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Amazon Scores Another Patent 395

theodp writes "Chalk up yet another patent for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, this time for a Method and system for conducting a discussion relating to an item."
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Amazon Scores Another Patent

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  • Well now (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:12AM (#5386066)
    We're all quite in the shit here at Slashdot, are we not?
    • Re:Well now (Score:2, Funny)

      by grapeape ( 137008 )
      Has anyone bothered to patent the process of making patents...
  • by solostring ( 620535 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:14AM (#5386079) Homepage
    How can something as trivial as this become a patent?
    • by trezor ( 555230 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:23AM (#5386147) Homepage

      I dunno, but if this goes trough... I'll just patent "Drinking wine by removing the cork to allow the wine to pass trough the bottleneck".

      That should be a just as valid patent as I see it... Or maybe someone allready got that one pending? You never know, specially not when it comes to the USPO.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:37AM (#5386253)
      It's not trivial. If you read the patent (and understand it, and read all of it, not just the summary at the top), you'll see it's far from trivial.

      This is like the one-click misunderstanding. One-click is only obvious after you've seen it working. Before one-click existed, it took a significant effort to innovate it. That effort should (and thankfully has been) rewarded.

      If you don't think one-click is hard, consider this: the geek who was assigned to churn out the software after the creative guy had invented the concept came back with a first version that when you clicked "Buy" popped up a dialogue box saying "are you sure?" which you had to click "Yes" to. "One-click" nicely implemented with a "two-click" solution. So even the tech nerds writing the first version didn't understand it.
      • It would be an AC to post an argument like this. Whomever the first guy who had to put up "Are you sure ?" probably did so on his own accord because he figured the "designer" didn't realize that the "user" probably wasn't as well versed on what they were doing, as the "designer" thought they would be.

        Where do YOU think the phrase "User Error" came from ?

        One-click required the same "decision" that the process you described does. Except that the decision was blanketed in setting up the users' preferences. Most programs include them, they're called confirmation prompts, and, if you're enough on the ball, you code things so that they're configurable. If you configure to not prompt you in ACCESS ( ok, cheesy example, but it's to the point ), when you're about to run a query that modifies a table...that's ONE-CLICK. If you configure OUTLOOK to automatically send when you click "SEND" ( ooo, what a concept ), instead of making you click "SEND" and then "Send/Receive", guess what...that's ONE-CLICK.

        Don't give me this lame argument that because it's implemented on the web, that it somehow gives it this mystique to how something is implemented. Get over yourselves already.

    • And given that we haven't seen Amazon moving to enforce any of the very basic patents they have been accumulating, I'd guess that these are defensive patents. After all, if the patent office will grant a patent for almost anything, a strategy of patenting the core processes of your business, even if you don't think they deserve patent protection, will serve you well in protecting you from opportunists who might patent it and go after you.

      It would be nice if they stated as much explicitely and maybe join the many voices asking that the patent office reject trivial patents like this. Even if you believe in strong IP protections, it can be argued that this trend is a very bad thing. If it continues, it is entirely possible that a groundswell of protests will emerge against patents in general, and I'm not just talking about /. because industry will start to see the entire systems and its costs as parasitic.

  • uh oh (Score:2, Funny)

    by slamden ( 104718 )
    perhaps we shouldn't discuss this item, then. don't want to infringe upon copyrights and all...
  • by Kong the Medium ( 232629 ) <.kongstew. .at. .googlemail.com.> on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:16AM (#5386089) Homepage
    Isn't the scope of the patent something like slashdot? Comments about articles? A discussion system on the Web?
    • ...but this patent doesn't cover ALL discussion systems, just ones that discuss items being offered for sale (Right there in the patent claim).

      I invite everybody reading this article to read and understand the patent abstract, claims, and description. If you're serious about patent reform, you should be able to read and understand patents.
      • I invite everybody reading this article to read and understand the patent abstract, claims, and description. If you're serious about patent reform, you should be able to read and understand patents.

        If only the USPTO could reach the high standards you set for /. readers...
        • If only the USPTO could reach the high standards you set for /. readers...

          Sadly, Atleast USPTO workers can read/interpret patent applications...

          If you're going to mod me down for not being funny, make sure you mod me down (-1: Ha-Ha-Funny) and not (-1: Ironic-Funny)

          (NOTE: While the parent's post was funny and in good fun, I think it needs to be mentioned that while USPTO workers are stupid, we should be chagrined for not even achieving USPTO worker's level of stupidity. Hence, my sad joke, depressing irony, and attempt to win you over with a sad joke (second paragraph))

          Oh yeah, we're fucked... Know any good jokes?
      • So you have one patent for discussions about articles, one for discussions about items offered for sale, one for discussions about currently played music on the radio, one for discussions about the weather etc..?

