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Norwegian Company Claims to have Patented e-Commerce 147

Bård Dahlmo writes "According to Norwegian e-zine digi.no, there is a patent on Internet shopping. It's in Norwegian, but includes a reference to IBM's patent database. " Of course, I'm totally unable to read Norwegian, so this could be the reporter's shopping list - but the notion of patenting /shopping/ is going to give me an ulcer.
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Norwegian Company Claims to have Patented e-Commerce

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  • Except for some strange Norwegian words this is more or less correct. Hey ! It's better than BabelYoda ! and bad English is the Official Language of the Internet (maybe I should patent it)

    Oslo (28.09.99) - The small company Bellboy International is sitting on a patent concering Internet-bussiness that makes it possible for them to demand licensefees fom all Internetstores in Europe and maybe USA until 2013. With help from lawyers the company will demand money from all of the Internet companies.

    Rolf Wilhelmsen have shot the golden bird (strange Noweigian expression ??): 17 of december 1993 he applied for a patent on making realtime transaction and purchases over computernetworks or telephone (!!!). About this time the world wide web and the Mosaicclient was introduced.

    But the really slow patent application process only now in 1999 makes it possible for Bellboy to (bjempeflaks ??? dont' know this) but it is possible to patent a method that later becomes very important for many, he claims. Wilhelmsen who started the internet-service www.bulguiden.no, compares his patent with the telephone or the cheese-slicer (what's this in English ???)

    He understands that many can have many questions about why Bellboy whishes to take a fee now, many years after the Internet became a success.

    - "Maybe people will look upon us as a wolf (Guess it's a Norwegian expression), but we had a good idea and applied for the patent in 1993. I know how importants patents can become. I applied for my first 25 years ago, the Kristiandssand-man says."

    He doesnt want to say what kind of fees he wants to try and claim. But only the agreement with Amadeus can give astronomical profits if Bellboy gets some cents in fees on every european fly-passenger to 2013.

    To be able to claim the licensefees from Internetshops i Norway and the rest of Europe, Bellboy (is doing something ? IPO ? ) to get six millions crows around Christmas.

    -"Now we are looking for money and alliances with real investors, Wilhelmsen says, but don't want to give any names. After what digi.no thinks the finance-celebrity Jan Haudemann Andersen are one of several Bellboy has been in contact with.

    The company also needs money for the struggle against different parties in US, Canada and Japan. Bellboy also reapplies for the basis of it's patent - a telephoneorderingsystem for hotels.

  • Getting a patent is not the hard part of the issue. Having it be upheld in court _is_. Just because Joe Schmo from Norway thinks he's invented/discovered online shopping and patented it does not mean that the world is screwed because of legal-eese. What it actually means is that he's stupid enough to setup his own legal battles that he is destined to lose horribly. All he has done is put himself/organization in the position to be sued.
  • One thing to keep in mind about all these ridiculous patents: They're only good if you can enforce them in court. There are plenty of absolutely loony patents out there...they're just paper until they reach court. (And that's *our* court....I'm under the impression that we will give someone who files for a patent in Europe/Asia/etc a one-year grace period to file here. If they don't file here in that time, tough...it's public knowledge.)

    Plenty of patents are overturned in court as being pointless/silly/etc. This happens all the time. It's called having an indefensable patent.

    I would put a pretty good amount of money down that this patent will *never* stand up in court. You get one company that thinks that fighting this is worth more than paying him off, and this patent's toast.

  • I realize that.

    My point was that I'm surprised that more people/firms in the US aren't doing this and that we don't see a ton of it over here.

  • Just a little correction here.

    (...) You will [??? hear from us?] if you try to do e-commerce and avoid the Bellboy patent (...).

    It's supposed to be "You'll have to be skilled to do e-commerce and avoid the Bellboy patent"

    So, the company won't come after you if you think of a way to do e-commerce without infriging upon their patent, it's just difficult, it being such a broad patent.

  • > Perhaps this is a step away from the previous situation where algorithms could not get patent in Norway.

    I'm not sure about the patentability of algorithms in Norway, although I live here, but:

    The Bellboy patent differs from other patents by describing a way of doing business, not a technincal principle

    To me, that's not an algorithm. But then again, its ony my .15NOK (that's $.02 :)
  • > to fight digi's 5 lawyers.
    I think not. Digi.no is actually the online magazine posting the story. Just like this one.

  • Yes, the goals of the patent system are good. But the implementation strikes me as industrial age, out of sync.

    It is not clear how patent law should apply to current technology. 17 years may be too long in some cases and not long enough in others. And the boundary between invention and discovery is unclear now that literature and machines are both reduceable to source code. Should novels be patentable? Should machines be copyrighted?

  • (Thanks for the quick translation)

    I don't understand how they can sneak buying stuff over the phone in there. As long as I have been watching TV there have been ads for buying K-Tel records and Ronco Turnip Twadlers (quick, copyright 'As Seen on TV', it's right up there with you've got mail). Not that I think it would be a bad thing if there were no more Time-Life Sounds of the 60s commercials, but buying stuff over the phone seems to have been going on for a long time.

