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February 8, 2013

Technology News Briefs — Feb. 8, 2013

Facebook Broke the Net, But Only for a Few Minutes

A hiccup in Facebook’s system yesterday evening rerouted traffic from a number of prominent websites to a Facebook error message.

The glitch, while short-lived, affected people trying to access websites such as The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, CNN, The Daily Mail, Yelp and Hulu.

Facebook issued the following statement: “For a short period of time, there was a bug that redirected people logging in with Facebook from third party sites to The issue was quickly resolved, and login with Facebook is now working as usual.”

Those who visited the affected sites between 4:15 and 4:40 p.m. were automatically redirected to the Facebook error message — An error occurred. Please try again later — due to a bug in Facebook Connect.

Face Connect is a platform that infiltrates much of the Internet to make it easier for users to take their online identities with them all over the Web.

Until Facebook rid its system of the gremlin, the only way for users to avoid the error message was to log out of the social networking site.

Google Must Pay for Use of Content Across Europe

The European Publishers Council (EPC) says Google must pay all media companies across Europe for using their content.

Last week, the firm agreed to pay French publishers $80 million to help them better establish their online presence. Now head of the EPC Francisco Pinto Balsemao says Google must extend the same courtesy to all other European publishers.

Google forged a deal with Belgian publishers in December to help them increase online profits, but remains in dispute with German media outlets.

“Search engines get more than 90 percent of revenues from online advertising and a substantial part of these come directly or indirectly from the free access to professional news or entertainment content produced by the media,” Balsemao was quoted by Reuters.

“Google’s openness to negotiate and talk looks like a good step that must now be followed in other (European) countries.”

Judge Rejects 13 Motorola Patent Violation Claims

Microsoft was the winner in its latest court bout with Google’s Motorola.

Federal judge James L. Robart has rejected 13 Motorola patent violation claims against Microsoft. The claims are connected to three patents — U.S. Patent No. 7,310,374, U.S. Patent No. 7,310,375, U.S. Patent No. 7,310,376 — which entail encoding and decoding digital video content.

Court documents indicated the patents were not specific enough.

“Decoding and encoding are entirely different functions,” the judge wrote in his order.   “Thus, even were a person of ordinary skill in the art able to devise an algorithm for decoding the function from the disclosed encoding description, that alone does not rescue the disputed means limitations from indefiniteness. Were that the case, any means-plus-function limitation could be saved from indefiniteness by an expert’s testimony that he or she could have written computer code to perform the recited function based on unrelated disclosures in the specification.

“The specification needs to provide a decoding algorithm from which to base the understanding of one skilled in the art, and the court can find no such algorithm within the specification. Instead, the “means for decoding” limitations claim all corresponding structure under the sun by expansively defining the function in the specification as anything that decodes digital data. This definition renders the “means for decoding” limitation invalid for indefiniteness.”

There are still claims connected to the patents for Robart to rule upon.

FOSS Patents intellectual property specialist Florian Mueller predicts the claims that have survived thus far “could still be invalidated for other reasons than indefiniteness.”

“Most patent claims are actually invalidated for anticipation (lack of novelty) or obviousness (lack of inventive step over the prior art). Such questions can be decided on summary judgment but most of the time are put before a jury, while indefiniteness is for a judge to decide.”