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IBM Sues Amazon For Patent Infringement 163

A large number of readers wrote in about IBM suing Amazon over commerce patents. The Ars Technica coverage linked is one of the few sources that goes beyond the brief AP or Reuters stories that everyone is running. Here is IBM's press release. Some of the patents in question go back to the 80s and they do seem to pretty much wrap up the idea of online commerce, if they prove valid. IBM says many others are licensing the patents but Amazon won't give them the time of day on the subject.
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IBM Sues Amazon For Patent Infringement

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  • I guess there's some patent problem on /. too? :)
    • by Aqua_boy17 ( 962670 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:21PM (#16550286)
      If IBM holds a patent for 'Posting messages to an interactive service' there may well be. I mean, some of these are pretty broad:

      US 5,796,967 - Presenting Applications in an Interactive Service.
      US 5,442,771 - Storing Data in an Interactive Network.
      US 7,072,849 - Presenting Advertising in an Interactive Service.
      US 5,446,891 - Adjusting Hypertext Links with Weighted User Goals and Activities.
      US 5,319,542 - Ordering Items Using an Electronic Catalogue.

      Without reading the actual applications, it sounds to me like that covers like 99% of anyone selling or storing anything on-line. I mean, WTF? Storing data in an interactive network? How broad is that net?
      • by HiggsBison ( 678319 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:28PM (#16550372)
        Doesn't SCO or somebody have it locked up with:
        "A Method for Doing Stuff with Things" and
        "A Method for Doing Stuff with Things Involving a Computing Device"?
      • If IBM holds a patent for 'Posting messages to an interactive service' there may well be. I mean, some of these are pretty broad:

        US 5,796,967 - Presenting Applications in an Interactive Service.
        US 5,442,771 - Storing Data in an Interactive Network.
        US 7,072,849 - Presenting Advertising in an Interactive Service.
        US 5,446,891 - Adjusting Hypertext Links with Weighted User Goals and Activities.
        US 5,319,542 - Ordering Items Using an Electronic Catalogue.

        Without reading the actual applications, it sounds to me like that covers like 99% of anyone selling or storing anything on-line. I mean, WTF? Storing data in an interactive network? How broad is that net?

        And I'm absolutely sure that there is no point in reading the applications. After all, there is no possible way that the actual claims might be substantially more specific and narrow.

        The other day I flipped through the card catalog at my local library. In a few hours I absorbed a subtantial fraction of Western culture and learning.

        • Well, after all this is /. You should be happy that I at least even read part of TFA. Now you expect me to actually go and look up the applications before getting all up in arms? I mean knee-jerking and jumping to conclusions is the closest thing to excercise some of us get here. :oP Thanks for the chuckle. Now, I'm off to the library to get my smart on...
          • by RevMike ( 632002 )

            Well, after all this is /. You should be happy that I at least even read part of TFA. Now you expect me to actually go and look up the applications before getting all up in arms? I mean knee-jerking and jumping to conclusions is the closest thing to excercise some of us get here. :oP Thanks for the chuckle. Now, I'm off to the library to get my smart on...

            I'm still waiting for comments like "What is a card catalog?". :)

          • Aqua_boy17 wrote:
            Well, after all this is /. You should be happy that I at least even read part of TFA. Now you expect me to actually go and look up the applications before getting all up in arms?

            Not to mention the fact that if you're a software developer, the standard advice is to avoid knowing anything about the details of software patents. If they can argue you "knowingly infringed" on a patent you're up for triple damages.

            I suspect this is one of those things where the situation is so stupid, no one can believe it's the case -- the patent system is designed to encourage publication of useful technical information, but this triple-damages rule means that no one can read it.

      • by Mydron ( 456525 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @03:12PM (#16551046)
        Without reading the actual applications, it sounds to me like that covers like 99% of anyone selling or storing anything on-line. I mean, WTF?
        Here's a tip: a patent's legal boundaries are NOT defined by it's title. As disappointing as it might be, you actually do have to read the patent and, in particular, its claims. The claims of a patent (in light of the patent's specification) define it's legal boundaries. Even the specification itself is not enough. I could describe every conceivable phenomena in the universe and the allowed claim might read: "A red thimble made out of tin with thirteen divots arranged in a circular pattern on the exterior of said thimble." Clearly I've patented much less than all conceivable phenomena.