    Also, they admit to entrapping people!!! 'Our patent has been a closely kept secret...' They deliberately waited until there were alls sorts of potential defendants using e-commerce before revealing their patent.

  • Our father, who art in Norway, Harold be thy name...

    Hey, I've got this great idea: embedding images in web pages! Yeah! I am such a genious! I'd better get to the patent office right away!
  • What is e-commerce ? I don't mean literally but does it mean via the internet, giving your credit card number over the phone, using pay-per-view on the satellite or all ?

    Come on, this is plain stupid because I see the e-commerce as all the above and many a few more derivatives (remember the stock market ticker).

    Personally I think that a death penalty should be imposed upon those stupid enough to register a patent like this... should make them think twice before trying it.
  • by orabidoo ( 9806 ) on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @07:13AM (#1653148) Homepage
    quick and dirty translation (dropping bits here and there):

    the little Kristiansand-based company Bellboy secured itself in 1993 a patent on all internet commerce in Norway and Europe, according to digi.no. Now the company is going to ask for royalties to all who sell wares and services over the Internet and by phone.

    Rolf Wilhelmsen applies for his patent in 1993, but the process has been so slow that only in 1999 can he start using his patent to claim payment from such service shops as Amadeus (plane reservation system) and Norwegian shops like Rimi, Onlineclub and Filmweb. Bellboy's patent is unique in that it only describes a business model, not a technical principle.

    The patent has been a well-kept secret till now; now we will make it known. Many people are shocked to hear what this is. You will [??? hear from us?] if you try to do e-commerce and avoid the Bellboy patent, says Wilhelmsen to digi.no.

    Norwegian patent # 17 98 88 describes a system where the user uses a general-purpose networking system to access a shopping system, select items, order directly, and get confirmation. Which means that that patent covers most commerce systems over the phone, internet and mobile net systems.

  • by Rick_T ( 3816 ) on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @07:15AM (#1653149) Homepage
    Looking at the patent, one of the objects on page 3 is "to maintain the connection between the user and the central processing device after the customer's order has been confirmed". Isn't that *not* how ordering something over the web actually works? (Doesn't the server drop the connection after it's finished with a page?)

    Looking further - I guess I just don't see what's new here. The next page describes your basic voice-response system as an example of something covered by the patent. How long have voice-response systems been around?

    They then describe what appears to be a computer interface to a voice response

    The claims (p7) also seem to be related to a voice-response system rather than the web - and again there's the bit about connecting to some "central data processing device" in claim 1.

    Claim 2 appears to claim a patent on selecting a language.

    I'm getting kinda sick of looking at the lores TIFFs after about page 8, but I still don't see where this applies to most e-commerce.
  • by laura20 ( 21566 ) on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @07:17AM (#1653150) Homepage
    ...who finds it amusing that you can electronically order from IBM a copy of the patent claiming invention of the idea of electronic ordering?

  • Isn't it amazing that someone with an "internet commerce" patent doesn't have an internet website?

  • You missed something here. "Prior art" as a legal term is an American invention, because patents in America are granted on a first to invent basis. In Europe, patents are granted on a first to file basis, and this guy was obviously the first asshole.

    If it has been granted, I believe it pretty much stands...

    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.
  • I think what is being overlooked here with the whole patent thing is, you don't have to be the one who was first with the idea ....
    you just have to be the first one to have the patent. If these guys can prove they have the first patent on the "idea" of buying and selling goods on the internet ... they'll be "stupid" rich.
  • I guess *now* it's OK for me to Patent 'sexual intercourse'. I could be the richest jerk in the world! The royalties from Motel-6 alone could make me a billionare, not to mention the vending machines in men's bathrooms, and the adult video tape market!

  • A law firm in Columbia has patented the idea of having many stores in a single large building, also known as a "Mall." Law suits are to be filed tomorrow against all offending "mall" owners.

    How dumb.
  • I am getting SO tired of this. Where did we put the "Clue Nuke"? Or the "Space Based Clue Laser"?

    What sort of reciprocal agreements exist between countries on patents? Does it only count on home territory, or are US companies bound by UK patents (for example)?

  • by puppet ( 27092 ) on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @06:20AM (#1653158) Homepage
    This silly patent is here [ibm.com]

  • It's truly amazing to me that this hasn't gotten worse than it is.

    Take a look at the amount of sheer idiots in the US today. Look at the kind of crap people think that they can do for a computer or that a computer can do for them. I find it really surprising that we don't have MORE shit like this here. (Pardon my language, but it gets it across best.) I don't really know, but that's my two cents.


    This post made from a Sun Ultra5... coolness!

  • Why do companies keep trying to patent and copyright stuff like e-commerce and "Linux"? Things like this never work and are just time consuming stupidities. (Anyway, let's face it, by definition (electronic commerce), telemarketers are the inventers of e-commerce, the use credit cards and the telephone (which uses electricity (which makes it electric))))

    That's my 1/50 of $1.00 US
  • USPTO documentation about WIPO [uspto.gov]

    USPTO Documentation about Trilateral cooperation between JPO/EPO & USPTO [uspto.gov]

    Cooperation between the three major patent offices is increasing every day. I can't count the number of times i've seen JPO Officials walking around the datacenter in the past few years...

