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Netflix Granted Patent on DVD Subscription Rentals 638

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the almost-as-bad-as-one-click dept.
A few folks noted a new patent showing up from netflix. They apparently now have a patent on their model of subscribing to rentals- where instead of being charged per disc, you are charged a monthly fee and can keep the rentals indefinitely without late fees. You can patent anything! Get on the bus!
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Netflix Granted Patent on DVD Subscription Rentals

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  • by ChaoticChaos (603248) * <l3sr-v4cfNO@SPAMspamex.com> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:28AM (#6284697)
    They've also got a patent on not being able to find my DVDs for at least a week and a half after I send them back.
    • Re:Other patents... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mozkill (58658)
      your right actually. what if someone were to come along and "improve on the patent" by supplying the same service without delays!

      can that be patented?
    • Re:Other patents... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:32AM (#6284758) Journal
      There's a quick solution for that... Start reporting them as stollen. Once I did that, the delays magically disappeared for a while. After reporting 3 or 4 stollen, the delays stopped permanently.

      Yeah, netflix isn't all good, but they are still a step up from the alternatives.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @12:10PM (#6285196)
        Start reporting them as stollen. ..........How is german bread going to help? If you start telling people that their DVDs have turned into german bread, they'll think you're mad.
      • by slaker (53818) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @12:13PM (#6285235)
        Netflix used to have some adult-ish titles a couple years ago. Then they just... vanished off the rental lists. I wrote in and asked about it. Got no response.

        I originally signed up for the service to get a couple of titles my video store didn't have (Brazil, some concert films). I had a few titles on my rental list that started "Playboy's...", but after not looking for a month or so, I couldn't even find the category any more.

        In my mind, if you're gonna carry very-soft adult materials like playboy videos (basically just naked girls prancing around. Nothing more provokative than a nipple), then do it. Don't change your mind. The local cable operators carry more "offensive" on the scrambled stations all day long, and they didn't stop carrying mainstream movies with more provokative content.

        They changed their mind. I don't know why. But after that, I thought perhaps they COULD change their minds again, and suddenly head down the Blockbuster path of "extra special no-naked-people" versions of movies. Boo Hiss.

        I've used a couple of rental services since then, but after a better video store finally opened locally, I had almost no need of netflix service.

        Now I just use wantedlist.com, which is an adult-only service, and don't worry what the hell netflix might do.
        • by gid (5195) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @12:23PM (#6285337) Homepage
          I had a few titles on my rental list that started "Playboy's...", but after not looking for a month or so, I couldn't even find the category any more.

          suddenly head down the Blockbuster path of "extra special no-naked-people" versions of movies.

          That annoys the shit out of me. What the fuck is it with people here in the States that makes them so afraid of seeing naked people? BUT THE CHILDREN MIGHT SEE. It's the soccer moms doing it, I'm telling you...

          It's not so much that they cut the naked people out. It cutting ANYTHING out of the movie without telling me. I want to see the movie the way the director intended it. Which is why I'm a big fan of director's cuts that have more footage, a lot of times extra scenes that add a LOT to the movie. I hate it when someone high up cuts this and this out to get the pg-13 rating which means bigger sales.

          Screw that. Movies are an art form. I don't go to a museum and expect to see black bars on all the naked statues and paintings, do I? I fail to see the difference.
      • by theonetruekeebler (60888) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @12:40PM (#6285529) Homepage Journal
        [N]etflix isn't all good, but they are still a step up from the alternatives.
        Now that a patent has been issued, what alternatives?
    • Well, I think that patent is a derivative of the one Blockbuster holds for not recording the return of a movie until the day after I put it in the slot. Rapid Return, my ass.
    • by sql*kitten (1359) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:49AM (#6284997)
      They've also got a patent on not being able to find my DVDs for at least a week and a half after I send them back.

      Funny, dvdsontap.com did the same thing to me, claimed to have received back an empty case. I've taken to videoing myself putting the DVDs back in the cases and sealing it in the envelope, with my digital camera.
      • I've taken to videoing myself putting the DVDs back in the cases and sealing it in the envelope, with my digital camera.