        The title of a patent is intentionally broad. The issue is that otherwise patent infringer's can argue in court that they earnestly looked for applicable patents before they implemented their widget but they couldn't find any such patents. They will argue that if they did infringe they did so by accident. (Patent holders get thrice damage from infringer's who willfully infringe compared to infringer's who do so by accident.) A patent holder doesn't care to entertain such arguments so they intentionally title their patents very broadly, thus ameliorating the issue.
      • by Hartmeister ( 928651 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @03:18PM (#16551136)
        People are thinking that IBM bought these patents or just went fishing. I'm sure these patents are from the IBM-Sears joint Prodigy service. Prodigy really was ahead of its time in many of its concepts.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Kaenneth ( 82978 )
          I used to work for Sears, and I thought it really unfortunate that they closed down the famous 'Sears Catalog' shortly before the Internet took off.

          If that shipping infrastructure remained in place, but just added a Web front end, they could have been THE online store, with their brand recognition.
      • by makomk ( 752139 )
        I'm just wondering if memcached (which I believe Slashdot uses to speed up page loading) violates US 5,442,771 [uspto.gov]. Unfortunately, it's full of really dense patentese, and IANAPatentL - it certainly seems possible, though...
      • by joss ( 1346 )
        The name of the patent is irrelevent. Its the actual claims that matter.
        Just because its called something broad doesnt mean anything.
        So, "without reading the actual applications" you cannot sensibly
        comment.
  • by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) * on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:12PM (#16550130)
    Looks like the monopoly-conviction-avoiding-patent-hoarding beast that is the true soul of IBM managed to escape for a few moments. I'm sure he will be back in his cage before the new IBM true-believers notice him.
    • I sort of agree. If these patents suck, then IBM sucks for doing this, squishing-of-SCO be damned.

      One quote, though: "after nearly four years of attempts by IBM to resolve its concerns with Amazon.com over infringement of IBM's patents." So it's not quite like the submarine style surface-and-sue approach.
      • by Klaruz ( 734 )
        This is indeed a submarine style approach. In the article: "The '542 patent, for instance, was filed in 1990, while the '771 patent was filed in 1993." Notifying somebody in 2002 for infringing on something that, in IBM's words, "represents the work product of tens of thousands of scientists and engineers and billions of dollars of investment," is either done on purpose, or is a product of gross negligence.
        • Or maybe the infringement happened during or shortly before 2002. IBM actually do a lot of research while Amazon didn't even exist in 1993. They were founded 2 years later.

          Amazon have been quite litigious with obvious (allegedly) patents. There's a good chance IBM did most of that stuff earlier.

          • by Klaruz ( 734 )
            The patents are on; "Buying stuff with puters using methods adapated from what brick and morter stores used for thousands of years." You're saying IBM didn't notice people doing that before 2002? There was an entire stock market bubble that came and went on that exact thing during that time!

            While I agree Amazon's 1-click is an obvious use of what cookies were intended to do, they didn't watch everybody else do 1-click ordering for 10 years and then proceed to sue the biggest name in the 1-click ordering ind
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Fozzyuw ( 950608 )

      Is this seriously all you have to do?

      IBM said that Amazon.com has willfully infringed and continues to infringe on a number of key IBM patents, including: 1. US 5,796,967 - Presenting Applications in an Interactive Service. 2. US 5,442,771 - Storing Data in an Interactive Network. 3. US 7,072,849 - Presenting Advertising in an Interactive Service. 4. US 5,446,891 - Adjusting Hypertext Links with Weighted User Goals and Activities. 5. US 5,319,542 - Ordering Items Using an Electronic Catalogue.