    /. poster #104543567

  • I'd say they couldn't defend it if it came down to it. I'm no law expert, but I know you can't simply patent a commonly used term and/or buisness practice, and have it hold up.

    How can silly patents like these be prevented? Now that's a tough one. If you don't have patents, you get copycats by the thousands, and many, MANY crappy ripoffs. But, with patents, you get this..

    Ideas on how to FIX this problem?
  • by Kythe ( 4779 )
    They'll be swatted like flies, if they try to enforce it.

    The only annoying thing is that someone will probably have to spend money to do it.

    The abuse of patents has really gotten out of hand.

    (Remove "x"'s from

  • I have in fact the patent on using 'electro-magnetic radiation' striking something I call a 'retina' to transfer information. I intend to persue the licensing off this vigerously. In fact, hey YOU... that will be $5. You blinked, that's now $10. Hey buddy, it's too late. There's no point heading for that 'Back' butt...
  • I'll try to fill in as much of the rest as I can. I don't guarantee any sort of accurate translation, since I don't really speak and/or read Norwegian. Also, my native tounge is Swedish, not English. Both factors have degraded the quality of the translation. Note that the [comments] are mine:

    Wilhelmsen says that he has had great luck, but that it is possible to patent an invention that later becomes very important to many people.Wilhelmsen, who was one of the people who started the internet service www.bilguiden.no, wants to compare his patent with the phone or the cheese slicer

    He thinks that many people asks themselves why Bellboy wishes to have a royalty now, many years after the Internet became a success.

    "We can probably been seen upon as a wolf, but we had a good idea and applied for a patent in 1993. I know how important patents can be, since I applied for my first 25 years ago", says the man from Kristiansand.

    He doesn't want to allude to the size of the royalty he'll ask for. But an agreement with Amadeus, only, could generate astronomous income, when Bellboy gets a few øre [1/100th of a Norwegian Krona] in usage fee from each European flight passenger up until 2013.

    [untranslatable passage, my norwegian is too bad]

    Now we are looking for more money and alliances with real investors, says Wilhelmsen, but we don't want to give any concrete names. Based on what digi.no has heard, one of those Bellboy have contacted with is the finance celeb Jan Haudemann Andersen.

    The company also need money to the fight against those who challenge the patent in the USA, Canada and Japan. Bellboy is also re-establishing the basis for their patent, a phone order system for hotel rooms the company made together with Telenor Link (at that time Telenor Marktech). the new service is supposed to sell reservation services to [untranslatable] actors.

  • Actually, on-line reservations were done in about 1960. I have seen code from the Sabre reservations system that was originally written in 1972.

    This patent will never be enforced, Easy Sabre was selling reservations on Compuserve in 1980's.
  • by jflynn ( 61543 ) on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @07:32AM (#1653168)
    I suppose you're right ultimately, but don't underestimate the ingenuity of scammers.

    Just for example, what if the first target they pick to sue is a shill that does everything possible to lose the case in court, won't accept co-defendants, and then refuses to appeal. What would happen then, is the patent upheld? Would that make it more difficult to overturn in future, or is each individual fee claim entitled to it's own trial?

    Time after time we see the problems that arise when significant amounts of money and time are required to defend your rights against unreasonable claims or false charges. If it's cheaper to pay up, businesses will, so more scams will appear. It makes the law a club in the hands of the rich, powerful, or greedy. It's odd people talk about socializing medicine all the time and fail to mention law. I'm not necessarily advocating any such thing, but I wouldn't be surprised if law insurance became as common as medical insurance.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    can we PLEASE end the stupid 'i have a patent on pumping blood with a heart...hahaha' comments and actually put forth some brain power to actually discuss this story? we all know lots of patents are dumb, and this seems to be one of them, but dumb patents can be valid too. it goes back pretty far, so there is a possibility it could be valid (even if only in a 'dumb' way).
  • I'd like to inform you all that this will shortly become a moot point.

    I have just recently filed for a patent on electro-radiant emissions, also known as "visible light". I hereby request you stop infringing upon my patent immediately by deactivating or disabling devices which emit the patented emissions, including all desk lamps, ceiling lights, flashlights, and especially computer monitors and televisions until such time as you have contacted my office and made suitable arrangements to pay your franchising fee as a new registered producer of visible light emissions.

    (No news is good news, right?)
  • Personally, I'd say revoke or nullify every patent they've ever filed and never let them file another one, EVER.

    That should be enough of a "holy shit" to prevent any idiot from filing lame patents -- esp. firms with lots of patents.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Or, to make the confusion even bigger. Use the Einstein icon, he evaluated patents for years.
  • You aren't vague enough

    > Typing on a 'keyboard' to create input for
    > a 'computer'

    Using an input-device to create input for a data-processing-device.