        How can this not be obvious the same computing principle?

        Sorry, but "SELECT (uid, aid) FROM database WHERE ...; Make something with SELECT; UPDATE (uid,aid,text) INTO database;" shouldnt be patentable.

  • Sorry /. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HeelToe ( 615905 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:16AM (#5386091) Homepage
    Yet again, another patent looks overly broad and poorly awarded. /., be prepared to pay license fees for use of this patent.
    • Re:Sorry /. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by davmct ( 195217 )
      actually, on a more serious note, could slashdot be used as prior art? Slashdot's been having "discussions" about "items" for a long time (items being anything ranging from the latest Apple fanfare to the Xbox).

      Just another reason to boycott amazon.
    • Other infinging parties include Kindergardens and all market places. Kindergardens have a thing called, "Show and Tell" where items are displayed and people talk about them. I plan for my kindergardener to telecomute, will she have to pay Amazon for her show and tell?! Market places have these things called displays where items for sale are placed in public view and a moderator, also known as a sales person, stands beside it and guides members of a discusion group, known as shopers. Indeed, many discussion groups have been known to flurish in said market places that talk about nothing related to buying and selling items, a good example being the various groups that hung out in the Agora of Athens. It seems that the City of Athens has been in violation of this patent for some 2500 years. Ammazon can get some fierce interest penalties from them! Way to innovate Ammazon.

      Thank you Federal Government, your little office has encouraged so much that is useful and good. Will you next award Yahoo a patent on internet chat? Please! I feel so guilty for using royalty free software.

  • Further Proof (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CTD ( 615278 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:16AM (#5386092) Homepage
    That business and government do not require Common Sense. Just greed and low standards.

    I'm going to patent Common Sense, but I probably won't get too much $$ out of it. Seems that there really isn't much need for it in recent times.
  • by cybermace5 ( 446439 ) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:17AM (#5386099) Homepage Journal
    It's difficult to tell. But it does look like they patented the concept of having a discussion board linked to a product.

    I should probably go ahead and patent "A method for mass advertising using electronic messaging to a group of recipients" and go for the spammers. But there there isn't much money in repo'd trailer houses.
  • by borgdows ( 599861 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:17AM (#5386100)
    Amazon has just patented Tupperware meetings!
  • by WPIDalamar ( 122110 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:17AM (#5386101) Homepage
    A method and system for conducting an electronic discussion relating to a topic. The discussion system of the present invention receives a selection of an item that is to be the topic of the discussion. The discussion system then receives comments relating to the selected item and generates a message that includes a description of the selected item and the received comments. The discussion system then sends the generated message to participants of the discussion. The discussion system receives from a participant who received the generated message additional comments that are to be added to the generated message. The discussion system sends the generated message along with received additional comments to the participants of the discussion.

    That describes Slashdot. Where the Item to be discussed is a news story.
    • Prior are?

      Seriously, for anyone with that click paralysis that prevents reading source materials, here is the *gist* of the patent, which targets merchandise (almost unlike /.) and, I agree, has been done more or less a thousand times elsewhere.

      I wish we were seeing more original examples of software method patents, if they are to be allowed at all. There's a lot of patenting the wheel going on here. I wouldn't assume, though, that Amazon enforcing a patent like this would have that much effect. Everyone will migrate elsewhere, as appears (?) to be happening to GIF's following Unisys's demand for license fees. Perhaps I'm an optimist, though I've been rarely accused of it.
      What is claimed is:

      1. A method in a computer system of a non-participant for starting a discussion relating to an item offered for sale, the method including:

      providing information describing a plurality of items being offered for sale;

      receiving from an originating participant a selection of one of the items being offered for sale;

      providing to the originating participant information describing the selected item offered for sale and an indicator for starting a discussion relating to the item being offered for sale, the information and the indicator to be displayed to the originating participant;

      in response to selection of the displayed indicator by the originating participant of the discussion, providing to the originating participant an initial discussion thread that includes a description of the item being offered for sale;

      receiving from the originating participant comments to be added to the discussion thread;

      receiving from the originating participant an indication of one or more other participants of the discussion;

      providing the discussion thread, with the description of the item and the received comments added along with a link that when selected effects the placing of an order to purchase the item, to the one or more other participants, and

      tracking the discussion thread as one or more of the participants add comments to the discussion.

      2. The method of claim 1 wherein the link is a URL.

      3. The method of claim 1 wherein the sent discussion thread includes a link that when selected effects the providing of additional information relating to the item.

      4. The method of claim 3 wherein the link is a URL.

      5. The method of claim 1 including:

      displaying the sent discussion thread to a participant;

      receiving from the participant comments to be added to the discussion;

      sending the discussion thread with the received comments added to other participants of the discussion.