      I'm g

      • by nwbvt ( 768631 )

        For the hundredth time, the patent title does not specify what is protected. The patent title is merely a very broad description of the invention which is protected. The actual invention that is protected is specified in the patent's claims. Meaning you have to get off your ass and RTFP to see what is protected.

        So yes, you absolutely can write a patent titled "Interacting in an interactive environment", though you will have to come up with a novel way in which the interaction takes place. And people

    • by ClamIAm ( 926466 )
      While your post takes the humorous side, I think this shows some dark foreshadowing. I think it's the fact that IBM is the aggressor here that kinda sets me on edge. With their right hand they offer peace, source code, and some token patents for the FS/OS crowd. With their left they use software patents to strike those who don't comply.

      So which version of reality should we believe? Personally, I'll stay cautious, with hope they really do wish to reform the patent system.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        IBM is a company interested in making proffit. they are neither good or evil. The existance of Linux is highly proffitable for them, so they encourage it. It has nothing whatsoever to do with them believing in open source as such.
      • by Alioth ( 221270 )
        The article doesn't make this clear: Amazon could have come to IBM first, claiming IBM was infringing on one of their patents. IBM is generally not known as a patent troll - however, Amazon have a long running track record of this kind of thing. If Amazon did try and get money out of IBM for infringing one of their patents, that was a very foolhardy thing to do.
  • by Kelson ( 129150 ) * on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:12PM (#16550134) Homepage Journal
    As crazy as this patent insanity gets, I can't help but think of the phrase, "Live by the sword, die by the sword."
    • by Shados ( 741919 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:16PM (#16550186)
      Indeed. Actualy, considering IBM's track record, which while not perfect, is not quit in line with a patent troll...I wouldn't be surprised if the ONLY reason they used this against Amazon, is because Amazon does the same thing to others.
      • by db32 ( 862117 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:32PM (#16550424) Journal
        I suspect the same. Amazon has a pretty sketchy track record as far as patents go, and while IBM isn't perfect, they have been turning loose alot of their projects into the OSS world and generally playing nice with the OSS crowd. I think while they are also serving their own interests, they deserve some credit for their handling of a certain fiaSCO.

        It may be my wishful thinking, but fair and honest business practices don't always cause the fastest growth, they do tend to lead to the best long term growth. So IBM just may be swinging the big stick to get Amazon back in line.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bcattwoo ( 737354 )
        Indeed. Actualy, considering IBM's track record, which while not perfect, is not quit in line with a patent troll...I wouldn't be surprised if the ONLY reason they used this against Amazon, is because Amazon does the same thing to others.

        I would. IBM is going to spend millions of dollars on a lawsuit just to prove a point to Amazon?? Perhaps Amazon will respond with an "I know you are, but what am I?" countersuit.

        • I would. IBM is going to spend millions of dollars on a lawsuit just to prove a point to Amazon?? Perhaps Amazon will respond with an "I know you are, but what am I?" countersuit.

          Or maybe IBM is about to launch one-click payment on one of their many e-commerce sites -- or to offer a new product that allows their customers to easily set up one-click payment, and wants to keep Amazon from getting in the way.

          Or it's also perfectly possible that there's a new VP in charge of managing IBM's royalty incomes

      • by Halo1 ( 136547 ) <jonas...maebe@@@elis...ugent...be> on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:31PM (#16553120) Homepage

        I wouldn't be surprised if the ONLY reason they used this against Amazon, is because Amazon does the same thing to others.

        Then be very surprised. IBM has a long history of strong-arming other companies with its patent portfolio [forbes.com] and extracting license money from them [ffii.org]. In fact, Marshall Phelps (who now works for Microsoft [microsoft.com] fwiw), turned IBM's sleeping patent portfolio into a $1+ billion profit [forbes.com].

    • Another good one that came to my mind was "What goes around comes around."
    • by Gulik ( 179693 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:50PM (#16550734)
      "Live by the sword, die by the sword."

      Of course, with IBM's patent portfolio, they can match you sword-for-sword and still have fifteen thousand left to swing at you after you've run out.