  • however your revenues from the computer industry would be minimal
  • You may want to try the "Clue-ster bomb" since you'll need to hit many targets at once...
  • I'm sorry. You're not allowed to use the Clue Nuke without giving me lots of money. I've patented it. :)

    This isn't the post you're looking for. Move along.
  • Well, technically, BBS's pre-date CompuServ and other such information services. Of course, USENET would also qualify as prior art.

    On the more obvious side, isn't it illegal (and surely immoral) to "hide" your patent for years and then "poof, you owe us money" after the patented idea/technology/whatever is everywhere? (That's what the whole "patent pending" deal is.)
  • by eff ( 27908 ) on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @07:51AM (#1653180) Homepage

    Really? I thought the European patent laws were stricter than US Patent laws in respect to Prior Art:

    ''To be novel, an invention must not form part of the prior art on the date the European patent application is filed or its priority date, if priority is claimed to a corresponding application. The prior art is deemed to comprise everything made available to the public by means of a written or oral description or by use or in any other way that will enable the public to determine what the invention is''

    the european patent convention also says that ''Methods of doing business are grouped with methods of performing mental acts and rules for playing games as being unpatentable''

    But IANAL, of course. Guess it takes on of those to explain how on earth the Norwegian patent office can grant a patent that clearly violates European conventions, and have that one apply to other European countries...

  • I patented that idea when I realized I could get 2 cents everytime somebody threw in their 2 cents, so pay up, or I'll sue.

    Anyway, just my $.02 (more for me!)
  • EDI existed in europe before this patent - doesn't that invalidate it???

  • by Carey ( 2195 )
    I believe some recent research has shown that ulcers are in fact caused by bacteria and are not related to increased levels of stress or other traditional causes.
  • I don't have any references to back up my point, so I may well be wrong, but I have heard to "first to file"/"first to invent" debate cited many times.

    Of course their must be some sort of prior art, I mean, I doubt anyone has patented the wheel yet...

    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.
  • I just realized I patented the source for the NT kernel check out the patent here. [patent.com] I also patented boolean functions and the base 10 number system. So all you metric countries watch out! I want royalties!

    BTW look at the href on the link

  • If anyone has a patent on human stupidity, then this guy's going to be bankrupt. I doubt he could even breathe without owing royalties.
  • Why limit yourself? You should also cover reflection and reception of said emissions..
    /. poster #104543567
  • yeah, but (IIRC and IANAL) even if you are the first to file, you cannot get a patent if someone else (be it the inventor or a third party) has published a description of the method, or sold a product that clearly uses the method.

    (if it's not obvious that a given product uses a certain method, that method is still patentable).

    (on the other hand, I think some US company has patented the wheel ;-).
  • Actually the patent wasn't for "e-commerce", but how to sell stuff in realtime over it-networks or by phone. So that narrows it down a bit. And makes it even worse in some ways. Of course.
    And btw, the patent was only for Europe so you americans can relax and take your daily doze of whatever.
  • First, I will assume that the courts, particularly the U.S. courts, will NOT enforce this patent as claiming all e-commerce. This has been tried before, and courts have implied that they are not willingly to let a patent that pre-dated the Internet claim the Internet. See, e.g., Interactive Gift Express v. Compuserve, 47 U.S.P.Q.2d 1997 (S.D.N.Y. 1998). Interactive Gift express claimed to cover the Internet with its patent. It lost.

    Now, if this Norwegian company loses its claim that its patent covers e-commerce, the patent is unenforceable, but still exists as a disclosure to the public from 1993, or whenever it was filed (I think that European patents are public from the date of filing, unlike U.S. patents.). If it is very close to describing e-commerce, then this patent may be used to show why a whole new crop of e-commerce patents may be obvious in light of this old (1993) patent.

    Internet developers should be collecting references to patents like these that may be used to block the issuance or enforcement of future obvious patents. I am thinking of using the domain www.ineffectualproperty.com to start a jump point for this sort of thing. Would anyone be interested in this?

  • Blindfolded lawyers against a wall, stretching into the distance...
  • Actually this part:

    The patent has been a well-kept secret till now; now we will make it known. Many people are shocked to hear what this is. You will [??? hear from us?] if you try to do e-commerce and avoid the Bellboy patent, says Wilhelmsen to digi.no.

    Is more accurately translated to:

    Our patent has been a well kept secret, now we are going to make it public. Most people get pretty shocked when they realize what this patent means. You are going to be pretty clever if you are trying to do E-commerce and at the same time avoid the Bellboy-patent, says Wilhelmsen to digi.no

    -- snipped and more interesting stuff follows:

    He won't even try to estimate what kind of licence fees he will try to collect. An agreement with Amadeus alone could give an astronomical income if Bellboy gets a few øre (hundreth of a *.no krone) in userfees for each european air passager towards year 2013.

    To collect the license fees from the E-shops in Norway and the rest of Europe, Bellboy collected 6 million kroner around christmas.

    Now we are seeking proper investors and alliances, says Wilhelmsen, but won't name anyone specific yet. Digi.no says the financial celebrity (Note! May be a financial celebrity in Norway, but certainly not one I have ever heard about, maybe because I am not into finances :) )Jan Haudemann Andersen may be one of the investors Bellboy is in contact with.