      6. The method of claim 5 including receiving from the participant to whom the discussion thread is displayed an indication of another item and adding information relating to that item to the discussion thread before sending the email to the other participants of the discussion.

      7. The method of claim 6 wherein the information relating to the other item is a link to additional information relating to the other item.

      8. The method of claim 7 wherein the link is a URL.

      9. The method of claim 6 wherein the information relating to the other item is a description of the other item.

      10. The method of claim 5 wherein the sending of the discussion thread with the received comments added includes sending the discussion thread to a discussion system to track the discussion.

      11. The method of claim 1 wherein the receiving of an indication of the one or more other participants includes receiving an identifier of a group of participants.

      12. The method of claims 1, 3, 5, or 6 wherein the discussion thread is implemented via email.

      13. A method in a computer system for joining an discussion relating to an item being offered for sale, the method including:

      tracking a discussion thread as one or more participants add information to the discussion;

      providing information describing the item and au indicator for joining a discussion relating to the item, the information and the indicator to be displayed to a requesting user;

      in response to selection of the displayed indicator by the requesting user, notifying a designated user for the discussion that the requesting user has requested to join the discussion;

      receiving from the designated user a join indication as to whether the requesting user may join the discussion; and

      when the join indication indicates that the requesting user may join the discussion,

      adding the requesting user as a participant of the discussion; and

      notifying the requesting user in accordance with the join indication, the notifying including providing the discussion thread to the requesting user, the discussion thread including a link that when selected effects the placing of an order to purchase the item.
      • by yerricde ( 125198 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:59AM (#5386379) Homepage Journal

        which targets merchandise (almost unlike /.)

        What about Slashdot Book Reviews [slashdot.org], which include a link to purchase a copy of the book at Barnes & Noble?

      • Ha ha... I was gonna say "wow, amazon's had this for years, how can it get patented by..." oh yeah, Amazon.

        But seriously. I think B&N has had this on their site all along as well; the question is, did their site start before 1999? I know they were kind of a late-comer on the ecommerce scene (Oh god... I did not just use that phrase).

        Anyway, the point about /. book reviews is a good one, but what about eBay?? I've personally had my account since 1998, and I know they've had feedback the entire time. Of course it's a discussion per-user, but each post is about a particular item and transaction. This seems to really, really count.
    • Except that if you read the claims (which are the meat of any patent), they are going after discussions relating to items for sale such that the discussion is pertanent to the offered item. A quick glance, however, would suggest that they also cover discussions relating to auction/non-direct reseller sites (though again, limiting the patent to the discussion of the items for sale, and not the seller or the like...)
  • Slashdot doesn't do anything like this, and I certainly didn't participate in message boards on a BBS Back in the Day

    Is the patent office asleep at the wheel?

  • be considered prior art on this one?

    I mean, really. Somebody down at
    the Patent Office needs to put down
    the abacus and check out that new
    thing called electricity.
  • You all realize... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheConfusedOne ( 442158 ) <the.confused.one ... m ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:18AM (#5386115) Journal
    ...that we're using a method for discussing an item (in this case the item is the patent) right now don't you? :-D

    Wow, maybe we can actually submit SlashDot as prior art!

    (And they said this wasn't art.)
  • PHPBB
    YABB
    PHPBoard
    CGIBoard
    Tomcat BBS
    Color64 BBS
    Slashdot

    Where's my bounty?

    D
  • by Angry White Guy ( 521337 ) <CaptainBurly[AT]goodbadmovies.com> on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:19AM (#5386118)
    Sooner or later these patents are going to strangle communications completely. This would be no different if I were to patent a method in which 'two or more people can hold a conversation over a medium which converts the spoken word of one party into a format which can be understood by the second party, and vice versa', then charge everyone the next time they want to hold a press conference, debate, meeting, etc.
    • I agree. Soon, patent will be so out of hand that everyone will hold a patent on everything. I take your example further and relate it to a recent /. Story about the recent NPR move to not allow even linking or discussion of an article. http://slashdot.org/articles/02/06/19/1438200.shtm l

      This will be the "McDonald's made me fat lawsuit" or "I spilled hot coffee on my cooch, now I'm gonna sue lawsuit" of the next millenium

      Double Click was a legitimate patent. I think Bezos is starting to feel heat from other esellers again and is building an arsenal to "compete" if eBay gets any bigger!

  • WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quixote ( 154172 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:19AM (#5386123) Homepage Journal
    Here's a snippet from the abstract: The discussion system of the present invention receives a selection of an item that is to be the topic of the discussion. The discussion system then receives comments relating to the selected item and generates a message that includes a description of the selected item and the received comments. The discussion system then sends the generated message to participants of the discussion. It was filed in 1999. I'm sure there were 100s of sites before that doing this: letting users post comments on websites. Prior art would be abundant. Looking at all of these patents being granted by the USPTO, I get the impression that they (USPTO) have given up their responsibility of taking a critical look at the patent. They are letting the courts decide whether there was prior art or not. This begs the question: why bother with checking any prior art anyways? Why not just reduce the USPTO to a "copyright" sort of office, where anybody can file a patent for anything, and the courts decide? Obviously this patent system is not old Ben had in mind.
    • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Thavius ( 640045 )
      I think the biggest push that Amazon has for this is the "item" must be offered for sale. Check down in the claims section.

      Seriously though, I agree with your stance on the USPTO. They either: a) Must have patent apps up the wazoo and suddenly are getting bonuses based on number of patents accepted, or b) have hired dolts. "Electronic discussion, oh like bulletin boards. Those have been around for... wait. About something for sale. That's new! *sound of approved stamp hitting paper*"

      I wonder if it's possible to proactively challenge the validity of these patents. I wonder if it's worth it. (time/money wise).
    • This begs the question: why bother with checking any prior art anyways? Why not just reduce the USPTO to a "copyright" sort of office, where anybody can file a patent for anything, and the courts decide?

      The problem is that if I get a cease-and-desist from someone who holds a patent on dog-walking or whatever, it is very expensive for me to defend myself in court. If I don't defend myself, then I could end up losing by default.

      Such patents have a chilling effect on development: people instinctively avoid working in these areas, even when there is plenty of prior art so they have no reason to fear.

      A better solution would be for the patent office to be paid to find prior art, rather than the current system where they seem to be paid to rubber-stamp dubious patents.

      Rich. (IANAL, but I have written and submitted 2 patents :-)

  • Metapatent (Score:5, Funny)

    by jmoriarty ( 179788 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:20AM (#5386127)
    Up next Amazon is going to patent being the company to first patent common sense procedures that shouldn't be patentable in the first place.

    This will save them considerable time, and automatically grandfather in everything they haven't tried to patent yet, including such classics as "Allowing full sentences to be used to describe product", "Shipping material ordered by people from our site", and "Using vowels in our company name".

    (This message Patent Pending)
  • We better all be quiet from now on, the mouth & vocal chords are certainly a device and system for conducting a discussion about an item. Sheesh, talk about prior art.
  • I said it in the Interwoven patent thread and I'll say it again. Yes, I'm very worried about patent system abuse, but what I can I do about it.

    All I can think of is to write a letter to my congressman and maybe make a donation to the EFF, but I really don't see that making very much of a difference.

    Rather than the usual wailing and gnashing that we usually see on these patent abuse threads, can someone please come up with something that an ordinary person without a lot of money can do about the situation?

    And if nobody can come up with something good to do, could the editors just stop posting these patent abuse stories, because they always simply generate the same set of responses.
  • by jsimon12 ( 207119 ) <tzzhc4.yahoo@com> on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:20AM (#5386133) Homepage
    Step 1: This is simply yet another reason to not shop at Amazon. Show them that you don't belive in their system, don't shop there or at any of its affiliates. And make sure you tell everyone you know why you don't shop there.

    Step 2: Start collecting anything that might be relevant prior art. Seeing as this was applied for in 1999 there has to be something. I personally am stunned that something this trivial is a patent, gotta love the USPTO.
    • ---Step 1: This is simply yet another reason to not shop at Amazon. Show them that you don't belive in their system, don't shop there or at any of its affiliates. And make sure you tell everyone you know why you don't shop there.

      Amazon's within to get a patent. It isnt their faults that the UPSTO is a fucktard. If anything, I'd say we ought to move all 'questionable' content to offshore servers and BOYCOTT the US PATENT SYSTEM. Ignore ALL PATENTS concerning software here in the US.

      I wish Xine would have DVD decryption default on in the installs. After all, MPlayer does (and look at that nice domain name...).
      • Amazon's within to get a patent. It isnt their faults that the UPSTO is a fucktard. If anything, I'd say we ought to move all 'questionable' content to offshore servers and BOYCOTT the US PATENT SYSTEM.

        Come on, you make it sound like the USTPO forced them to make a broad patent, get real, Amazon is looking for more quick cash to grab, so they patent something everyone uses and sue sue sue. There always a differance between what is legal and what is morally corrent.
        • If the patent system actually WORKED, you wouldnt have erranous patents filed like this. But we dont, so you end up with tons of tripe patents like "innovative way to swing on swingset", "1 click cookie patent", and other DUH type patents.

