is too often secondary.

I’ll post more of our interview later.

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