Frames and global navigation patented

I didn't believe this when I read it on other blogs, but Prodigy is claiming that in 1996 they patented web site global or primary navigation. There's a story on this topic in the NY Times. Something really has to be done about how patents get awarded. Why on earth would anyone want to pursue royalties on an interface design element such as navigation menus? I'm sure someone can make the claim that the design of persistent menus can be traced back to non-web interfaces and argue that these types of menus are not a new thing. This would be a good time to use the Internet Archive's way back machine, in this case to find some pre-1996 example of global navigation.

More from the article:

    When British Telecom claimed in 2000 that it had patented the Web's ubiquitous hyperlink, the Internet erupted in a fit of protest that lasted until the company lost its test infringement case against Prodigy Communications last summer.

    But that has not stopped Prodigy's parent company, SBC Communications, from asserting a patent claim on a Web navigation technique nearly as widely used. According to letters SBC sent out last week, the company believes that any Web site that has a menu that remains on the screen while a user clicks through the site may owe it royalties.

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SBC is evil

There's no way this is going to hold up. Framed navigation was used before '96 and they know it. The Way Back's archive only goes back to Jan. 1, 1996 so I'm not sure how useful it will be, but I'm sure someone else will find something on their hard drive or the Web. The whole thing makes me wish I wasn't an SBC customer. Alas, I use their DSL service, which has worked well as long as I've had it.