          If this was the only case, boycott Amazon. It ISNT. I'd say BOYCOTT USPTO.
    • Step 1: This is simply yet another reason to not shop at Amazon. Show them that you don't belive in their system, don't shop there or at any of its affiliates. And make sure you tell everyone you know why you don't shop there.
      Oh please! If they don't patent it, someone else will. Then, they'll be on the losing end of the deal.

      I will not stop shopping with Amazon over this.
  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:21AM (#5386140) Homepage

    This means I can cancel all of my meetings. After all discussing things on the agenda would violate the patent and I wouldn't want that.

    Oh hang on this means that its okay as long as it isn't structured around a topic. Damn you Amazon for condeming us all to a world which only contains long rambling ill focused meetings.
  • Scores another patent?

    Has this 'e'-business thing become a goddamn competition?

    I mean, it's a competition all right, but shouldn't they compete with best prices, best service or best selection? (etc)

    Or, what else are Amazon going to do with these, keep them on the walls for posterity? I can't imagine any other reason for these than to shut down (or lessen) competing sites.

    Can you?

    • Nope, competition these days revolves around getting yourself a monopoly any way you know how.

      Then petty little things like good product and customer service can be ignored.

      And the best example of this isn't even Microsoft, its the damn Telephone companies.
  • Heh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arvindn ( 542080 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:25AM (#5386164) Homepage Journal
    This has got to be the funniest of the stupid patents ever. Even beats the swinging sideways patent. Basically, the sort of comment system it describes is implemented here on /. and in a million other blogs all over the web. In fact, even many mainstream news sites allow readers to poat comments. You might want to check out a list of prior art implementations [lights.com] ;^)
  • Replace all electronic stuff to just using your voice, have a person as the main distributor and voila, you have prior art going back to the days of the first 'modern' democracy in ancient Greece. The agenda dictates the subjects, the chairman says who can speak and when.

    And just for the fun of it: the chairman of the Dutch 'Tweede Kamer' (house of commons) has access to buttons which can turn all microphones on or off individually. Electronic prior art.

  • GNU Mailman:

    "A method and system for conducting an electronic discussion relating to a topic. The discussion system of the present invention receives a selection of an item that is to be the topic of the discussion. The discussion system then receives comments relating to the selected item and generates a message that includes a description of the selected item and the received comments. The discussion system then sends the generated message to participants of the discussion. The discussion system receives from a participant who received the generated message additional comments that are to be added to the generated message. The discussion system sends the generated message along with received additional comments to the participants of the discussion."

    If they insist on giving out these M&M patents to companies, they should at least have a staff that knows something about software! Its beyond a joke, beyond absurd; who precisely in Amazon is filing these patents, and why dont the people who maintain the gears of Amazon site stump up and say..."ummmm you cant do this"...obviously because Amazon can do this!
  • I get it... instead of reminding everyone weekly that the patent system is screwed, we're going to do it daily.
  • by ajakk ( 29927 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:32AM (#5386214) Homepage
    1. A method in a computer system of a non-participant for starting a discussion relating to an item offered for sale, the method including:
    This is the preamble. In most cases, the preamble does not actually limit the claim. So let look at the elements of the claim and see if they have been done before.
    providing information describing a plurality of items being offered for sale;
    So it is showing a bunch of items.
    receiving from an originating participant a selection of one of the items being offered for sale;
    The client selects one of the items.
    providing to the originating participant information describing the selected item offered for sale and an indicator for starting a discussion relating to the item being offered for sale, the information and the indicator to be displayed to the originating participant;
    The client gets information about one of the items and the client is told that he can start a discussion on the item.
    in response to selection of the displayed indicator by the originating participant of the discussion, providing to the originating participant an initial discussion thread that includes a description of the item being offered for sale;
    If the client "selects the displayed indicator" (clicks on a link) a new discussion thread is created where there is a description of the item for sell.
    receiving from the originating participant comments to be added to the discussion thread;
    The client adds comments.
    receiving from the originating participant an indication of one or more other participants of the discussion;
    The client notes that he (and perhaps others) is going to be a participant in the discussion.
    providing the discussion thread, with the description of the item and the received comments added along with a link that when selected effects the placing of an order to purchase the item, to the one or more other participants, and
    Now other people see a link to the discussion thread.
    tracking the discussion thread as one or more of the participants add comments to the discussion.
    The discussions thread is "tracked". Sending out emails as it is updated is probably enough.
    The first claim is probably easily beaten. You would need to find something published or publically known on or before August 1st, 1998 which satisfies all of the above elements/limitations. Of course, there is the doctrine of obviousness (which this could probably be beaten under), but looking at the claims, it might be hard to find something that actually beats this under anticipation. This is especially true considering how limited some of these claims appear.
    • ", it might be hard to find something that actually beats this under anticipation. This is especially true considering how limited some of these claims appear."