    The company also needs finances in the battle against different parties that try to invalidate? the patent in The United States, Canada and Japan. Bellboy is also going to make an ordering system that sells reservation services to different parties.

  • The concept of patentability needs work.

    If you spent 1960-1970 inventing the internet (assuming that it's inventable), no such thing existed, you did contribute substantial insights, and in general this was a legally defensible patent, would the patent be morally defensible?

    If Gutenberg had patented the printing press, would that be legitimate? The right to publish your speech is fundamental in the developed countries. Would we really be willing to trade a free press for one limited to those who can afford to pay patent royalties?

    The RSA algorithm is the standard, and because of that it is nearly impossible to build encryption software without paying the RSA corporation. But the price of RSA is unfuckinbelievable - around $25K if they'll let you use it at all. So a great deal of encryption software is never created. If you accept that the value of encryption to society is large, then society is paying a significant cost here.

    My point is that the concept of intellectual property is fundamentally flawed. I would prefer to change the definition of what is patentable to things that are created as opposed to discovered. The distinction I would draw is whether it is plausible for someone else to create exactly the same thing.

    The probability of getting Hamlet by random combinations of letters is so low that it basically doesn't exist. This is not true for the Pythagorean theorum, or RSA, or the Internet.
  • On behalf of the norwegian people (most of them anyway) I'd like to apologize for this ridiculous patent. This guy is without doubt raving mad! Somebody, take away his internet connection (and phone lines). larson
  • Once you get your hands on a ridiculously general patent, you can make real money - even if you can't really defend the thing in court.

    Here's how it works: once you've patented something like e-commerce, you go to a significant hardware vendor (say, IBM) and offer blanket coverage to all their customers for, say, $100,000. Don't choose Sun, 'cause they're too popular.

    IBM gets a selling point (buy our hardware, and you won't have to deal with this nuisance lawsuit), and the patent holder gets a warchest. Now he can go demand a large but affordable license fee from any number of small-to-medium sites. Forget Amazon - they're too big, and once you've lost a lawsuit, the precedent is against you.

    Everyone you can bully into paying makes you stronger, and makes your argument better.

    Man, what a scam. The funny part is that this actually happened a few years ago, here in the US (or at least this was my interpretation of it). The company, whose name escapes me, got another patent on e-commerce (effectively), signed IBM, and went after small fish.

  • There is a clause for triple damages in the patent law. It is rarely enforced, but in this particularly egregious case, it could be. That is why this company will not likely ask anyone for any money on this patent, as they would then be forced to pay _LOTS_
  • Only the name of the fix - the fix you need to patent.. wait.. oh .. DOH!
  • Okay. First, here's the link to the patent:
    http://patent.womplex.ibm.com/d etails?pn=EP00738446B1 [ibm.com]

    Other than the title being a bit obscure, I don't see how this patent could possibly cover internet ordering at all, other than possibly using the net as a transmission device. The patent is fairly specific, being mainly directed towards hotel booking and medical services. They refer to "user terminals" which could connotate a computer system, but from the language is obviously meant to be a separate device, possibly a TV with a box on it. :-)

    It describes a lot of methodology, saying that the voice communication goes from here to there, this signal gets returned, we attach to this central processing unit (server), and so forth.

    To me, looks like they're trying to build a system that will let you put a box on your tv and order travel tickets, book hotels, and even get emergency medical services. The wording is somewhat broad, but the gist of the document seems to not even consider this to be any form of internet ordering.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This patent seems to cover every booking system for every large hotel I have ever seen. The prior art on this stretches 20+ years. The same applies to the medical bookings.

    This has gotten way out of hand. Client server computing has existed for a long time. Letting people make patents on it now, twenty years after the fact is absurd. If it was not for IBM and Microsoft making huge profits off of this mess, it would have been cleaned up by now.

    The patent office neededs to be fscked for just reformatted.

  • The problem, as I understand it, is that just getting a patent lawyer for a stupid lawsuit costs on the order of 40-50k. In a startup company that can be a make, or break difference. And it wastes everybody's time.
  • Perhaps more appropriate would be the scales of justice with a large dollar sign on one side and a drooling lawyer on the other. Just because some fool claims that he also meant to include some future technology in his patent application does not indicate that there is any validity to the claim. Perhaps the best thing to do with this type of patent is for everyone who uses a computer for any purpose whatever to file a class action suit against the person/organization claiming the patent. The resulting legal fees would be so burdensome that there would be no money left for them to use in filing claims against those they feel are infringing on their patents.
  • The patent should be on file with the government wherever it was granted, and the company has the ability to decide whether or not to enforce the patent. There's no entrapment here.
  • by Sanex ( 52184 ) on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @08:31AM (#1653207)
    Here's my go at it:

    Oh and I'm a Dane so I don't accept any claims either :-)

    Norwegian has patent on netcommerce - sits on a potencial goldmine.

    A man from Kristiansand filed for patent on the forms used in todays netshops back in 1993.

