I have switched to Stack Overflow away from Experts Exchange's paid subscription. I remember years ago reading that Experts Exchange had patented a rating system and just found it online. Might this pose legal problems to Stack Overflow's rating system in the future?
A patent protects an idea. A copyright protects an implementation of an idea.
The flow chart on page 2 seems to cover any question and answer site that assigns points as a reward for answers.
Having said that, I don't think that it's actually enforceable. It's too broad and there are probably Q&A sites that existed prior to the patent that would invalidate it.
I thought it might be
illuminating amusing to list all the verbs used in the claims of that patent. Here they are, in order:
providing receiving storing organizing regulating receiving storing organizing receiving displaying storing receiving storing accepting receiving storing awarding setting storing receiving storing displaying receiving storing displaying accepting receiving storing awarding storing including displaying storing rejecting escrowing deducting deducting providing increasing receiving storing displaying receiving storing displaying accepting displaying receiving storing rejecting escrowing deducting deducting receiving storing awarding storing awarding displaying storing transmitting receiving accepting transmitting transmitting transmitting determining receiving providing receiving receiving storing storing organizing regulating rejecting receiving storing organizing receiving displaying storing accepting receiving storing awarding setting storing receiving rejecting storing displaying receiving storing displaying accepting receiving storing awarding storing escrowing deducting deducting providing receiving storing displaying receiving storing displaying accepting receiving storing awarding storing receiving rejecting storing displaying receiving storing displaying accepting escrowing deducting deducting
Apparently these guys have not met our crack legal team.
There are probably patents on tagging, staring, previewing a post, displaying user icon, sending notifications to users, using graphical symbols to represent language constructs and whatnot. And there's prior art to every single one of them, which makes them all invalid. But hey, who really cares about prior art anymore, that's, like, so 1900.
It usually doesn't matter that much what the patents are about, only how many of them you own, and how many does your enemy own. If both have enough, the one who has the more money wins. Or, um, maybe the one who has the most money wins in any case, I forgot the exact rules...
Unless we're talking about real patents, like complex algorithms and such. Then it has more to do with things that real patents deal with, like prior art and that stuff. But this isn't the case here, their rating system patent is most probably just ammunition for the ongoing Patent Wars 2000. Nothing to see here, move along.
IANAL, but it seems to me that the purpose of the patent is to protect the design/process of the voting - not the fact that voting exists.
Since SO doesn't use the same model, I can't see that the patent applies... I'm sure prior art can demonstrate similar voting implementations.
As with most patents these day - a bit silly really. But then, again, IANAL.