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Maybe oDesk or eLance are the prior art, but this patent on providing software development services via a website probably has loads of prior art.

US20120240097 A1 — Method of providing software development services

Claim 1:

A method of enabling a software developer to provide software development services to an end user, wherein: the software developer establishes a website and other network accessible computers that the end user can access to define for the software developer the nature of the custom source code or software to be developed for the end user; based on the input by the end user, the software developer develops, compiles and installs on one of its own computers the defined custom software or source code as "work for hire" for review and testing online by the end user; and the developed custom software or source code is made available for downloading onto the end user's computer for exclusive ownership and use by the end user who will have exclusive intellectual property rights in the custom software or source code once the end user has approved it online after review and testing.

My non-legalese version

A method where there is a website that allows someone to define what code they need built, then a dev builds it, and the end user reviews it, and OKs the code. Then they download it and they own it.

There is one quirk to this patent: Although the publication date is now (2012) it looks like something else was going on in 2006 with another patent. This text:

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/702,196, filed Feb. 5, 2007, pending, which claims the benefit and priority of Provisional Patent Application No. 60/765,204 filed on Feb. 6, 2006, the entire contents of each of which are hereby incorporated by reference in this application.

I'm not sure if the prior art needs to be before 2006 or what that refers to though.

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Yes, since this is a continuation in part, statutory prior art would need to be February, 2005 (or earlier). –  Jerry Coffin Sep 25 '12 at 20:28
    
If my answer below is insufficient, I might suggest retitling this to make it more descriptive of what you're looking for - something like "prior art for a web-based system for requesting development of software." –  Luis Sep 26 '12 at 5:19
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Thanks @alex_chamberlain. Good title change! –  Michael Pryor Sep 26 '12 at 16:11
    
IMO, the responses so far are from the perspective of what WE (as web/software developers) might interpret this patent to be. Unfortunately, I think the language is significantly more general than that... As an independent web & software consultant, I've had a website for my work-for-hire consulting practice since ~2005 whereby the end user could simply complete an email form with their specs. I'd respond with a followup and work would be completed accordingly. Deliverables would be published on the site for download. Is this not exactly what this patent is attempting to cover? –  kfblake Oct 24 '12 at 15:02
    
Your best bet would be scriptlance.com, which started in (I believe) 2003. However, they were recently purchased by freelancer.com, so it's kind of hard to verify without the acquiring company confirming it as nothing remains of the original domain. –  Tim Post Nov 1 '12 at 11:18
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7 Answers 7

I work at GForge Group, LLC. Our product does exactly this, and has for over ten years.

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Can you add anything in print that says this with a date? –  Michael Pryor Oct 24 '12 at 14:12
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This may be a good example of where close reading of the patent is necessary: e.g., does gforge have the IP management elements mentioned in element 3 of the first claim (exact language below)? It didn't last time I looked at it, but that was also a loooooong time ago. –  Luis Oct 24 '12 at 16:44
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As the comment above suggests, the prior art needs to be prior to 2005.

I would suggest that Bugzilla, or any other bug tracking system that includes feature requests, is possible prior art for at least the first claim of this patent (with one problem discussed at the end of the post). In specific, Bugzilla's source code dates back to ~2000, has a trackable history and documentation, and still has active developers who could help find the right version you need (probably the last version released before Feb. 2005).

To compare it to claim 1:

element 1: "the software developer establishes a website and other network accessible computers that the end user can access to define for the software developer the nature of the custom source code or software to be developed for the end user;"

Bugzilla is a website; the end user can access it; you can define for the developer the nature of the source code to be developed - in default Bugzilla terminology, you do this by marking the bug "severity->enhancement" and then entering the discussion of the "nature of the ... software to be developed" into the summary and description fields.

element 2: "based on the input by the end user, the software developer develops, compiles and installs on one of its own computers the defined custom software or source code as “work for hire” for review and testing online by the end user;"

After the user has taken the steps described in element 1, Bugzilla emails the developer the "input by the end user." What the developer does is up to them; this is the place where Bugzilla doesn't define a mechanism so may be weaker. They then post the source code "for review and testing online" through Bugzilla.

element 3: "the developed custom software or source code is made available for downloading onto the end user's computer for exclusive ownership and use by the end user who will have exclusive intellectual property rights in the custom software or source code once the end user has approved it online after review and testing."

Again, the developer posts the source code to Bugzilla, so it is "made available for downloading onto the end user's computer..."

Note, though, that Bugzilla does not discuss the exclusivity of intellectual property rights; I'm not aware of any software system from that period that integrated licensing directly into the workflow. CCMixter did track licensing information for contributions (starting in 2004); a skilled patent attorney may be able to integrate that into an argument for combination of references.

Claims 2 and 4 are susceptible to the same sort of analysis; 5-7 would rely on finding other prior art with more control over licensing.