      Which won't protect them from any of those patent litigation firms, but then there's still the sheer megatonnage of IBM's legal department to contend with.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rts008 ( 812749 )
        Good point.

        "...IBM's legal department to contend with."
        They were not referred to as the Nazgul without reasons.

        These guys will be serious contenders in almost any arena that IBM will choose to enter.

        IBM may be a shadow of it's peak days, but they are no punks still today. They have proven themselves survivors in markets that have extreme turnover rates, and a lot of corporate corpses laying by the wayside to prove it.

        Anymore, it gets more difficult to pick sides in the patent/IP battle.
        IBM vs. SCO- no probl
        • by tricorn ( 199664 )

          Not difficult at all. Look at the patent and decide if it is one that should have been granted or not. One might think it poetic justice to have Amazon be at the receiving end, but that doesn't change whether the patents in question are good ones. I'm no fan of Microsoft, but I didn't support the Eolas patent being used against them.

    • by Marcion ( 876801 )
      ...You will reap what you so...

      Is the fact that Amazon have been using their patents aggressively against other companies, related to the fact that IBM have singled out Amazon?

      I think IBM are taking a two-track approach to survive the US patent system:

      Track 1, cross-licence patents with everyone.
      Track 2, provide a shelter for open source software, providing fertile ground to help grow the market and thus the demand for support (which IBM will attempt to supply).

      Its a carrot and stick approach. If people do
      • by bersl2 ( 689221 )
        But will IBM ever pursue track 3, work to end the stupidity that is the software patent? If the patent portfolio is only for defense, freezing the practice will not put IBM at a disadvantage.
  • what IBM wants (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wardk ( 3037 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:12PM (#16550140) Journal
    IBM just wants amazon to let them use the heralded one-click "invention" without royalties. this is their first offer.
    • Its interesting that IBM is going after the "One click shopping" patent holder.
      (surely the patent for storing a cookie belongs to netscape?)

      IBM makes lots of money from hardware and basic technoligy payments, but,
      doesnt have a history of enforcing software patents, I mean you dont here of
      IBM demanding money for SQL, semaphores, emulating an instruction set etc. etc.

      I think the main motivation is that they realise that in a world where "Hello World" attracts 200 patent claims only the lawers will take home a
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by griffjon ( 14945 )
      This actually has a lot of validity. In my ideal world, IBM actually wants Amazon to start putting some of its more overreaching business process/software patents into some patent commons, like IBM has already done. Most corps have to pursue patents for everything they can possibly try, because everyone else is doing the same. The amount of patent infringement that happens every day is insane, but all the corps have big enough patent portfolios that it's a mutual-self-destruction effect keeping everyone
    • by Andy_R ( 114137 )
      If IBM just wanted to use one-click for free, I'm sure they would have merely threatened to set the nazgul on Amazon (in the same way that Apple seem to have done with their deal to use one-click that involved a nebulous 'ip exchange' rather than an cash payment in Amazon's favour).

      The mention of the 1980s leads me to think IBM might actually be trying to kill off one-click. Patents last for 20 years maximum so if IBM have something from before 1986 that covers it, then it's in now in the public domain. Thi
  • Prior Art? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gbulmash ( 688770 ) *
    My first thought on this was that one of the criteria of granting a patent is that the concept is "non-obvious". And when I saw that one of the patents was "Ordering Items Using an Electronic Catalogue", I thought "that's very obvious!".

    Based on the number, it's the earliest one, and the article summary says the patents go back to the '80s. TFA says it was filed in 1990. Was it so non-obvious then? If we think back to the "dawn of the public Internet", and realize this was before the general public w
    • heh.. a decent try but The Mother of all Demos

      http://sloan.stanford.edu/mousesite/1968Demo.html [stanford.edu]

      Would've made the concept of ordering from an online catalog pretty obvious to anyone in attendance, I think. I haven't read the patent details, though
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I don't see anything in the MoaD that would be prior art for e-commerce. I'd be much more inclined to cite simple mail order with an order taker sitting at a terminal or France's (what was that called?) as prior art.