        You should patent that process, you know.
    • by intermodal (534361) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @12:23PM (#6285348) Homepage Journal
      if you read later in the article, you may notice a problem as I patented a method for stepping onto a motorized vehicle designed for conveying pay-per-customer passengers to pre-designated areas without appointments...so everyone who "got on the bus", please send $1,000,000 to me ASAP or you'll hear from my personnel who can say IAAL (without the N like the rest of us)
    • Most of these comments are way off-topic. Whether or not this is a good method of distributing DVDs is not the issue, nor is whether anyone should anyone for movies at all, or how good various companies are at delivering on what they promise.

      The real issue is that however good this business model is or isn't, there is absolutely nothing that is technically innovative about it. It is a simple billing model -- something that is explicitly not patentable.

      This doesnt' even call for congressional action.

  • Ah well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by mhore (582354) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:28AM (#6284703)
    if they hadn't done it, Wal-mart would have.

    Mike.

  • Walmart... haha! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by klocwerk (48514) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:29AM (#6284709) Homepage
    Very interesting considering Walmart just setup a similar program.

    While it may be a BS patent, it's nice to see a large corporation get screwed by a patent for once.

    • by Sanity (1431) * on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:33AM (#6284776) Homepage Journal
      While it may be a BS patent, it's nice to see a large corporation get screwed by a patent for once
      Don't be silly, large corporations don't get hurt by patents - sheesh.

      Patents are for keeping out those pesky small innovative companies who can't affort to go to court and don't have their own patent portfolio so that they can force cross-licensing.

    • by siskbc (598067) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:33AM (#6284778) Homepage
      While it may be a BS patent, it's nice to see a large corporation get screwed by a patent for once.

      Expect Wal-mart to fucking bend Netflix over. I get your "pull for the little man" thing. On the other hand, I'm glad a relatively large company (Netflix) finally pulled this patent crap against a company that's actually going to challenge the patent, as opposed to a mom-and-pop who can't fight back.

      • Sorry, wrong answer. Expect Wal-mart to go on about its business gladly ignoring the patent. Why should they care? It's not like netflix wants to waste years of their life and tons of money trying to enforce against *Walmart*.

        No, expect them to go on happily. However, expect Walmart to be the first to inform netflix of any *other* infringements that are indeed sueable.

        Infact Netflix may just cut a free deal with walmart so as not to look like they are scared of the Giant. That would certainly be in w
        • by siskbc (598067)
          Sorry, wrong answer. Expect Wal-mart to go on about its business gladly ignoring the patent. Why should they care? It's not like netflix wants to waste years of their life and tons of money trying to enforce against *Walmart*.

          Damn, you're a snide little shit. Actually, I wouldn't expect Walmart to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into a business that can be shut down quickly with a court order. They may license the patent or they may fight it, but ignoring it isn't likely. Especially with the treb

    • by zzzmarcus (183118) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:35AM (#6284809)
      You're showing your ignorance to basic capitalism.

      BS patent or not, Netflix having a patent on this method of DVD rentals kills the competition--whether it comes from a Big Corporation or otherwise. A lack of competition is ALWAYS bad for the consumer. In the end, it's not WalMart who's getting screwed, it's you.
      • by bigpat (158134) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:48AM (#6284980)
        "A lack of competition is ALWAYS bad for the consumer. In the end, it's not WalMart who's getting screwed, it's you."

        Oh Not so! I can't imagine anyone would have thought of this particular method of renting DVDs unless someone at Netflix had shown us the way. That is precisely the intent of patent law, to bring innovation to the light of day so that we may all benefit in the future when the patent expires. Imagine if Netflix hadn't been able to patent this novel business method... they probably would have just decided to sell cabbages by the side of the road or something rather than share their secret. So none of us would have benefited from this "innovation" and we might have spent thousands of years before someone of similar intellect discovered this unique way to rent DVDs! ;)

    • by infolib (618234)
      While it may be a BS patent, it's nice to see a large corporation get screwed by a patent for once.

      Rather short-sighted. I personally don't care whether corporations are large or small, as long as they make nice products without ruining things for the rest of society (such as environment, legislation, etc.)