    By Einar Ryvarden
    First published: 28.09.99 15:28 Last modification: 28.09.99 17:13

    Oslo (Sep 28th 99) - The small company Bellboy based in Kristiansand, Norway secured patent on Internet commerce in Norway and Europe in 1993. Now the company is going to demand license fees from everybody who sells goods and services on the Internet and over the phone.

    The small compny Bellboy International has a patent on Internet-commerce that allows it to demand license fees from all Internet shops in Europe and possibly even the USA till 2013. With help from lawyers they will demand agreements and fees from the entire Internet trade.

    Rolf Wilhelmsen has "shot the Golden Bird": Dec 17th 1993 he filed for patent on a method to do realtime commerce on IT networks or phonesystems. Around that time the WWW and the Mosaic Client were introduced.

    But the unbelievable slow filing procedure means, that Bellboy just now here in 1999 can start requiring license fees from everybody who has launched telephone or internet shopping systems. Among these are the international airline ticket booking system Amadeus og Norwegian shops like Rimi, Onlineclub and Filmweb. The Bellboy patent siffers from other patents in that it only describes a method to do things not a technical principle.

    - Our patent has been a well-kept secret but now we are going to make it well-known. Most people will be chocked when they understand what this is. You will have to be very clever if you want to avoid this patent and do commerce on the net at the same time says Wilhelmsen to digi.no.

    Øystein Jørgensen, CEO in Nordlandsdata has already received a demand from Bellboy and is very sceptical about the patent. Nordlandsdata has made Filmweb, the system who lets you book movie tickets on the net (in Norway, ed :-).

    - I think Bellboy has patented a very general and wellknown idea. I take my hat off to Bellboy but the Patent Office has handled this patent application very badly. Now a lot of companies have to use a lot of energy, time and money on lawyers, Jørgensen states to digi.no

    Wilhelmsen admits that he has had a lot of luck, but that it is possible to patent a method that later affects a lot of people later. Wilhelmsen, who started the Internet Service www.bilguiden.no compares his patent with the telephone or the cheese knife.

    He foresees that a lot of people will question Bellboys plans to ask license fees now, long after the internet gained it's success.

    - We may be percieved like vultures but we had a good idea and filed for the patent in 1993. I know ow important patents are, because I filed for my first patent 25 years ago, he states.

    He wont even give a hint on how high the license fees will be. But alone an agreement with Amadeus will yield astronomical Revenues if Bellboys gets a cent from every European air traveler from now to 2013.

    To be able to collect the license fees from the internet shops in Norway and the rest of Europe, Bellboy secured NKR 6,000,000 (around USD 771,000) last X-Mas.

    - Now we are looking for even more money and alliances with real investors, Wilhelmsen states, but won't mention any names. digi.no's sources indicate that Jan Haudemann Andersen, a well-known figure in the Norwegian finance world, is one of those possible investors that Bellboy has contacted

    The company (Bellboy) needs investments to finance the legal battles that corp. in the US, Canada and Japan will raise to fight the patent. Bellboy will also reestablish its foundation a phonebooking system for hotel reservations which the company mad e together with Telenor Link (former Telenor Marktech. The purpose for the system is to sell reservation services to several companies.

    Bellboys Patent

    Norwegian Patent no 17 98 88 describes a system that allows a user accessabillity to view the delivery situation then order and succedent get a order confirmation in realtime.

    Thus the patent covers most booking and trade systems on phonelines
    and the internet. You can read information on the patent in this patent data base : http://patent.womplex.ibm.com/details?pn=EP0073844 6B1
  • This whole thing reminds me of the rush to run out and register domain names you will never use in case some one else does. Greed. Stupidity. These values should have penalties in a mature society.

    P inche G onzales
  • I think you must enforce your patent or risk it being declared public domain. In the US if you others use your patent publicly and do nothing for a year then your patent basicly goes away.

    No -- trademarks work that way, not patents.

  • Didn't someone have a patent on patenting obvious ideas? That way you could sue the poeple who sue others.

    Of course this idea is vulnerable to the people with the patent on making a patent on patenting obvious ideas. They could sue you.

    But at least you can rest assured that those people will receive a lawsuit by the very people who patented patenting patenting obvious ideas.

    Since this leads to infinite regression, every human on earth could hold such a patent...

    Since humans and the number of lawsuits of everyone against everyone else is both the same kind of infinity, there are enough meta patents for it.
    (Easy proof: give every human a unique number and define n/m as the lawsuit of person n against person m. Thus you get, potentially, all rational numbers, which are countable. So you can cover all possible lawsuits, forever(!) with an individual meta patent.)

    "Heisenberg once slept here, or at a place nearby."

  • >Flatulating

    So if I was to take you to court on this, could I get you on "prior fart"?
  • The patent block diagrams are available at EP738446B1: METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR ORDERING SERVICES [ibm.com] on the last few pages of the patent application. The patent says that the user would use a terminal or telephone as the method to connect with a box that brokers you to the specific seller of airline tickets or hotel rooms.