      That means that it will be equally easy to circumvent this patent, if you happen to have a webshop and wish to add discussion forums to items on sale.

      Of course the real problem is that Amazon will likely sue you for infringment anyway.
  • Whats almost funny is they also have pattented the process of taking someone to court and having them discuss the issue at hand!
    We cant sue them because we would be voilating their patent heh

    Ahh I'd love to see what happens with this one in court.
  • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:36AM (#5386241) Homepage Journal
    What's really needed for patent reform is the ability to penalize companies and individuals who file overly broad and bogus patents such as this. Right now, there's no reason for Amazon (or other large corporations) not to do this, and bully license fees from anybody they think would rather pay a fee than fight them in court. The burden of proof is currently on the wrong side here.
  • Usenet? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Digital_Quartz ( 75366 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:39AM (#5386264) Homepage
    I would think any number of usenet *.forsale groups would provide prior art to counter this patent (epecially claim 12). Ott.forsale has been around a lot longer than Amazon.com, and provides exactly what this patent describes.
  • Or, how to take over the whole world without firing a shot.

    First, you put in place agreements with the rest of the world to enforce each other's "intellectual property rights".

    Then you let anybody in your country patent anything they damned well please, trivial, with prior art or not. Then the rest of the world is yours for the taking.

    The US patent office has horribly debased it's credibility.

  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:39AM (#5386272) Homepage Journal

    Rewind 8 or 9 years.

    No one bought anything over the internet. E-commerce didn't quite exist.

    Here comes some upstart that asks people to risk them the cash to make this new business model happen. They do something that most people would call innovative. A new business model is formed, the face of commerce completely changed. Today everyone sells over the internet.

    If you're this upstart who was there since day one doing what no one else did, taking the risks back then which aren't really risks today (relatively speaking), you'd be pretty mad. Especially when your big stupid competitor finally wakes up and realizes the internet exists and copies your site almost exactly, from look to semantics, and starts eating away at your bottom line.

    All of your hard work, creative energy, raising capital, the meetings, market analysis, research, etc. you put forth to make your crackpot idea a reality is now being blithely ripped off by your inferior. Through simple cloning your inferior is now your equal.

    If you've been in that position before, you know how infuriating it is. So what are your options? Sadly, very few.

    Amazon is getting patents because it seems like the only way to fight off their idiot copycat competitors. I think software patents are detestable, but I understand Amazon's reasoning.

    It's kind of a mixed bag. It sucks that Amazon does it, but it's not going to stop me from supporting them. Why? I'll put myself in their position.

    The position is one where my shareholders are screaming at me to protect their investment which they entrusted in me. A position where my customers are leaving to buy from my copycat because they can't tell the difference anymore no matter what we do. Where my employees who helped me build such a great service are worried that they might not have a job in 6 months. The choice is clear, I'd do the same thing.

    • by josh crawley ( 537561 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:57AM (#5386368)
      ---Rewind 8 or 9 years.

      REwind a thousand years...

      ---No one bought anything over the internet. E-commerce didn't quite exist.

      Things were bough in the marketplace. Brick and mortar stores didnt exist.

      ---Here comes some upstart that asks people to risk them the cash to make this new business model happen. They do something that most people would call innovative. A new business model is formed, the face of commerce completely changed. Today everyone sells over the internet.

      Here comes this upstart that actually builds a building for commerce and sells pieces of it for sale for others. A whole new business model is formed: selling parts of your building for sheltered 24-7 markets.

      ---If you're this upstart who was there since day one doing what no one else did, taking the risks back then which aren't really risks today (relatively speaking), you'd be pretty mad. Especially when your big stupid competitor finally wakes up and realizes the internet exists and copies your site almost exactly, from look to semantics, and starts eating away at your bottom line.

      Same goes for then too. After a while, "ideas" are everybody's. You opened up them first, so you reap first. After such, you actually have to BE COMPETITIVE TO MAKE MONEY.

      ---All of your hard work, creative energy, raising capital, the meetings, market analysis, research, etc. you put forth to make your crackpot idea a reality is now being blithely ripped off by your inferior. Through simple cloning your inferior is now your equal.

      And that entitles you to make money? NO. YOu juat happened to be the first to capitalise off of it.

      ---If you've been in that position before, you know how infuriating it is. So what are your options? Sadly, very few.

      You sue for things you can win, not because "It's like mine".

      ---Amazon is getting patents because it seems like the only way to fight off their idiot copycat competitors. I think software patents are detestable, but I understand Amazon's reasoning.

      Competitors... Like Barnes&Noble, eBay, and other online sellers? It doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure out you can negotiate to sell stuff on the internet. Hell, I've been buying stuff off of Usent since '93. Same "barter", "Agree", "Trade Info". And banks will do escro also, for a price. And the same ratings have been enacted far longer than what eBay has done. It's called public opinion.