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I think a bug tracker like bugzilla wouldn't have enough overlap to be considered prior art. Mainly it doesn't have the part where you download the different versions that address the specific request you made. –  Michael Pryor Oct 24 '12 at 15:59
    
Bugzilla has (at least optionally) the ability to post specific patches to a bug that can be downloaded, applied, and run. But, as I said, not necessarily "for exclusive use"- it seems to me that's the much bigger problem for you, with any example I can think of. –  Luis Oct 24 '12 at 16:41
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vWorker (formerly rentacoder) could also be considered prior art.

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Need dates and references in order for it to be remotely useful. –  Michael Pryor Oct 24 '12 at 14:59
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TopCoder is the first things that comes to mind. They have their own set of patents starting from 2003 (company founded in 2001, according to Wikipedia article), and although their core business model is or was different (sponsors pay for competitions e.g. as a hiring tool) there is at least some overlap with the 2012 (2006) patent(s) you are citing ("the software resulting from algorithm competitions [...] is not usually directly useful, but sponsor companies sometimes provide money to pay the victors", says same Wikipedia article).

I cannot judge at this time whether there is sufficient documentation from that source (e.g. under client success stories or Enterprise Open Innovation) or in the Google News archive (the whole crowdsourcing trend manifested around 2005) to qualify as prior art, but can perhaps spend some more time on research if you further increase the "competition" bounty … ups, did StackExchange violate any TopCoder "competition" patents there ... ? :)

Hope this helps.

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I've added a few more links, now that I gained some initial reputation and am allowed to do so (i.e. share more than 2). –  Drux Oct 26 '12 at 20:25
    
Only skimmed over the full patent text, but just noticed from the excerpts that the patent's scope may be considerably narrower than what oDesk/eLance/vWorker/TopCoder/etc. provide, because it claims a "software developer" who hosts a website for uploading specs, etc., by ends users (e.g. outsourcing entities). Can a "software developer" who acts purely as an intermediary (still) be called a software developer? IMO the (2012!) patent is clearly flawed on grounds of inventive step and non-obviousness: when reading it first, I must have automatically assumed something less trivial :) –  Drux Oct 26 '12 at 21:53
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Seems to me the exerpt below from the "SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION" section should help with finding "prior art". In that, it doesn't have to be a person but a "computer program".

  • The term “software developer” used herein is intended to cover any type of provider such as a computer program and/or human services. Accordingly, the custom source code is developed from a set of requirements specifically for the end user.

With that I now direct you to look at Wikipedia where you can find a history of Tripod.com.

I used Tripod.com in 2002 to create a website where I was able to send in a request for a homepage design using their website builder tool. It would then create all the code required to meet my needs. I would then go to the "preview my site" option and make sure I was happy with the results. If not, I would send feedback to Tripod.com about the changes I wanted made. I was able to go into the website and view the HTML that it had built for me. I was then free to download the HTML and edit it and move it to where ever I liked, i.e. ownership of the scripts was passed to me.

I must admit to using the free version, but there was an option for a paid version. Therefore, I could have paid for the services.

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The wayback machine to the rescue, from 1996 web.archive.org/web/19961022175308/http://www.tripod.com the HOMEPAGE BUILDER link on the left offers this service. –  Ron J. Oct 24 '12 at 23:17
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This should help, patent US5706502 Filing date: Mar 26, 1996 Issue date: Jan 6, 1998

Internet-enabled portfolio manager system and method

A portfolio management system (PMS) is disclosed that allows users to manage, create, edit, debug and compile software portfolios that can include several different types of components, or projects. For example, projects can be Java applets, standalone executable programs, image files, Java class libraries or remote Java applets. The software portfolios and/or their constituent projects can be stored on the system hosting the portfolio management system or on any remote system that can be accessed via the Internet using standard Internet communications protocols, such as FTP or HTTP. The PMS includes portfolio files, each of which includes links to the projects that compose a portfolio and project files that set out the attributes of one project. The PMS also provides portfolio methods that allow users to create, choose, import and remove entire portfolios and project methods that allow users to create, import, choose, edit, remove, run, copy and paste...

Claims:

1.

A portfolio management system for portfolios of software projects that are distributed over a set of networked computers connected to the Internet, said portfolio management system being resident on a first computer of said set of networked computers and comprising:

... a Web browser that is configured to download to said portfolio manager system selected remote portfolio files from the Internet as said selected portfolio files are needed by said portfolio methods to process said portfolios.

2.

a user interface that is configured to: display said portfolios, including the projects composing said portfolios, in a consistent fashion that is independent of location of said portfolios and projects; and enable user interaction with said portfolio methods so that the user can determine and manipulate the displayed portfolio using said portfolio methods. ...

12.

A method for use in a local computer connected via the Internet with a set of remote computers, said method enabling a user of said first computer to perform software development operations on software portfolios that are collections of projects, said method comprising the steps of: ...

The claims are pretty detailed, and appear to describe the storage and retrieval of "source code project portfolios", to wit, a software application or program.

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I used a website to provide programming assignments and collect products as early as '94.

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Unfortunately, the answer "I have prior art and it's me" isn't sufficient to show prior art. We'd need links to references that show your answer is sufficient (that's why someone downvoted you) –  Michael Pryor Oct 24 '12 at 14:58
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