ActiveBuddy, founded in March 2000, filed a patent in August
2000 on a "method and system for interactively responding to
instant messaging requests."
"We invented interactive agents. Anybody using his or
her own tools (to make bots) is obviously using our
technology without paying us to license the server, for
example. We are a startup company and we have to protect
our future. That's basically why we secured this patent,"
[ActiveBuddy founder Tim] Kay said.
"I am fairly confident, there were no interactive agents
on IM at that point when the application was filed
(August 22, 2000). I'm certainly not aware of any," said
Kay, who doubles as ActiveBuddy's chief technology officer.
Sorry, Mr. Kay, you were late to the party with an old idea. My company in 1998, Activerse, developed a product called the "DingBot SDK" for creating interactive IM response Bots like those ActiveBuddy claims a patent on. It worked in our own (all-Java, radically peer-to-peer, web-services-like) IM/Presence system, but featured an API specifically designed to allow multi-IM-system bots.
We demoed an early version of the product at the "Demo 98" conference, in February 1998. PCWeek ran an article about us mentioning the DingBot SDK later that month.
The Activerse press release announcing the product's general availability, in November 1998, is still available at the Internet Archive.
ActiveBuddy was founded in March 2000. So, not only were their "IM bots" a old idea by the time they filed their patent (August 2000), a ripoff of both Activerse's offerings and more than a decade of practice on IRC networks and in MUDs/MOOs, but ActiveBuddy's very name was derivative of an existing player in the same market ("Activerse"->"ActiveBuddy") and their main product (an SDK/server) and business model (licensing) closely mimicked Activerse as well.
ActiveBuddy founder Kay claims with a straight face "we invented interactive agents" and "I am fairly confident, there were no interactive agents on IM at that point when the application was filed. I'm certainly not aware of any." That only goes to show you have to be *studiously* ignorant and/or dishonest in order to twist the flaws of the software patent system to personal advantage.
(Postscript on Activerse: It was acquired by high-flying internet conglomerate CMGI in April 1999. Though the initial aim was to expand and promote the Ding IM/bot products throughout the CMGI network of companies, as CMGI itself unravelled, Activerse was dismantled through a series of mostly arbitrary and faddish organizational moves which completely ignored the promise of the growing IM space.)