      There are no winners in the BS patent game, except perhaps patent attourneys. Seeing people punished for trying to do productive work makes me feel sick and sad. Anyway, they'll probably start suin
  • Walmart? (Score:4, Redundant)

    by DetrimentalFiend (233753) * on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:29AM (#6284710)
    This canâ(TM)t be good for Walmart. I wonder if Netflix will use this patent to shut down their competing service or if theyâ(TM)ll be âoeniceâ and license it for an obscene amount. People need to start pushing this issue with their representatives before e-mailing, calling, faxing, and talking are all patented.
    • Re:Walmart? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cheezedawg (413482)
      Has /. become so skewed that any patent is considered evil? I mean, Netflix did come up with a very innovative business plan, and they execute that business plan very well. WalMart came along several years later is trying to copy Netflix. Why shouldn't Netflix get some license revenue from that?

      This is not an outrageous patent.
  • PATENT SOURCE (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AyeRoxor! (471669) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:29AM (#6284717) Journal
    See the patent PDF here [patentlogistics.com].

    Imagine if McDonalds had patented the "drive-thru" method of selling. THE PTO FARKING SUCKS I AM GETTING SO TIRED OF THIS CRAP /pant pant pant
    • Re:PATENT SOURCE (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TopShelf (92521)
      Where's the problem here? Netflix came up with a genuinely new business model, for which they should be rewarded if anybody else wants to hop on the same boat. This isn't a blindingly obvious or overly broad patent like the "user clicks on a link and we sell them stuff" that we've seen before.

      The drive-thru was a similarly revolutionary idea - whoever started it SHOULD have patented it...
      • Re:PATENT SOURCE (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rsheridan6 (600425)
        No, the fact that they were first to market, and therefore have all of the market share and name recognition should be enough. Patents like this serve only to stifle competition and are therefore anti-free market and anti-consumer.

        I can understand giving somebody an 18 year monopoly on a product that required lots of money spent on R&D, but allowing any bright idea to be patented is just idiotic.

        • Re:PATENT SOURCE (Score:5, Insightful)

          by TopShelf (92521) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:59AM (#6285106) Homepage Journal
          So you're OK with a WalMart coming along with all their resources and wiping out NetFlix as soon as they see that a market is there worth taking? Yeesh, so much for innovation!

          I can understand giving somebody an 18 year monopoly on a product that required lots of money spent on R&D, but allowing any bright idea to be patented is just idiotic.

          Well, that pretty much writes off any small inventor. If you have to pour $X into R&D to get a patent, you've basically walled off a class of innovators from ever bringing their ideas to market.
      • Re:PATENT SOURCE (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Zoop (59907) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @12:02PM (#6285133)
        Netflix came up with a genuinely new business model, for which they should be rewarded

        For which they are rewarded when someone joins and pays them money.

        What secrets are they keeping that the public will benefit from the exposure of on their patent application?

        None. It's bleeding obvious, and the first time you hear of it, it's obvious how to implement it, even by lemonade stand-level businesspeople.

        If you're an American, read your Constitution--the justification is written into it. If you're not, well, quick start a Netflix-style business before the EU patent is granted.
      • Re:PATENT SOURCE (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Shalda (560388) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @12:21PM (#6285321) Homepage Journal
        Except, of course, that it's not. Rental clubs are nothing new. Growing up, we had a video rental store nearby that offered a subscription model. You take that and add round-trip shipping and that's suddenly something new? I'm sure if you look hard enough you can find an earlier identical business model based around something other than DVDs. The closest thing to being revolutionary here is the notion that it might actually make any money.
      • Re:PATENT SOURCE (Score:4, Insightful)

        by liquidsin (398151) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @12:36PM (#6285490) Homepage
        Genuinely new business model? Shit, man, I remember renting movies 20 years ago. Let's try this once more for those at the back of the class: BUSINESS METHODS SHOULD NOT BE PATENTABLE. Can I patent renting DVDs out of my mom's basement? How about on a train, or under water maybe? How about bubble wrapping them before I ship them, or accepting food stamps for payment? Why not just patent a method for charging money to rent things and collect royalties on everyone renting movies, power tools, whatever? Just because they use a different way of distributing and billing, doesn't mean they should get a patent on it anymore than Blockbuster should have a patent on renting movies from a store. Patenting business methods kills competition, plain and simple.

