Apparently, the "technology" that enables a visitor to a web site to click on an image to go to another web page or web site is patented, and unluckily, the coverage of this patent includes Singapore as well. A local firm, VueStar Technologies (yes, it’s a text link here and thank goodness opening in a new window is not patented), has began sending invoices to local website operators demanding for payment for licencing fees. What this means is that, as long as you have an image that is clickable either to (i) enlarge the image, or (ii) open a new page within your site, or (iii) open a new web site, you will be affected by this claim.

This potentially means that all websites (except those that do not have any images at all) and blogs will be affected. Even if your site has only small, little cute arrows that points to previous or next pages will be affected. As long as the object that you click on is not text, you will be affected. So, what does this mean for blogs – particularly in Singapore?

Advertlets, Nuffnang, and Blog2U are virtually affected. By asking all their blogger members to include an image file of their clients, they are causing all bloggers to infringe this patent. Essentially, all their blogger members and themselves may have to either pay up for the licence fee or to have their sites entirely converted to text-base.

This patent affects giants like Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, which are already having a battle of their own. When this claim is enforced, it may effectively cripple the entire Internet until VueStar is satisfied with the fees they collected.

Do you have an image link in your blog?

A SINGAPORE firm has threatened to sue websites that use pictures or graphics to link to another page, claiming it owns the patent for a technology used by millions around the world.

In a move that has come under fire from the online community, VueStar Technologies has sent ‘invoices’ to local website operators asking for thousands of dollars in licensing fees.

The company, which said ‘virtually all websites’ are infringing on its patent, is also planning to take on giants like Mircosoft and Google.

It is a battle that could, at least in theory, upend the Internet, though intellectual property experts have some doubts that VueStar can actually enforce its claims.

The company said it has been awarded a patent here and in several other countries, including Australia, New Zealand and the United States, for the method of ‘locating Web pages by utilising visual images’.

In other words, clicking, scrolling or streaming over a visual image to connect with a website or Web page is an infringement, the company claims on its website.

The technique is the de facto method used to connect websites across the globe, from personal blogs to the biggest search engines.

VueStar managing director Paul Smith said if sites want to keep using images as links, they will have to pay his company – located in a single-unit office at The Adelphi off Coleman Street – between ‘$200’ and ‘millions’ annually.

It is a claim, however, that has its doubters.

Technology and intellectual property lawyer Bryan Tan of Keystone Law Corporation said that while VueStar has been granted a patent, it is an extremely wide one.

In fact, ‘if the patent is allowed to stand, it will probably bring the (Internet) industry to its knees’. And VueStar’s patent may be contested and overturned in court, he said.

The firm has been sending out invoices to Singapore companies since last week asking them to pay up, said Mr Smith. He declined to say how many have gone out, but there have been ‘enough to keep my phone busy’.

Those who do not pay up, warned Mr Smith, face legal action, and his company is ‘highly confident that (a court decision) will be in our favour’.

Mr Alvin Koh, who runs the non-profit Arrowana fish website arofanatics.com, received one of VueStar’s invoices last week for $5,350. He does not intend to pay up and said: ‘I would rather close down the site’.

Mr Smith recognises that Mr Koh’s stand will likely be a popular one, and his firm is already girding up for a public backlash.

‘Website owners are just upset because they never had to pay for it before,’ said Mr Smith.

VueStar will begin enforcing its patent claims in Australia and the US ‘soon’, he said, and the firm is also working on invoices for Internet heavyweights like Google and Microsoft.

While governments and charities will need a licence, VueStar will not be asking for payment from these parties, he said.

Mr Tan urged companies to contact their lawyers before ‘paying VueStar anything’.

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 27th May 2008



Reader's Comments

  1. Wendy | May 27th, 2008 at 8:10 am

    this sounds like some really bad aprils fool joke. -.-”

    those guys are nuts.

    n i just violated the patent by clicking on the submit comment button.

  2. Anonnymouse | May 27th, 2008 at 8:41 am

    But still can have images on blogs right? As long it’s not clickable?

    Damn this company.

  3. moby | May 27th, 2008 at 11:03 am

    This is not another Odex, is it? Vuestar isn’t doing anyone any favours. Suing people left, right and centre just makes them look greedy. Their patent? That’s like saying “I own the internet. Bow down to me!”.

    They’re planning to take on Microsoft and Google are they? That’ll be interesting!

