Thursday, June 15, 2006

Cobblestone's PaperDisk A PWC Pioneer

After I added and PaperDisk to the Physical World Connection list and gave a
brief summary I got a chance to hear their story told by CEO Thomas Antognini.

The company tells their story, I highlighted the points I found of interest.

As a company, Cobblestone Software regards itself as the true pioneer of the concept of hyperlinking the physical world using bar codes.

Cobblestone was incorporated in March of 1995, and, to the best of our knowledge, is, by a good distance, the first company formed with print-to-digital-world as its express goal, where a key part of that concept was print-to-internet. As early as 1996, in a paper and presentation delivered at a US Postal Service conference, we had described our revolutionary concept of hyperlinking the world of printed media, and more generally the physical world, to the web and other resources. It is, so far as we are aware, the first such public description of this powerful idea.

Cobblestone's licensed its technology to Mitigo (formed in 2001), which, we believe, was the first company formed to target the camera phone print-to-internet market. As many pioneering companies do, Mitigo essentially ran out of money before the market could develop -- but Cobblestone now retains full rights to our technology in this market.

Cobblestone has also been targeting "data heavy" applications -- that is, applications that require a great deal of information to be stored on paper. For example, Cobblestone has licensed its technology to DeLaRue, the premier passport company in the world, for use in SecureIDs, encoding biometric information in a barcode of many kilobytes. It has worked in the past at some length with Kodak, and is also now working with other major companies in other industries.

Cobblestone, at this stage, is deliberating whether or not to enter on its own into the mobile market, to license its IP and technology, or to sell its assets in this area.

We've developed technology that works robustly on a large variety of camera phones, and can in principle work on ANY camera phone, no matter its optics. We have versions that work on the Smartphone, but also on the Nokia 6680, 3650, and 7650. On the Nokia phones, for example, we have implemented an API that would allow people pretty much to encode, on a desktop, whatever they may want into a code, and then decode that code on the phone to do whatever they may choose to do.

Cobblestone has already been granted three basic patents 6,098,882, 6,176,427, and 6,820,807, and has a number of others still in progress.

One of these patents, 6,820,807, clearly covers the basic concept of using bar codes as physical world hyperlinks, a breadth that is unsurprising given our own priority as the pioneering company in this space. In fact, for example, here are the first two claims of the patent:

1. A method of accessing data comprising: producing digital instructions for accessing data, formatting into a pattern the series of digital data values representing said digital instructions for accessing data, distributing the pattern of formatted digital data, decoding the pattern of formatted digital data, and activating the digital instructions for accessing data, whereby the data is accessed.

2. The method of accessing data of claim 1 wherein said digital instructions for accessing data consists of hyperlinks to information extraneous to said formatted digital data.

While interpreting claims is always a tricky business, and must be understood in the light of the description, it's pretty obvious that on its face these claims would comprehend, at minimum, ANY use of bar codes as hyperlinks to the digital world, the web most obviously; even the term, "hyperlink", is used explicitly. And the description in the patent itself, along with the descriptions in our other patent applications, makes it quite evident that the generalized notion of hyperlinking the physical world to the web, and more generally the digital world, was being clearly envisioned.

Cobblestone's emphasis was on 2D codes from its inception, because we believed that, over time, 2D codes would inevitably win the technology war as imagers became cheaper and more powerful. In fact, this has clearly proven to be true in the mobile market among others: any camera phone very naturally can handle our 2D code, but typically requires special macro, or add-on, lenses to do standard 1D codes; moreover, for new consumer applications, our 2D code requires vastly less space.

So not only was Cobblestone the first company out with the concept of print-to-internet, it was first to recognize the crucial role of 2D codes in the emerging market. We believe that our IP backing up our concept is very strong, and the early priority dates should allow us full freedom to pursue this market, or to so enable anyone to whom we may sell or license the technology and IP.


Anonymous said...

Its funny how obvious how unobjective you are. If you just face your inadequacy and go back to being objective, your respect won't diminish any more than it already has.

Do better research on who owns the true patents.


Anonymous said...

So why is NEOM's 'Durst' patents cited as prior art in 6,820,807?

Leave the patent interpretation to the lawyers is the best advice I can give, PP, to you and everyone else.

Scott Shaffer said...

"Leave the patent interpretation to the lawyers is the best advice I can give"

I agree.

