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



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