    Terminal to Broker to Database of Seller looks a lot like a dumb version of SABRE. Personal terminal (this guy made the application in 1993 and was apparently assuming a dedicated dialup network not internet) to Broker looks like Sabre on Compuserve. Using a telephone as an interactive voice response terminal seems to be a little late to the game, too, but I'd be happy if he put IVRs out of business.

  • 1. It doesn't make much sense to punish someone for filing a patent, if the patent office has already reviewed and accepted that application.

    2. Patents cover specific claims. I don't know how many times I have seen slashdot editors railing against a patent and only discuss the abstract. If someone comes up with a specific method of making aluminum then someone will go off the handle and decry that making aluminum has been patented.

    3. I think it is stupid to patent things relating to computers if the same thing is already being done offline.
  • This reminds me, the SABRE group happens to own a patent that covers all uses on the web of the feature that allows a user to enter a zipcode and get a list of the locations nearest to that zipcode. See US Patent 5,893,093 []. This is not related to what you are talking about, but it worries me.
  • Actually to be fair idiots are everywhere!
  • i'll bet digi could get some pretty good lawyers to work pro bono...
  • You know whats really funny?
    Right on IBM's patent page thingy at
    http://patent.womplex.ibm.com/details?pn=EP00738 446B1
    there's a link at the top of the page to "View Cart" - does anyone else see the irony in this? I'm sure somebody does.
  • As a previous comment has noted, the difficult part is not to get a patent granted, but to uphold it and possibly defend it in court.

    This patent has at least three major weaknesses.

    1: A patent can not be obvious. And, seriously, who didn't think of ecommerce when they encountered the web?

    2: You can't patent previously known technology. A quick peek at Amadeus history [amadeus.net] shows us they used most of these features before the patent was filed in 1993.

    3: The patent describes the whole process as one long connection to the "central computer". This is not how the web works.

    BellBoy has collected 6 million Nkr from investors to defend this patent. They sorely need it, and I'm afraid that is all the money they'll ever see.

  • I wouldn't be surprised if law insurance became as common as medical insurance

    My tenant insurance already cover such a thing. If somebody in my apartment neighborhood said that my dog bit me and wants to sue me for it, my insurance will cover the legal expenses. You see, I don't have a dog, but (the like my agent says) you have to prove that you don't have one, so either you spend some time in the court rather earning your usual 15/hour, or you pay a lawyer to do it.


  • Hey, no need to apologize. It's good to see someone besides Americans getting into the business of idiotic patent claims. We've had a monopoly on this industry for far to long, it's time to make "head-up-ass-patent" a global effort.
  • From what I can tell, they claim that invented it in December 1993. Since AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy, and countless BBS services were all going strong at that point, and they clearly were involved in "net" commerce (though not the internet), I can't see how the patent could be valid, though it may be just for Europe. Regardless, SABRE or an equivalent network would already have been booking travel which the application on the IBM database uses as an example. From the application, I can see the use of imagemaps to booking hotel reservations as a likely innovation at that time (I don't think the online services used an equivalent to imagemaps that far back, and certainly ASCII based BBS systems didn't.)

    It also says it is for 'Services' does this mean there is also a patent out there for 'Goods'/merchandise?
  • by scumdamn ( 82357 ) on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @06:30AM (#1653225)
    So Harald Ohrn "invented" selling things over the interet? He'll go down in history as "The Man Who Invented Selling Things Over The Internet". Without this great man, nobody would have ever been able to sell anything on EBay, buy a book from Amazon.com, shop for a trip at Expedia.com, or look at Carpoint. Without Harold, the internet would just be a plaything for scientists and students. Harold is truly the "Father of the Internet"! Good job Harold! If not for you, who would have thought of selling things using the Internet? Harold, you are truly an innovator, and
    are far ahead of your time. Harold, you're the man.
  • There has *got* to be prior art out the wazoo on this one.

    If it had been filed in 1964, it might have been non-obvious. As it is, I hope that if this guy comes around with his hand out, anyone he approaches will tell him to take his patent and shove it.

  • I managed to find a Norwegian-to-English translator, and the translated page can be found here [tranexp.com].

    In the style made famous by Babelfish, the translated text is remarkably unreadable, but maybe it'll help some of those non-Norweigen-reading people (like myself) get a look at what the article says.

    Good luck translating the translation.

  • These guys patented the airline reservation systems about 20 years after they were invented.

    We really need reform in the patent offices and patent law.

  • I say, any patent that is overturned for being frivilous ought to result in the patent filer being assessed a penalty that is x% of the filer's annual income (so big and little are hurt equally) as well as an x year ban on filing future patents. There needs to be some sort of disincentive in the patent program to dissuade the filing of idiotic patents.

    We are already starting to see penalties for filing frivilous lawsuits (thank god), so there is precedent for this type of penalty. It's high time we extend this to patents.

  • some points from the article: (quick and dirty translation)

    The small company Bellboy did in 1993 secure a patent on internet trade in Norway and Europe. It will now demand payment from everyone who sells goods and services over internet and telephone.

    Rolf Willhelmsen applied for patent on decemper 17th 1993 on a method to make realtime access and trade over network or telephone. About at the same time www and mosaic were launced.