      • Prior art (Score:3, Interesting)

        by poptones (653660)
        Funny how this is "new." Back in 1982 I belonged to a "club" that used exactly this method to get around zoning laws that forbid businesses from renting porn. You pay your $50, walk out with your tape, and return it whenever you like for a modest exchange fee.

        Once again proving porn guides technology. In this case, predating it by a whopping 20 years.

    • by dmayle (200765) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @12:06PM (#6285165) Homepage Journal

      You think you jest... Here in France, the drive-thru didn't exist before McDonalds came, so they called it a "McDrive" and trademarked the name...

  • Absurd (Score:4, Interesting)

    by securitas (411694) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:29AM (#6284720) Homepage Journal
    Why don't I enter a patent for renting or leasing a car for a month?

    Sometimes I wonder who it is they hire to work at the USPTO.

    This appears to amount to patenting an idea, not an invention or method.
  • Patent (Score:5, Funny)

    by jrmann1999 (217632) <jrmann1999@g m a i l .com> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:30AM (#6284726)
    I claim the patent on short articles devoid of detail, royalties must commence immediately.
  • Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by devnull17 (592326) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:30AM (#6284727) Homepage Journal

    You can patent anything! Get on the bus!

    Better do it fast, before someone patents the bus.

  • by nurd666 (242319) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:30AM (#6284731)
    Does this patent only cover DVD rentals? I'd hate to see a site like gamefly get hurt over this if the patent is broad enough to include all media rentals with the same scheme.
  • I just patented it.
  • by stonebeat.org (562495) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:31AM (#6284743) Homepage
    "In 1899, Charles Duell, the director of the US Patent Office, suggested that the government close the office because everything that could be invented had been invented."
  • Prior Art (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jandrese (485) * <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:31AM (#6284744) Homepage Journal
    Heck, my old Anime club used to do that with Fansubs to get around the "no sale or rent" clause. You paid a fee each semester that allowed you to rent N tapes (the N was based off which membership you got), you could keep the tapes as long as you wanted, although you did have to turn them back in at the end of the semester and you could not have more than N tapes out at once. The fees went into blank tapes and shipping from Japan, the fansubbers did the actual translating and timing for free though.
  • by beaverfever (584714) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:31AM (#6284747) Homepage
    I'm a little surprised /. has yet to report on my patent of the knife, fork and spoon, as used in human food delivery.
  • by Remik (412425) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:31AM (#6284749)
    Walmart To Buy NetFlix.

    They've succeeded in making themselves worth buying, kudos.

    -R
  • You know... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Spytap (143526)
    Seriously, fuck Wal-Mart for trying to copy someone else's idea and expect to get rich off of it again. I feel about as bad about this as when I was told AOL/Time-Warner lost 90 Billion last year.
    I love Netflix for the way they revolutionized my DVD viewing, and will hence-forth be very protective of them.
    • Re:You know... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dynastar454 (174232) * on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @12:15PM (#6285258) Homepage Journal
      +5? Good god. What are the mods smoking? Even though NetFlix is sort of cool- I used to be a member, but have moved on to "greener" [greencine.com] pastures- and they did have a good idea, why should this be patentable? Being able to patent "Do X, only on the internet" is about as stupid as can be. What if it had been possible to patent "Do X"? Would you all be happy if Blockbuster had a patent on movie rentals? Alamo on car rentals? Or, perhaps, Expedia on "Buying airline tickets... on the internet!" As others have said, unlimited-time-out rentals are not a new idea, either, so they really are doing this based of off "... on the internet".
  • So when did (Score:3, Funny)

    by Ice Tiger (10883) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:32AM (#6284761)
    The USPO become a US legal work creation scheme, there can be no benefit to mankind by granting some of these patents with obvios prior art unless of course the part of mankind you want to benfit happens to be called lawyers.
  • Lending (Score:2, Funny)

    by Jad LaFields (607990)
    I'm going to patent the idea of letting someone I know and trust use something for a short time for no cost, and if they don't give it back in that time, giving them some more time if like them or beating them up if I don't.

    I'll call it "lending" or "borrowing"
  • So, I guess that means Netflix is crossed off my list. Does anyone have another DVD rental service to recommend? (assuming that this other company can survive despite the patent.)