      ---It's kind of a mixed bag. It sucks that Amazon does it, but it's not going to stop me from supporting them. Why? I'll put myself in their position.

      I've already advocated instead of boycotting Amazon.com , boycott software Patents that the USPTO agrees to.

      ---The position is one where my shareholders are screaming at me to protect their investment which they entrusted in me. A position where my customers are leaving to buy from my copycat because they can't tell the difference anymore no matter what we do. Where my employees who helped me build such a great service are worried that they might not have a job in 6 months. The choice is clear, I'd do the same thing.

      Innovate or die. That's the heart of capitalism. Whoever stagnates is left in the dust.
  • For the method and process of submitting idiotic patents?

  • by telstar ( 236404 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:45AM (#5386300)
    The US Patent Office is even worse! They're supposed to be the gate-keepers to prevent this kind of crap, but their job is infinitely easier if they just grant the patent. Think about it. Somebody working a 9-5 job on a government salary.

    Choice 1: Go search all over the place for prior art.
    Choice 2: Cash Amazon's check and stamp the application with Approval

    I think we see the problem. It's time that the US Patent office be held liable for improperly granted patents.

  • by fishdan ( 569872 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @10:47AM (#5386316) Homepage Journal
    I'm not defending Amazon or the patent process by any stretch of the imagination. I worked for an online calendaring company, and somehow got my name on the patent for the ability to share appointments online. Which of course was nonsense. I and the developers pointed out that it was nonsense, and bucked against the filing of the patent.

    The lawyers convinced us that filing the patent is the only way to prevent someone else from filing a patent, covering your technology, and then suing you, forcing you to PROVE to a court (always a chancy thing) that you had created prior art. And quite frankly every innovation we made to our online calendar showed up 3 months later in someone elses calendar. In fact we even found instances where people had literally cut and pasted our code, comments and all!

    So we knew that there were unscroupulous bastards out there, willing to completely rip us off. So bearing that in mind, we agreed to file for patents, not so much to enforce them, but to protect ourselves from future suits. I agree, if the system was healthy and working, we wouldn't need to have done that, but the system is already full of sharks -- I don't blame people for getting shark repellant. Applying for the patent HAS to be done nowadays. Enforcing the patents is when I start to get mad. I know it's a fine line...

    • And quite frankly every innovation we made to our online calendar showed up 3 months later in someone elses calendar. In fact we even found instances where people had literally cut and pasted our code, comments and all!

      This kind of thing can ruin your week, it's really upsetting when it happens to me, and I imagine some people get outright hitting-the-bottle depressed when it happens to them.

      It's even worse when the lawyers tell you that there's almost nothing you can do about it, and it can ruin your whole year if your copycat sues you after THEY have the gall to patent what they stole from you--and why wouldn't they? If they had no moral qualms about ripping you off in the first place, do you really think they'd shy away from patenting your own creation and using it against you?

      It does not suprise me that people in this position get patents not only for defense, but to bludgeon the scumbags who rip them off.

      Are the patents stupid? Of course they are. But they're granted! And ridiculously enough, enforced! Why wouldn't they apply for them?

    • So are you saying that Amazon is doing us all a favor by patenting common-sense ideas so that no one will get sued over them? If they only enforce their patents in a few cases that they are forced to pay attention to and even then only for trivial royalties, then in fact, they're doing something which protects the intellectual commons from excessive exploitation.

      Has Amazon ever sued anyone over their patents?
    • Have these lawyers not heard of copyright? You should be able to include licensing information in your code, and if someone does cut & paste you'll have some protection.

      Imagine if Stephen King decided to patent a new literary genra, now he is the only one who can author novels in this format. This makes absolutely no sense, especially when the best protection he would have for his new books would be to copyright them and thereby prevent unauthorized copying / redistribution.

      It is unimaginable to me that you can patent a creative work. Computer programming is a fairly creative process that anyone with a PC is capable of doing. If I wrote a horror novel, I would not expect to infringe on a patent -- for the same reason that if I wrote a calendaring application I would not expect to be in violation of your patent. How are we suppose to write computer programs if everyone else has a patent on them?

      Pure sillyness.
    • If your lawyers were really being this kind hearted, they could do one of two things less obnoxious than what they did:

      1) Patent it and donate the patent to the public domain.
      2) Publish it in a journal. Bell Labs has (had?) a journal specifically for things they dicovered but were not going to patent purely for the purposes of establishing prior art.

