As a company, Cobblestone Software regards itself as the true pioneer of the
concept of hyperlinking the physical world using bar codes.
Cobblestone was incorporated in March of 1995, and, to the best of our
knowledge, is, by a good distance, the first company formed with
print-to-digital-world as its express goal, where a key part of that concept was
print-to-internet. As early as 1996, in a paper and presentation delivered at a
US Postal Service conference, we had described our revolutionary concept of
hyperlinking the world of printed media, and more generally the physical world,
to the web and other resources. It is, so far as we are aware, the first such
public description of this powerful idea.
Cobblestone's licensed its technology to Mitigo (formed in 2001), which, we
believe, was the first company formed to target the camera phone
print-to-internet market. As many pioneering companies do, Mitigo essentially
ran out of money before the market could develop -- but Cobblestone now retains
full rights to our technology in this market.
Cobblestone has also been targeting "data heavy" applications --
that is, applications that require a great deal of information to be stored on
paper. For example, Cobblestone has licensed its technology to DeLaRue, the
premier passport company in the world, for use in SecureIDs, encoding biometric
information in a barcode of many kilobytes. It has worked in the past at some
length with Kodak, and is also now working with other major companies in other
Cobblestone, at this stage, is deliberating whether or not to enter on its
own into the mobile market, to license its IP and technology, or to sell its
assets in this area. We've developed technology that works robustly on a large
variety of camera phones, and can in principle work on ANY camera phone, no
matter its optics. We have versions that work on the Smartphone, but also on the
Nokia 6680, 3650, and 7650. On the Nokia phones, for example, we have
implemented an API that would allow people pretty much to encode, on a desktop,
whatever they may want into a code, and then decode that code on the phone to do
whatever they may choose to do.
Cobblestone has already been granted three basic patents 6,098,882,
6,176,427, and 6,820,807, and has a number of others still in progress. One of
these patents, 6,820,807, clearly covers the basic concept of using bar codes as
physical world hyperlinks, a breadth that is unsurprising given our own priority
as the pioneering company in this space. In fact, for example, here are the
first two claims of the patent:
1. A method of accessing data comprising: producing digital instructions
for accessing data, formatting into a pattern the series of digital data
values representing said digital instructions for accessing data,
distributing the pattern of formatted digital data, decoding the pattern of
formatted digital data, and activating the digital instructions for
accessing data, whereby the data is accessed.
2. The method of accessing data of claim 1 wherein said digital
instructions for accessing data consists of hyperlinks to information
extraneous to said formatted digital data.
While interpreting claims is always a tricky business, and must be understood
in the light of the description, it's pretty obvious that on its face these
claims would comprehend, at minimum, ANY use of bar codes as hyperlinks to the
digital world, the web most obviously; even the term, "hyperlink", is
used explicitly. And the description in the patent itself, along with the
descriptions in our other patent applications, makes it quite evident that the
generalized notion of hyperlinking the physical world to the web, and more
generally the digital world, was being clearly envisioned.
Cobblestone's emphasis was on 2D codes from its inception, because we
believed that, over time, 2D codes would inevitably win the technology war as
imagers became cheaper and more powerful. In fact, this has clearly proven to be
true in the mobile market among others: any camera phone very naturally can
handle our 2D code, but typically requires special macro, or add-on, lenses to
do standard 1D codes; moreover, for new consumer applications, our 2D code
requires vastly less space. So not only was Cobblestone the first company out
with the concept of print-to-internet, it was first to recognize the crucial
role of 2D codes in the emerging market. We believe that our IP backing up our
concept is very strong, and the early priority dates should allow us full
freedom to pursue this market, or to so enable anyone to whom we may sell or
license the technology and IP.