    I recently heard about GreenCine [greencine.com] and they seem interesting. It's $21.95/month, but they have "over 10,000 titles, with an accent on indie, art house, classics, foreign, documentary, anime and Asian cinema."

    I sought a second opinion and found this extensive review of DVD rental services [starkravingnormal.com] at Stark Raving Normal [starkravingnormal.com]. The guy seemed to like them: "GreenCine is my current favorite DVD rental service. The customer service people have been great, they have the best selection of anime that I have seen from a DVD rental place, lots of cult movies, sci-fi, horror, indie films, foreign cinema, and even a cool little online community of San Francisco movie geeks."

    I don't work for GreenCine, but they're probably towards the top of my list at the moment. And, it doesn't hurt either that some of their profits go to film arts organizations.

    • I just signed up for Greencine and found something annoying. Apparently I must have made an error in my credit card information when I signed up, because I got an email notice that it rejected...and now I'm expected to contact them via email to correct that information--and until I do, I'm locked out of the greencine.com website so I can't get in and correct it there.

      They'd damn well better have some method of me getting my card number to them that is not in the clear over email if they want to keep my bu
  • by bjschrock (557973) * <{bschrock} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:33AM (#6284775)
    Here's some more info: Netflix Issued Patent on Subscription Rental Service [prnewswire.com] and complete copy of the patent (PDF) [patentlogistics.com]. You can also search for patent # 6584450 on the US Patent office website [uspto.gov].
  • Patentable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stanmann (602645) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:33AM (#6284783) Journal
    Well, I have to say that it is a non-obvious business practice. Otherwise video stores would have tried it years ago. I'm not sure they should have patented it, but it is definitely a useful implementation. Of course the mailorder/internet thing makes it functional...


    I don't think there is anything resembling prior art, and for most of us, it was kindof a WOW! epiphany/paradigm shift thing.
    • Re:Patentable (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Xerithane (13482) <xerithane&nerdfarm,org> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:50AM (#6285020) Homepage Journal
      Well, I have to say that it is a non-obvious business practice.

      Non-obvious... I've seen a few places that use similar models. Usually it's $0.50 rentals with a monthly fee. A lot of import rentals (Taping foreign shows for rental) do things like this.

      Otherwise video stores would have tried it years ago. I'm not sure they should have patented it, but it is definitely a useful implementation.

      Some video stores do it. And have been doing it for over a decade... Just go to import video stores and check them out. A big part of why they have membership fees is to continue to buy blank tapes to record the television shows on.
  • When's the lawsuit against Walmart going to be filed?

    I'll put down 7/15/2003.

    Proletariat of the world, unite to kill the US Patent Office
  • by SuperDuG (134989) <be@@@eclec...tk> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:36AM (#6284829) Homepage Journal
    Get this ... I've got a patent pending ... but I'll letcha in on what it's about ...

    You rent an item for a set amount of time with a set price.

    If you return the item in the time alotted then everything is great. If not you're given a late fee.

    It's BRILLIANT!!!!!

    Libraries, Movies, Equipment, you all owe me royalties now!!!

    I don't get how you can patent a management style or business action. It would be nice if Uncle Sam would start to realize that them there computers on the desk ain't too hard to use. Maybe even somebody can connect one to the internet (of course by paying royalties to Al Gore) and cruise around.

  • by msheppard (150231) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:39AM (#6284863) Homepage Journal
    I'm not sure if this is good or bad. On the one hand, I applaud netflix for protecting a buisness model they invented, or at least they were the first to implement and sink a lot of capital into.

    But this gives them a monopoly. If they have the patent on a business, they have the monopoly and can stop everyone else from competeing.

    A lot of the eTailers are trying to patent things that in effect would give them a similar monopolistic control over entire ways of doing business (oneClick etc...), these are definatly bad.

    So I guess after reasoning this out, it's bad. It gives NetFlix an unfair control over a business model. There will be no competition, and they can raise the price to any level they see fit. So instead of you and me getting a service like this for $5 a month, becuase that's just a little bit more than it costs to make it happen, we will be forced to pay $25 or more becuase no-one is allowed to compete with NetFlix.

    BTW: I'm a netflix user and love it. I think the system is great. I'd love some competition to drive the price way down.