      • Heh, I love this bit quoted from the above linked website:

        In this segment Doug outlines the participation of ARC in the planned ARPA computer network to be established within the next year (1969), in which 20 different computer sites across the country will be connected in a network. Doug muses that with the planned band width of 20KB per second and delay times with less than one-tenth of a second, he might be able to show the present demo again next year from Boston.

        So, you're saying that Internet shopping

        • I'm saying that browsing an electronic catalog and being able to order things would've immediately occurred to me as I watched Englebart making his shopping lists, send email, etc. Again, though, I haven't read these patents and don't know how much detail they go into. But I think electronic catalogs predate the public Internet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AdamKG ( 1004604 )
      It would be interesting, but, in the long run, ultimately futile.

      I for one do not beleive patents are in and of themselves a bad thing. The problem with patents is that the best way to use them, business-wise, is to patent obvious things, obfuscate that in your application, and then sue, sue, sue. There are ways to reward innovation that do not encourage this model, however, and that is what we should adopt.

      So, how? I would argue that we should use a method in which patents are universal, that is, a pa
      • by neurojab ( 15737 )
        I would argue that we should use a method in which patents are universal, that is, a patent holder can either keep everyone from using his patent, or no one.

        I'm sure I'm missing things, of course, so feel free to point them out...

        Despite what most people think, the primary reason for patenting something is not to keep everyone else from doing the same thing (That's a trade secret). Patents are about licensing technology. Patents are open for anyone to read, and are written with enough detail so someone els
    • Yea, there's probably prior art for all of these. Not to mention the fact that they're blatantly obvious to someone with "average skill in the art".

      This is really funny though for those of us who have been paying attention. We always knew that IBM had patents on stuff like "Performing calculations by means of an electronic device" and "Using matter as a structural element in a product". It's amusing to watch a company like Amazon get LARTed for thinking they could use patents against IBM.

      The whole patent

    • Re:Prior Art? (Score:5, Informative)

      by RevMike ( 632002 ) <revMike@NosPAM.gmail.com> on Monday October 23, 2006 @03:23PM (#16551220) Journal
      My first thought on this was that one of the criteria of granting a patent is that the concept is "non-obvious". And when I saw that one of the patents was "Ordering Items Using an Electronic Catalogue", I thought "that's very obvious!".

      Actually, it isn't as obvious as the title would make it seem. Google it and read the actual application.

      Essentially, it is about automating B2B supply chain management. Catalogs from several vendors are stored on publicly available servers. A potential purchaser makes a private copy combining the items from several vendors into a single catalog, then modifying that catalog with privately negotiated price structures and terms for those vendors. Then the PO is generated and transmitted directly to the vendor.

      So it is not about simply doing what we've always done with mail-order, it is about efficiently comparison shopping and maintaining private price lists for use by procurement functions in a business.

  • We'll, amazon has the one click patent; therfore, either IBM patent is obvious or the whole pattent system is severly screwed. These are the only two choices; dont compalin about the lack of choices so choose one.
  • Oh my (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ixne ( 599904 )
    US 5,319,542 - Ordering Items Using an Electronic Catalogue.

    Too bad Sears Roebuck didn't have the same idea a century ago, eh? Then non-inperson sales would never have existed...
  • Ordering Items Using an Electronic Catalogue.
    Are you freaking kidding me? Do they expect you to order a print catalogue and then order from that?
  • by oliderid ( 710055 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:20PM (#16550268) Journal
    The article says that Amazon is fighting unfairly against their competition with their One click patent. They are trying to close down other web sites. They just receive their own medicine. I'm sure these connoisseurs will appreciate it.

  • It hasn't since business methods and software have been patented. Check out the Eastern District of Texas. This is a popular venue for patent litigation plaintiffs. They apparently aren't inclined to waste a lot of time reviewing the original appropriateness of patents in the cases they hear. What's with the two seperate courts?
  • Reminded of a story (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Infernal Device ( 865066 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:21PM (#16550288)
    I have no idea whether this is true or not, but it's a decent story anyway.