      I suspect the real reason your lawyers did not do either of these two things was to maintain a defensive patent portfolio. Basically someone is going to sue you for patent infringment on one of their patents (justifiably or not) so you look in your patent portfolio and come up with something to countersue for. Hopefully this is enough to make them go away.
    • While this makes sense, Amazon.com has a track record of forcing fee's for their frivolous patents. While I don't fault them for trying to cover their butts, they have proven (One-Click with Barnes and Noble) that they want to do more than that.

      And it still doesn't address that patents are being given to people who did not truly invent what they now have a patent for. Patents are for novell and usefull ideas, not ones society as a whole came up with.
  • ...if in USPTO internet or intranet site they have a discussion forum for each patent filed, or something similar to this.

    Is reasonable to think that the US Government, or parts of the legal system, have in many places such ways of collaborative work.

    Now what Amazon should do is sue USPTO or US Government because this patent and maybe, just maybe, US patent system will gain a bit of common sense.
  • I am applying for a patent:

    An online web deiscussion system that make sfun of Companies that attempt to get patents on web technologies.

    Slashdot.org will be royalty free but no one else will :)

    Funds earned wil got to FSF and EFF
  • ... come on people, let's all post some really obvious thinks that we would like to patent in order to show how ridiculous this patent is *yawn*.
  • For me, what it is trying to do is to avoid someone else filling it and sue them or put them out of business.

    The next thing they should do is open this patent, i.e. in the way described in OpenPatents [openpatents.org].

  • by bheerssen ( 534014 ) <bheerssen@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @11:08AM (#5386451)
    Amazon provides a simple service. That service is mail order over the internet.

    Their site is merely a medium to make that happen. Websites should not be patentable anymore than traditional paper (mail order) magazines. Amazon's business model relies on being the best in their business. Well, it should, but it seems Amazon doesn't want to compete on their merits. They just want to make it harder to others to compete with them by turning the business into a maze of patent law. There is nothing original about mail order and putting it on a web site does not constitute originality. Again, web sites should not be patentable. That's what copyright is for.

    BTW, today in 1991, Tim Berners Lee presented the world with the first web browser. That means today is arguably the birthday of the world wide web.
  • by FunkyMonkey ( 79263 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @11:37AM (#5386726)
    According to the patent document, these are the people responsible for granting this patent:

    Primary Examiner: Kincaid; Kristine
    Assistant Examiner: Nguyen; Thomas T.
    Attorney, Agent or Firm: Perkins Coie LLP

    Can't we just contact them and ask them how much they were paid to grant this crap? Seriously, maybe someone could ask them what they are thinking.
  • by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <gterich@aoCOLAl.com minus caffeine> on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @11:47AM (#5386805) Journal
    "Method and apparatus for the protection of methods, procedures, systems, and apparatuses by grant of exclusive rights by a governing body having executive authority over such rights" (Grant of Patent)

    "Method and procedure for the dismantling of civilized society by exclusive diversion with legistative processes" (making people so busy defending themselves against lawsuits to do anything productive)

    "Method and apparatus for the production of intellectual property and information by means of the exercise of a passive or active electromechanical or electronic relay or switch causing the dissipation of energy in various ceramic, plastic, semiconductor, or organic elements, causing the semi-permanent organization of atomic or subatomic particles on a dielectric, metallic, organic, semiconductor, ceramic, or plasticine substrate, also causing the luminescence of phosphorescent or electronic optoelectrical or optoelectronic elements." (use of computer)

  • It seems that patents are copyrights are converging, thanks to the sheer unstoppable volume of communication that our digital world is creating. No-one can seem to enforce copyright on digital media, and no-one can seem to grant patents in any meaningful manner. The US patent office is basically doing to patents what P2P has done to intellectual property, and what every young geek wants to do to Nathalie Portman.
    Now, this has interesting possibilities. (I don't mean Miss Portman, or perhaps I do...) At some point, say 10 years from now, patents will become a totally debased currency, arbitration of which the courts will at first try and then abandon as claim and counter claim come piling in. There is probably a magic ratio of junk-to-valid patents which will cause this tipping. Commercial copyright, similarly, is becoming a debased concept. I don't believe for a second that DRM can recover control of that. We are thus heading for a world where the notion of the state as the ultimate arbitrer (and thus, ultimate owner) of all intellectual property is going to vanish. Think about this for a second. The trademark in question here may nominally belong to Amazon, but it is the US government that actually gets to decide its fate.
    We should welcome junk patents. They are each an indelible ratchet step on the way to full public ownership of what is, after all, our common intellectual birthright.
  • In a fair fight between your First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech and this patent, who will win?
  • ...and the ensuing flamewar that could potentially follow spam, if I'm reading the details of the patent correctly (don't just read the top portion of the document). What a hoot! I guess they're out to shave some change from the millions that go into spammers' pockets every year?

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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