    M@
  • Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:40AM (#6284876) Homepage Journal
    It's an original business method, and one that presumably takes a lot of time, effort, and money to implement. It's not something most of us would have just thought of as an obvious solution to a problem we were encountering.

    If we're going to allow Business Methods to be patentable (and that's a seperate conversation) then this is definitely an example of something that ought to be.

  • fetchaflick (Score:4, Informative)

    by Triv (181010) * on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:40AM (#6284880) Journal

    In New York City a company called "Fetch-a-flick" allows you to order DVDs online. They deliver within an hour, you keep the movie for 3-5 days, put it in the supplied envelope and drop it in a mailbox (or leave it with your doorman). All for 4 bucks each. I'd love to do business with netflix but the last thing I need is another monthly charge, and fetchaflick quenches the impulse renting urge. If you live in Manhattan check 'em out - I highly recommend them. (Caveat: their delivery area isn't huge) Fetchaflick [fetchaflick.com].

    No, I don't work for them, I'm just really happy with their services.

  • Call me ignorant.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MImeKillEr (445828) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:43AM (#6284922) Homepage Journal
    ... (waits for everyone to respond calling me ingnorant...)

    but is it even possible / should it even be possible to get a patent for a business model? If so, why hasn't the RIAA patented the process in place for screwing its artist & the general public, while pulling the wool over the eyes of lawmakers? Why hasn't SCO patented the process for going after more-successful companies in order to keep themselves afloat?
    • by Remik (412425) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @12:17PM (#6285272)
      The rationale behind patents is that creators need a reason to create, and if anyone can steal their idea once they've created it, they probably won't bother.

      This logic is flawed as applied to business process patents, as this one is. Business processes will always be created because the business has an inherent motivation, increased profit, and does not need the increased motive of monopoly protect to jump-start their creation.

      This issue was highlighted in Larry Lessig's 'The Future of Ideas' on a section regarding Amazon's One-click patent, and Steve Job's comments that they would have developed the technology in any event, even if it wouldn't have been patentable.

      The idea that businesses need any other motivation than the desire to keep themselves afloat is hogwash, but it's what the entire recent history of the US Patent process is based on.

      -R
      • by odin53 (207172)
        The rationale behind patents is that creators need a reason to create, and if anyone can steal their idea once they've created it, they probably won't bother.

        See, this is the misconception that makes people miss the boat, if I read you correctly. The rationale isn't that creators need a reason to create, and patent protection gives them that reason. This implies that without patent protection, we would have no innovation. That's certainly not true, because a certain amount of ANY patentable inventions
  • by MushMouth (5650) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:53AM (#6285048) Homepage
    Notice in the flowchart on the first page of the pdf that a bunch of people linked to there is a box for surcharges if you turn over too many vids.
  • by Betelgeuse (35904) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:54AM (#6285061) Homepage
    Dear Mr. Taco,

    I represent the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and I must insist that you immediately cease and desist your use of the phrase "Get on the bus!", which is patented by my client under US Patent #2032987. I will expect all references to such phrase to be removed from your site by 12:00 AM GMT on June 25, 2003.

    Thank you for your cooperation.
  • Get off the bus! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by crashnbur (127738) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:56AM (#6285081)
    According to Title 35 (Patents) [cornell.edu] of the US Code [cornell.edu], not just anything is patentable. In fact, only inventions and processes defined here [cornell.edu] are patentable. Further, there are specific instances when an invention or process is not [cornell.edu] patentable [cornell.edu].

    For a general overview of what constitutes patentability, see Part II [cornell.edu] of Title 35.

    I hereby revoke CmdrTaco's previous statement, "You can patent anything!"

    • by zenyu (248067)
      According to Title 35 (Patents) of the US Code, not just anything is patentable. In fact, only inventions and processes defined here are patentable. Further, there are specific instances when an invention or process is not patentable.

      The problem is none of these are enforced. It's easy cheesy to patent something that has been in the public domain for hundreds of years. Perhaps those patents aren't valid, but defending against an invalid patent claim takes millions. You independently "invent" thousands upo
  • Threaten a boycott (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joshamania (32599) <jggramlich@y[ ]o.com ['aho' in gap]> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @12:31PM (#6285436) Homepage
    It's all fine and good for Netflix to have spent money on this patent if the idea is to keep litigation at bay. You don't want Blockbuster doing the same thing to you...a defensive patent, Bezos called it, I believe.

