US Patent #7,353,199 is about a system for creating a web site where the user gets "restricted" access (less that full functionality) during a trial period, but "full" access once the user registers (e.g., pays) for the web site the user created through the system. Claim 1 is representative.

A method for moderating external access to an electronic document authoring, development and distribution system comprising the steps of:

  • identifying a third party requesting access to said electronic document authoring, development and distribution system;
  • permitting restricted access to said third party to selected functions of said electronic document authoring, development and distribution system; and,
  • eliminating all access restrictions to said selected functions in said electronic document authoring, development and distribution system which were imposed in said permitting step when said third party registers as a registered user of said electronic document authoring, development and distribution system.
  • What's your question? Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 21:52
  • The holder of this patent can basically sue any website that accepts payments in return for access to content. What is really interesting is the current assignee, another Texas NPE? Its a good catch for a bad patent, albeit not sufficiently complete in its question/request.
    – Ron J.
    Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 23:14
  • 1
    Assuming you're looking for prior art, just keep in mind this patent has a September 24, 1999, filing date. Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 18:12
  • 1
    Interestingly the first claim seems to limit the scope of this patent to "1. A method for moderating external access to an electronic document authoring, development and distribution system ...". Further "This application is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 09/273,991 filed Mar. 22, 1999 now abandoned."
    – Ron J.
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 10:23

7 Answers 7


"An electronic document authoring, development and distribution system" is what the industry calls a content management system. There have been 15 years of CMS packages out there that do this is a standard practice to control what members and non-members have access to.

So, content management systems...The first products were around 1995. It was early for the web and everyone was building their own. Commercial offerings were pretty terrible. Many of the first CMS's were really just frameworks on which a CMS (as we now know it) could be built. There were some mid market ones that came and went due to being pretty terrible pieces of software. NCompass was one of the popular ones. It was taken over by Microsoft and killed. Red Dot was started in '95 was probably the most successful mid market CMS around the time of the tech-crash, but its since waned. There are of course more since, php-nuke for example. But the concept definitely predates the 1999 date mentioned above. Possibly the 1996 as well. (http://www.contegro.com/info-center/designers-blog/blog-article/disc/engage-the-web/thread/when-was-the-first-web-cms-released)

From my perspective I don't understand how anyone should be allowed to claim that the concept of a member/non-member having rights specific to their group memebership is special enough to warrant a fee for its use. Regardless of what kind of information service they were using the concept on. This patent is better changed to an anti-patent and be used as an example for which to judge others against.


BBS (bulletin board systems), reachable with analog modem via phone lines, had this concept decades ago, in the era of the Apple ][

New users had a download limit and could write only to some discussion boards, registered users could download more and write everywhere.


The concept of limitations for "anonymous" users of a site existed in FTP services for quite a long time. I would be surprised if there wasn't a similar capability in earlier BBS services or UUCP services.

This particular patent is directed to "an electronic document authoring, development and distribution system", which suggests that you would have to do all three things in order to violate the patent. I would venture a guess that not all web sites do "authoring, development and distribution", but they only do the distribution part.


Zope, as an open source application server has been around since 1996. zope.org was operated in the manner described above (read-only access to anonymous users, (free) registration that allowed you to put documents, files, even code, on the central server). If that sounds interesting I can do some digging to get a specific statement from the original authors what was actually there in early 1999.


Claims 1-5 and 11-15 seem obvious over this 1996 press release from Release Software:

Developers can configure SalesAgent to allow users to try their software for a limited period of time, or try a limited subset of the software's features. When the user decides to purchase the software, or when the trial period expires, SalesAgent launches itself and walks the user through a series of payment options that include an online credit card transaction, toll-free phone service, fax and mail. Developers can also program SalesAgent to recognize when it is copied from one machine to another, and reset itself back to demonstration mode, effectively turning possible piracy situations into sales opportunities.

SalesAgent is a 32-bit embedded sales agent that developers plug easily into their own applications. It includes the Release Software Secure API (RSAPI), a unique set of API's that allows developers to easily set time or feature locking for their applications.

  • The claim is for "electronic document authoring, development and distribution system", not application software installed on an end-user computer as this prior art demonstrates.
    – Ron J.
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 10:25

Isn't this basically what blogs, forums and all kinds of stuff has got since forever? You get restricted access (not allowed to post comments) until you register, and get full access (can post comments).


The way-back-machine at http://archive.org should be able to provide examples of web sites that had registered content prior to 1999.

  • Thanks for contributing to Ask Patents. I imagine your post has been down voted because it isn't an answer, it is a place to look for an answer. That could be helpful but in this case it is just a pointer to a vast amount of information.
    – George White
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 18:08

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