  4. Jwong | May 27th, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Erm, this is a joke right? The person filing for the patent has no right to file for it. Search for it on freepatentsonline.com. Alongside, you’ll find patents for stuff like “Web search engine with graphic snapshots”, filed in 2003.

    How about United States Patent 5443036 – “Method of exercising a cat”. Yes, it describes a cat chasing a laser pointer. If you do that, you could get sued! I laugh. BTW, patents 6505576, 6557495, 6651591 and 6701872 describe the same thing.

    Back to the point. The patent(s) were awarded sometime from 2001-2003. We all know that the ‘invention’, in this case the HTML ‘HREF’ tag, has been public since the early 1990s. In fact, because the method is HTML code, it should probably belong to Tim Berners-Lee instead.

    Seeing as to how they were neither the inventor, and the invention isn’t new, it’ll never hold any water in court. I’d love to have them come and try me.

    VueStar looks to be another company preying on the public’s misinformation to make a quick buck. Just like how another local company, Odex, cheated people of thousands of dollars by claiming copyright ownership.

    They relied on the (Singaporean) public’s fear of the law, to make a quick buck, and never ever really brought anyone to court. They were just after the gullible, and VueStar looks to be just like that.

    SimplyJean, would you consider removing/amending this entry to in view of the above information?

    Reference : Patents Act (Chapter 221)

  5. Parrot | May 27th, 2008 at 11:50 am

    That’s screwed up. Bringing forward a case like this is against everything the Interweb in Singapore stands for.

    Expect these guys to crash and burn sooner or later.

  6. No Love for VueStar | ThinkingNectar | May 27th, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    […] SimplyJean have a article (on a newspaper article) on this local company VueStar going around sending letters to local companies to enforce a patent which they (VueStar) have. […]

  7. Onlooker | May 27th, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Well this is like another american companies(law firm) that want to patent multiplayer ladder system and king of the hill gameplay and hiscore system a few month back.
    But then they fail to enforce the patent because of proof of prior (web and documents)circulated design. So as long as anyone can produce proof that they have used Image to link to a site Which is a lot before the application date, the patent is blown.

  8. zeezzen | May 27th, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Ridiculous. How can they allow such things to be patented? Then in google website I click on google image to link back to home page, also cannot? then they gonna sue google, yahoo? Apparently all the websites in the world lah. Crap…

  9. zeezzen | May 27th, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    “While governments and charities will need a licence, VueStar will not be asking for payment from these parties, he said.”

    why? dare not ask from government? scared isit? scary asshole.

  10. Ridz | May 27th, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Pardon my language…

    But it’s one thing to be an asshole. It’s another thing altogether to be a completely stupid asshole.

  11. NTT | May 27th, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    As much as I am pissed with this… I am not surprised..

    The US Patent Office is well known for giving patents to absurd ideas and stuff that’s so basic that even a 5yrs old knows how it works…

    This will probably get fought in the courts and take a few months/years to get sorted out, but till then VueStar will make sure no one can link images.. Then it will be back to the “Text web”.. 🙂

  12. Bob | May 27th, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    What a joke! The company’s domain is registered on Dec 2007. Is Singaporean public’s fear of the law make us a good target?

    Domain: http://www.vuestar.biz

    Registrant:
    Goldspirit Investments Pty Ltd

    8/25
    Edmonstone Street
    South Brisbane, Queensland 4101
    Australia

    Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
    Domain Name: VUESTAR.BIZ
    Created on: 16-Dec-07
    Expires on: 16-Dec-09
    Last Updated on: 21-Feb-08

    Administrative Contact:
    Langford, Ron langfordron@yahoo.com.au
    Goldspirit Investments Pty Ltd
    8/25
    Edmonstone Street
    South Brisbane, Queensland 4101
    Australia
    738466996 Fax — 738466996

    Technical Contact:
    Langford, Ron langfordron@yahoo.com.au
    Goldspirit Investments Pty Ltd
    8/25
    Edmonstone Street
    South Brisbane, Queensland 4101
    Australia
    738466996 Fax — 738466996

    Domain servers in listed order:
    NS3.EGNAROSOFT.COM
    NS4.EGNAROSOFT.COM

  13. Jav | May 27th, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    wow, wad nonsense…i’m surprised the patent actually got approved in the first place. Seriously, wad a load of bullshit, pissed.

  14. Ian On The Red Dot :: The Patent Troll Shouldn’t Make You Ashamed Of Singapore | May 27th, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    […] Latest thing getting all the Singaporeans online excited and a little bit ashamed of our country- a possible Patent Troll. I have read through the patent […]

  15. Vandalin | May 27th, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Wanna sue the creators of html while they’re at it?