    What I am currently doing is writing a nice little email to Netflix...basically saying that if I so much as smell enforcement of this bullshit patent, I will immediately cancel my subscription to their business.
  • by vistic (556838) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @12:40PM (#6285530)
    Soooo... does this mean Blockbuster has to stop its movie rental pass things?

    As I recall, they came out with that after Netflix.
  • (from the news release)"Netflix allows customers to rent as many DVDs as they want for the monthly fee, with three movies out at a time. Customers can keep the DVDs as long as they like and they are delivered directly to the subscriber's address via first-class mail." Such innovation deserves a patent! Unfortunately, that business method is a couple of centuries old, and still viable today.

    In the early days of mass media (books), printing was manual, and books were expensive. And many people of means lived in isolated places. Few could afford to buy as many books as they wanted to read.

    To overcome this, "subscription libraries" were developed in the 1700s (one in Newport RI [redwood1747.org] was founded in 1747). They charged an annual subscription fee, which went towards buying books and administrative costs. The city subscriber could stroll over to the library (or send a servant) and get a book to read, keep it for as long as they wanted, and get a new book when they brought back the previous one. Rural subscribers would request books by mail and get the books by mail. Fast readers could read as many as they wanted, with the restriction being that they had to return one to get another. (there may have been a multi-book quota ... I've never had to discuss the administrative details)

    How is this different than the NetFlix patent, allowing for advancements in technology allowing online subscribing and electronic payment. Whether it's an annual subscription, or a monthly one, you sign up, you pay, you borrow, you return, you borrow some more.

    And subscription libraries still exist today ... The one in Newport is sitll going strong, and I've seen some websites where you can subscribe to get access to their library of books or other non-web information.

    • Perhaps you should read the patent, or at least the abstract. The key difference is that you maintain a list online, and that list is automatically mailed to you up to your max amount of DVDs (which you can pay to have increased if you want to have more out at a time). I don't know of anyone who had such a system. Using the library analogy, I'm sure one had to specify the book they wanted next at the time they returned the other book.

      And it's more than just a "reservation list" that a library might have
  • by 101percent (589072) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:31PM (#6286099)
    I believe that it's important to hear all sides to any issue, so here are two Ogg Vorbis [vorbis.org] encoded recordings of Richard M. Stallman [stallman.org] speaking about software patents and a percieved danger that they pose to software development. I know that this story isn't specifically about software patents, but you may find his ideas informative and extensible. (Disclaimer: Verbatim copying and distribution of the entire speech recording are permitted provided this notice is preserved.)

    http://audio-video.gnu.org/audio/rms-speech-cambri dgeuni-england2002.ogg [gnu.org] Transcript [cam.ac.uk]
    http://audio-video.gnu.org/audio/rms-speech-patent s-lse2002.ogg [gnu.org]

    Here [gnu.org] is a transcript of a non-recorded speech given by RMS in India also on the issue of software patents.

    I hope some of you find these links useful. If anyone knows of any good links taking differing position on the issue of patent law, etc... than I would definitly encourage you to post those.
  • by Rob Sweet (166485) <rob&ldg,net> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:34PM (#6286124)
    I was recently told by my boss that our company's legal dept. wants us to try to patent *anything* that we've created. BTW, I'm a web developer/SA building tools for internal use. The idea is that by patenting stuff that we've written, we protect ourselves from somebody else patenting it and then suing us. We'd win (well, hopefully) because we'd be able to show prior art but it would still be an ugly legal battle. By spending the money up front, we protect ourselves and ensure that if somebody *does* try to sue us, we can show the judge the patent and hopefully wrap things up simply, cheaply, and quickly.

    Although we could potentially use the patent to give competitors a hard time, the point would be to protect ourselves and our IP *before* somebody decides to attack us. It's also worth noting that if any of this patent stuff within my company actually looked like it was going to happen I'd be pushing strongly for something in writing basically saying that the patent wouldn't be abused.

    It's a shame that anybody would have to go to these extremes just to make sure they can avoid a lawsuit but hey, that's life in the big city.

