Previously, I posted a link to Ben Stein's article about how to ruin American enterprise. One of the things that Mr. Stein forgot, though, was allowing the US Patent Office to issue frivolous patents. Take, for instance, AOL, which has just successfully taken out a patent on....instant messaging.
Seeing as how AIM wasn't exactly johnny on the spot in the IM world, the patent was issued to ICQ. Naturally, this could cause some problems for Microsoft, Yahoo, and anyone else who happens to have written an IM service/client of some form. The article does state that it's unlikely AOL will ever try to sue someone over this, and has taken out the patent as a "defensive measure".
Of course, what the article fails to state, is that years before ICQ came around, I and most everyone else who was connected to the internet could do exactly what they listed above:
# finger firstname.lastname@example.org[Various user information, including whether or not the user is online]# talk email@example.com[Interactive talk session comes up]
Or I could've used ytalk or ntalk. Whatever happened to be installed on both systems, basically. Sure, it wasn't as user friendly as today's services. But it was certainly around for years before ICQ.