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This looks like a patent written in 2000 by someone who never lived through the 90's -- AIM and Yahoo IM and all of those are classic examples of applications which would fill this for prior art.

As well, wouldn't patent US6208996 ("Mobile device having notification database in which only those notifications that are to be presented in a limited predetermined time period") qualify as prior art given that it's talking about roughly the same thing, just in different terms?

And let's look at US6591279, "System and method for computer-based notifications of real-world events using digital images." Same basic design, just condensed.

If you're going to get really crude, US5617526 ("In a computer system") is a Microsoft patent describing notifications of any sort.

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ICQ, which was acquired by AOL in 98, got a patent on Instant Messaging (6449344). It's not exactly the same thing as receiving notifications –  EShy Jul 24 at 9:10

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The scope of a patent is defined by the claims. By the same token, what is infringed and what is invalidating prior art is also defined by the claims. So to invalidate a patent you need to find prior art based on the claims.

Claim 1 of US6463131 is as follows:

  1. A system for notifying a user of an incoming communication event, comprising:

means for determining a characteristic of the communication event;

means for selecting a notification based on the characteristic;

means for sending the user the selected notification;

means for receiving a selection from the user indicating a format for delivery of further information regarding the communication event; and

means for allowing the further information regarding the communication event to be sent to the user in the selected format.

There's an equally broad method claim, but it is not substantially different in terms of scope, so this can suffice.

At a high level, this claim is about the rather narrow aspects of notifications that deals with selecting a notification method based on some "characteristic" of a "communication event", and allowing the user to select a format in which to receive "further information" about the event. The meanings of the words in quotes would be defined by the specification, if they have no common meaning as such.

So if you want to find prior art that invalidates this claim, you'd need to find one or more (usually up to three) prior art references that, taken together, describe each and every element of the claim. I haven't read the three references you cited, but do any of them, either by themselves or in combination, cover all the elements of this claim?

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You mean like logging on to AOL and having a a guy shout youve got mail, and allowing the user to decide if they want to see what the mail is or not? –  Daniel Sep 4 at 16:44

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