  • by LostCluster (625375) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @02:40PM (#6286835)
    The Constitution gives patents to encurage inventors by giving them a monopoly on whatever they invent for a period of time, meaning that nobody can copy their idea to compete against them with it. Yes, this means that monopoly pricing power goes to the inventor's company... and that's their reward, but at least it comes with an expiration date.

    Netflix says they've built something that nobody has built before. If that claim is true, then they've won the right to a limited-time monopoly fair and square.

    Walmart is coming along and trying to duplicate them exactly while undercutting their prices, which would be perfectly legal to do if Netflix's distribution model isn't original. That's exactly what a patent monopoly is there to prevent... the inventor gets to soak the market for a few years as the reward, then competitors may jump in and throw him out.

    BTW, this wasn't just a knee-jerk reaction to Walmart coming late to the party... Netflix has had their application in since Y2K, it's just now that the PTO finally stamped "Approved" on it...
  • What they patented (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @02:52PM (#6286962)
    Most of the discussion and argument about this patent has been focused on the idea that subscription services are not new. If you'll read the patent text, or even just the abstract, you'll see that the essence of the patent deals with how you select movies to rent and the fact that this process is separate from the rental process itself. If you've used Netflix, you know what they are talking about. You select movies and add them to your rental list. When you turn in a movie, they automatically send you the next movie from your list. This differs from most other rental schemes in which you select the next item to rent at the time you are renting it, and really is one of the best features of using Netflix. Maybe some other subscription-based rental services do this, but from what I've read in this thread, I haven't seen anyone point out any that do (in particular, any such services that predate Netflix).

  • work around (Score:3, Interesting)

    by scubacuda (411898) <scubacuda@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @03:30PM (#6287421)
    Perhaps someone else has said this (I haven't taken the time to look through all the replies), but what about if a rival company did something like the following:

    $20 gets you (up to) 20 movies a month. You can only have 3 out, and you have to mail each one in (like you do w/Netflix), so obviously there's no way you can really watch that many. At the end of each month, your credit *vanishes*. It does NOT roll over to the next month.

    Would this model conflict w/the patent? There is no subscription rental, but rather a fixed price per DVD rential. Functionally, however, it would be the same.

  • by greyfeld (521548) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @03:52PM (#6287644) Journal
    The real issue regarding Netflix patent is how similar the the competition's DVD rental system is to Netflix. I have recently changed from a 3-disc Netflix ($20/mo) subscription to a 4-disc Walmart subscription ($21.94/mo). Why did I switch?

    Firstly, I am located in Little Rock and the nearest Netflix distribution center was in Houston. Walmart has a distribution center about 4 hours away in Bentonville. Walmart is also the master of distribution and has facilities all over the world. I was finding that even though I would receive a DVD from Netflix and return it the next day, I was only receiving about 3-4 movies a week at most due to shipping delays. I am hoping to improve on that by subscribing to Walmart's service.

    Secondly, there is a minimal price difference. For approximately $2.00 a month I could keep out a 4th DVD on loan over the price of a 3 disc Netflix account. Assuming that I will be able to receive them quicker, I should get 5-6 a week from Walmart. So instead of getting 12-15 a month from Netflix, I should get 20-25 a month from Walmart for only $2.00 a month more. Of course, my turn-around time on these must be swift to achieve this goal. In comparing the delivery, Walmart uses the exact same envelopes to mail as Netflix. Where Netflix uses a coated paper sleeve, Walmart is using a clear plastic sleeve. The queue on your account screen is nearly identical and in fact uses the same terms for how long a wait you'll have to get that hot new DVD (now, short wait, long wait). Movie selection is not as good on Walmart's site. For instance I was looking for the movies Alien, Aliens and Aliens3. These are nowhere to be found on Walmart's site. All you get is some cheapo alien movies from their bargain bin.

    In reality, the sites, delivery methods, and rental agreements are nearly identical. I believe that Walmart has a problem. And for them to be quoted as saying they were unaware of any patent pending from Netflix, well it is either stupidity on their part not to have checked it out or a case of who cares we will bury them in red tape if they sue.

    Really this is not a case of someone coming out of the woodwork like the Ebay case, but rather a first to market, successful firm patenting their business model. Nothing wrong with that and Walmart is probably scrambling in Bentonville trying to figure out what they are going to do.

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