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The US Patent Office is a total joke these days. AOL was recently issued a patent for "a network that lets multiple IM users see when other people are present and then communicate with them". This is based on their owning ICQ, who "invented" instant messaging.

Well gosh, maybe it's just me, but I think there's prior art in droves here. Perhaps they should have taken a look at Talk, which debuted with 4.2BSD Unix way back in April, 1991.

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True, but I think it could be successfully argued that IM and IRC are two sepperate concepts.

Somewhat, yeah. It does support sending private messages in the same form that talk does.

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