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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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That seems the be their plan...or at least they want to have the option of trying it. However, considering that MS could keep such a suit in court for years, and AOL's lawyers have to know how weak that patent really is, I think it's probably just going to be used as bargaining posture for the next time they get into a tiff with MS.

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