    They’re evil accomplices.

  16. Wendy’s Wendylicious Whims » Blog Archive » Most ridiculous patents that ever existed - You may be violating one right now! | May 27th, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    […] in Singapore are getting sued left, right, center by a certain Singapore registered firm, Vuestar Tech. Apparently, they own the “method of locating web-pages by utilising visual images“. […]

  17. sometimes.. « Porridge Without Salt | May 27th, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    […] http://blog.simplyjean.com/2008/05/27/imaging-linking-is-patented-websites-and-blogs-affected-advert… […]

  18. What is the world coming too? | May 27th, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    im expecting their site to get hacked soon…….

  19. Vuestar: Imaging linking on the Internet is PATENTED « A L V I N O L O G Y | May 28th, 2008 at 1:50 am

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  21. Tianhong | May 28th, 2008 at 8:50 am

    if they do allow this, ain’t internet taking a step backward?

  22. Vuestar: Imaging linking on the Internet is PATENTED | May 28th, 2008 at 9:10 am

    […] Simply Jean – Imaging linking is patented, websites and blogs affected, Advertlets, Nuffnang and Blo… […]

  23. SueVueStar.Biz » Imaging lnking is patented, websites and blogs affected | May 29th, 2008 at 2:29 am

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  24. Company smacks patent on image links (wtf?) « Ladgeful | May 29th, 2008 at 7:31 am

    […] pm on May 28, 2008 | # | Tags: graphics, html, patents, VueStar Technologies VueStar Technologies apparently acquired the patent for the “technologies” that enables … – WTF????? seriously (this is true – the patent is for Singapore only though) they are apparently […]

  25. Geekzmo | May 29th, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    If Vuestar thinks they can win by hauling people to court, they are sadly mistaken. No (sane) Government in the world will allow one company, let alone one as miniscule as Vuestar, to bring the Internet to its knees. If the Singapore Government does not quash this patent quickly and flush this company out of Singapore permanently, they might as well stop thinking of their plans to enhance the Internet infrastructure because no one in their right frame of mind will pay for something that has been “open” for use freely.

    Vuestar obviously does not know of the fate of companies like Odex and Virtual Map. Going out and suing people recklessly did not end well for either of the firms and these two were larger entities than Vuestar. Look at Virtual Map – they’re as good as gone.

    Jwong makes some very good points which everyone should take note of. Also, we should find a way to consoliate and disseminate any thoughts and ideas we may have that will bring Vuestar to ITS knees.

    The main points to note are :

    (1) Don’t buckle under threats from this two men clown show.

    (2) Spend time to understand your legal rights and talk to people in the legal and IT fields.

    (3) When you receive a letter demanding payment, ask as many questions as possible about their claims, their right to the patent, the technology behind the “HREF” tag, etc.

    (4) Don’t pay anything or remove these links from your site. Removal of the links or paying is an admission of infringement and sets a precedence.

    (5) The key is to remain united. United we stand, crumbling they will fall.

    While I cannot understand which “genius” in Singapore granted Vuestar the patent here, I am sure the Government is watching how Vuestar proceeds closely and will take them down swiftly, if necessary.

    Lets keep this thread going.

  26. Olie Stark | May 30th, 2008 at 12:55 am

    Does anyone actually entertained these clowns? I am sure there are other ways to make money, like spamming or multi-level marketing…

  27. Zhanzhao | May 30th, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Yet another thing that Singapore will become infamous for…. as if we don’t have enough news on the Vii and Mass-effect to entertain the world….

    the ironic thing is that this Paul Smith is an Australian, who just decided to set up shop in Singapore….. and wants to make Singapore sites its first victims, yet others will be blaming this “Singapore company”…..

  28. Robbie | June 1st, 2008 at 3:21 am

    i wonder how long this saga would last before the patents gets strip off.

    afterall, image linking is really a public good

    is this can be patent. i wonder if the technology called internet could be patent too.

    then… perhaps someone else could then sue vuestar.

    shame on them.

    a patent that was granted in 2003. and they are taking action now?

    -cybersquatters!

  29. Brenda | June 2nd, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Patent was granted in 2003.

    While I’ve been linking to sites via images since 1998. (And many others too.)

    The people who granted that patent … ought to get their heads checked.

  30. groltargo | December 20th, 2008 at 3:15 am

    Thak you for the news

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