    IBM is negotiating with Sun regarding a patent of some sort (which one doesn't matter). Sun goes through this whole dog-and-pony about exactly where Sun's patent comes into play and how much it's going to cost IBM.

    Long silence.

    An IBM lawyer clears his throat and says they're going to go back to Armonk and dig through their thousands of patents and see just which ones Sun has violated since the company started.

    IBM gets the patent license for free.

    Like I said, no idea if it's true or not, but it's illustrative of the power of IBM and their patent catalog.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by duranaki ( 776224 )
      I remember a similar story between Nokia and Toshiba (not sure about the second name, but it was Nokia for sure since I was working there at the time). Toshiba came in with an army of lawyers to dispute some mobile phone patent and was going to make Nokia pay. The single Nokia lawyer said, "We're happy to review all of your patent claims in detail. While we do, I wonder if you might look over our portfolio of patents in the Television industry?"

      Oops.. ok.. let's just forget the whole thing.
    • No Kidding. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pavon ( 30274 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @03:02PM (#16550916)
      IBM's patent portfolio is truly frightening in that the only thing preventing it from doing massive harm to the industry is self restraint and the enlightened self interest of wanting to remain relevant in the industry. Let's just hope their business never goes south. If you thought that the IP trolls that make money by buying the patents portfolios of failed start-ups was bad, just imagine the hell that will be unleashed if IBM enters a downward spiral and decides to "refocus the company revenue strategies on their intellectual property licensing opportunities".
      • This isnt a demonstration of IBMs 'self restraint' - if they were to 'unleash the patent dragon', as it were, they would be sued back to the stone age under antitrust law. Again.

        Make no mistake, IBM is not your friend, they just let you live for the time being because its less bother for them that way.
        • by fatboy ( 6851 )
          This isnt a demonstration of IBMs 'self restraint' - if they were to 'unleash the patent dragon', as it were, they would be sued back to the stone age under antitrust law. Again.

          As I recall it, the US government said "Uncle" when the tractor trailers full of evidence showed up. I wouldn't call that being "sued back to the stone age".
      • by TFloore ( 27278 )
        "refocus the company revenue strategies on their intellectual property licensing opportunities"

        Umm... you don't read much in the tech/financial rags, do you?

        IBM is currently estimated (in 2003, I haven't seen any more recent figures) to make about $1 BILLION per year in revenue from licensing patents. Now, admittedly, they only do total revenue per year of about $80 Billion, so that's a small percentage... but a really big number anyway.

        What do you mean refocus???
    • by _|()|\| ( 159991 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @03:05PM (#16550944)
      This Forbes article [forbes.com] is more in line with my recollection of the story. IBM approached Sun with a handful of bogus patents, which Sun's engineers handily debunked. However, rather than risk IBM digging through its portfolio for actually infringed patents, Sun coughed up the protection fee.
    • by cr0sh ( 43134 )
      Whether this is true or not, what I wonder if people here realize just how long IBM has been around - in one form or another, IBM has been around since (roughly) 1890.

      That was the year the US Government needed a faster, better, more accurate method to tally the census figures for the nation. By constitutional mandate, it was decreed that the census needed to be counted every 10 years. The census prior to the 1890 census had just been totalled by the time 1890 rolled around (it took 7 years to total the 1880

  • a corporation can patent something as fundamental as this that would mean the whole damn patent system is screwed u... oh wait
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Mikachu ( 972457 )
      Normally I'd say you have a point, because I agree that the patent system is a load of BS, but at the time in which the patent was filed, I would very much doubt that e-commerce was as "fundamental" as you make it out to be.

      Ask your grandfather if he could have forseen people ordering something from his home with the click of a button and have it arrive at his house in the morning.
      • I agree the concept of a computer in every home might have seemed far fetched, but come on were talking about commerce which has been around since, well forever. So you do it via the tubes in the internets and not in person, over the phone, carrier pidgeon or whatever. I just don't think something like that should be patentable.
      • by RoboRay ( 735839 )
        I'm sure he remembers the widespread use of mail-order catalogs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Online ordering is simply doing the exact same thing in a newer medium.
      • Re:But if (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Phillup ( 317168 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:48PM (#16550708)
        Normally I'd say you have a point, because I agree that the patent system is a load of BS, but at the time in which the patent was filed, I would very much doubt that e-commerce was as "fundamental" as you make it out to be.