It's way too early to call the winner in this race.

I try to provide unique ways to get to the finish line though.

PP highlights the players and the IP behind their application.

Larry said...

Have not seen much highlights on one company in a while

Anonymous said...

Note that the Durst patent (filed November 1996) was filed 8 months LATER than the Cobblestone Antognini patent (March 1996).

By definition, therefore, the Durst patent can't be prior art. Moreover, Neomedia as a company didn't even form, I believe, until November of 1996 -- well after the formation of Cobblestone (March 1995). And date of conception of ideas, not filing date, is the key thing in American patent law.

But the citation of the Durst patent certainly indicates that the patent office awarded the Antognini patent even in the light of the Durst patent. Indeed, it would seem to imply that the Antognini patent is at least as strong as the Durst patent, since the prior art cited by the Durst patent would presumably have been considered before the Antognini patent was awarded.

Anonymous said...

That earlier Antognini filing has NOTHING to do with prior (NEOM owned) art in question...and you know it.

Anonymous said...

That earlier Antognini filing has NOTHING to do with prior (NEOM owned) art in question...and you know it.

There IS no Neomedia owned "prior art" against the Antognini patent. The original Antognini patent was, again, filed in March 1996. For something to count as prior art, it would by definition have to have been PUBLISHED (in one fashion or another) one full year before March 1996, i.e., by March 1995. No patent owned by Neomedia was even filed, much less published, by that date.

And to say they have nothing to do with one another, well, perhaps you should read the claims themselves, which in any case is the important thing. The claims in the Antognini patent would appear to be VERY broad, covering indeed the entire print-to-web space. Nor should this be in any way surprising, given how very early this patent application was originally filed: that's how one gets a broad patent.

Anonymous said...

Just to clear up a possible point of confusion, the March 1996 date for the Antognini patents apply to ALL the patents so far awarded, including the one that directly relates to print-to-web.

You have to look down the patent application itself to see that the true priority date is March 1, 1996 -- not the "filing date" listed for the patent number itself, which can be years later.

Anonymous said...

Sorry....'divisional applications' don't count: def. from USPTO: later application for an independent or distinct invention disclosing and claiming (only a portion of and) only subject matter disclosed in the earlier or parent application.

***Durst was there first...IMO.***

You can't start building 1 of 2 different roads independently being constructed and then meander around until the light goes off and you say "hey, I'm going to now build a spur over to that desirable real estate too" and then claim you saw it first. "Really...I did." That's why USPTO requires filers to specify on apps:
continuation, divisional, or continuation-in-part

Anonymous said...

Is anyone using cobblestone software? These codes shown on cobblestone site don't look like something that would work well with camera phones. they mention a code the size of an 8 1/2" by 11" page. Not really practical for any real application.

Anonymous said...

I am confused by the prior comment that "Durst was there first"... does that mean that the "prior art" for a divisional patent is as of the date of the "divisional application?". Could that be right?

Also, note that Neomedia's Hudetz patents (which pre-date Durst) disclose the possibility of barcodes containing a URL, but do not claim them.

Anonymous said...

i feel like i am reading a a penny stock website with pumpers and bashers. boring!

Anonymous said...

The fact that the Antognini patent on print-to-web was a divisional does not in any way effect its priority date. That priority date is March 1996, because that's when the invention in it was disclosed. That's the way it works.

How could it possibly make sense for a patent application filed on a certain date to get tossed behind another patent application that was filed later, based purely on some formality like whether a patent filed on the application was declared a divisional?

Saying that a patent is a divisional merely means that the original patent application was in effect split into more than one invention. Given that the Antognini application disclosed a very large amount of material, this is a pretty natural result. Again, the priority date is the same for all patents based on that application.

And, BTW, Cobblestone certainly has very small codes quite appropriate to camera phones. Cobblestone is not, however, at this time showing these codes without an NDA in place.

Of course, when the time is right, Cobblestone will introduce its current camera phone technology more publicly.

Anonymous said...

I guess that's why patent (litigation) lawyers get rich. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, Paperclick is a fantasy. The company can't get it off the ground in any country. No one seems to want it. Why not let Cobblestone or Scanbuy or anyone else break the market open. Neom should sell their patents if they aren't going to use them or license them. They're just sitting collecting dust.