        Name a form of communication that has NOT been used for commerce.
        • by Alsee ( 515537 )
          Name a form of communication that has NOT been used for commerce.

          Sex can be considered a form of communication.

          Oh wait... nevermind.

          -
      • by raduf ( 307723 )
        Gee.... let's see.

        Some time in the next 20-30 years we'll have a resonably priced thought-controlled mouse. What should we patent now?...
        Yes, 1-thought-orders, thought-controlled games, thought-controlled-paying bills... What do you mean that's just an ideea and I have no clue how it's gonna be done? What, IBM described HTTP in its patents?

        Yes, or holograms. Let's patent a holographic device used in cars for anything from "selling" the car during a drive test to GPS navigation.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by JohnFluxx ( 413620 )
          Reminds me feynman:

          "There are so many ideas about nuclear energy that are so perfectly obvious, that I'd be here all day telling you stuff," [Feynman says in exasperation to "a very nice fella" from the U.S. Patent Office visiting him at Los Alamos.] "Example: nuclear reactor...under water...water goes in...steam goes out the other side...Pshshshsht -- it's a submarine. Or: nuclear reactor...air comes rushing in the front...heated up by nuclear reaction...out the back it goes...Boom! Through the air -- it's
  • Is it possible that this is a veiled plan to finally destroy obvious process patents? Those patents are about as obvious and widely-scoped as they come. It really would take a case of this scale to finally cause some movement on patent reform, IMO.

    Of course, I'm sure I'm being a bit too optimistic.

  • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:39PM (#16550556) Homepage Journal
    ``IBM Sues Amazon For Patent Infringement''

    And so it begins...
  • Karma's a bitch (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ... ain't she, Jeff [stanford.edu]? Couldn't have happened to a slimier company.
  • This has got to be a cross-licence thing. It's too easy (now) for prior art to surface which will invalidate the IBM patents.

    Quite apart from this, Amazon supply a lot of books to IBM. The pair should be 'commercial friends', not competitors. Amazon don't do a lot of commercial solution providing and outsourcing.

  • Whowa... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eric Damron ( 553630 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:09PM (#16552848)
    "Some of the patents in question go back to the 80s..."

    Wow, I thought that patents were fairly short lived! Can someone tell a layman how long can software patents potentially crush innovation?
  • by ebresie ( 123014 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:15PM (#16553542) Homepage Journal
    So does US 5,446,891 [uspto.gov] - Adjusting Hypertext Links with Weighted User Goals and Activities. mean that Google might be infringing also?
  • From TFA (Score:3, Informative)

    by micromuncher ( 171881 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:22PM (#16553628) Homepage

    1. US 5,796,967 - Presenting Applications in an Interactive Service.

    2. US 5,442,771 - Storing Data in an Interactive Network.

    3. US 7,072,849 - Presenting Advertising in an Interactive Service.

    4. US 5,446,891 - Adjusting Hypertext Links with Weighted User Goals and Activities.

    5. US 5,319,542 - Ordering Items Using an Electronic Catalogue.

    Note the algorithmic detail hidden in the patents hide some of the totally obvious "Hey isn't that common sense?" and "How can they patent that!?"

    Of course I agree that on the surface, the patent claims are "insane" which is why Amazon ignores IBM. Almost as insane as a patten for a one-stop-buy button. The system is way broken, but read the patents yourselves to jump to the same conclusion.
    • Ow, those make my head hurt! My brain starts to shut down about halway through the claims list of each, because tech patents are written with a terrible blend of legalese and tech-speak.

      Any anybody who IS a lawyer sum those up?

  • "Amazon sues SCO for copyright infringement"

    It'll be like a triangle of lawsuits!

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay

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