    The application process means that only now in 1999 can he start to demand licence-fee for among others the international airline ticketing system Amadeus.

    [My comment: I would have thought that Amadeus was older, which surely would make this patent void.]

    The rest of the article was mainly reactions.

    In a sidebar:

    Norwegian patent nr 17 98 88 describes a system where the user over a public net can see the true delivery sityation, then directly order, and at the end get a confirmation in realtime.

    [My comment: Perhaps this is a step away from the previous situation where algorithms could not get patent in Norway.]


  • I see that got moderated as informative - it was a JOKE, not really happening. Don't want anyone to get their panties in a bunch and start going off 'cause someone patented the mall....
  • by ebohman ( 11378 ) <ebohman@yahooFREEBSD.com minus bsd> on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @06:39AM (#1653232) Homepage
    I'm a Swede, not a Norwegian, so don't sue me if I miss out on something.

    Norwegian has patent for net commerce - sits on a potential gold mine

    Kristiansand-based man filed a patent on ordering concepts used in web stores today in 1993.

    Oslo (28.09.99) - The small Kristiansand-company Bellboy filed a patent application in 1993 covering Internet-commerce in Norway and Europe, according to the news service digi.no. Now the company are asking fees from everyone selling goods or services over the internet or ordinary telephone lines.
    The small norwegian company Bellboy International are sitting on a patent on Internet commerce that makes it possible for them to ask for fees from all internet stores in Europe - and perhaps the US - until the year 2013. With the help of lawyers the company is now going to demand formal contracts and money from the whole internet sector.

    Rolf Wilhelmsen has shot the golden bird. Decmeber 17th 1999 he applied for a patent on a method to conduct real-time lookup and ordering over IT-networks or telephone systems. At the same time, the world wide web and the Mosaic client were introduced.

    But due to the incredibly slow patent application process Bellboy couldn't start demanding license fees from everyone who has launched telephony- or internet ordering systems -such as the international airfare booking system Amadeus, norwegian stores such as Rimi, Onlineclub or Filmweb - until now in 1999. The Bellboy patent differs from normal patents in that it describes only a method, and not any technical principles.

    - Our patent has been a closely kept secret, now we are going to publicize it. Most people are quite shocked when they realize what we have. You have to be pretty smart(?) if your are going to do to internet commerce and not fall under our patent, Wilhelmsen says to digi.no.

    OK, thats about half of it. I have some real work I have to do now...
  • I've patented the use of patents in silly and stupid ways to annoy most Internet users! I tried to get a patent for the uselessness of patents as well, but the Patent Office had that for themselves. Hmph.

    "There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

  • Hmm...perhaps entrapment was the wrong term. It just smacks a little too much of the GIF/Unisys nonsense:

    Patent something, sit on it (or in the case of the Norwegian company, deliberately hide it), wait until tonnes of companies are using your patent, then start demanding fees for using your technology. In a sense, these guys are worse than Unisys because they were *concealing* their patent while ecommerce got bigger and bigger.

    And they never even did anything with their patent (that I've heard of, they aren't one of the big companies with e-commerce site, so far as I heard they aren't developing e-commerce software)!

  • Imagine if this gets into a courtroom somewhere in Europe. Here is a little company, with maybe 12 million euros worth of funding to hire some lawyers. They decide to tackle some small e-something site first, but Amadeus (AirFrance version of Sabre) takes note and decides to help out. It is in the best interest of Amadeus, and some other big companies doing e-commerce to swat this first suit down FAST.

    So this little .no company will find itself fighting a huge court case, as well as defending against the counter-lawsuits. I doubt they will be able to win against something like that. Don't worry about this, its just the .no patent office being stupid, and a small company trying to get rich.

    the AC
  • Recently I have been looking into Patent law for my own reasons. From what I understand if someone can prove they created e-commerce before this punk, then they are entitled to the patent on it, not him. It's a way of protecting your rights as an inventor (I use the term loosely in this case) and insuring that your ideas aren't stolen.
    Now the internet just turned 30 years old awhile back. And I can remember episodes of 3-2-1 Contact from the 80's that showed how you could do your banking with a computer and a device called a "modem" (hmmm imagine that.hehe) This guy didn't file till 1993, seems to me he could easily be proven to not be the first "inventor" of e-commerce and if I understand the law correctly if he is not the first, then the man who was is entitled to the patent.
    I wouldn't think we could narrow it down to the actual first person, but I think it would be VERY easy to prove that 1993 wasn't the first time e-commerce was used, which should effectively nullify his patent, right?

  • Didn't Grolier try this with multimedia a few years ago? Wasn't their patent rejected because
    of prior art?

  • I would hope it is as (un)enforceable as this patent, but we get the special benefit of duelling patents out of it, too. Cool.

    Greed--the lawyer's best friend.

  • First, let me say that I have read the entire patent -- so you now know that I must be a fool of some sort.

    Second, this is a patent *in the area* of E-commerce, but it is definitely not a patent *covering the very concept of E-commerce*. Relax, it is worthless. It is a rather specific thing which they are claiming, and it is not what is typically done in E-commerce.

    Those who value their time should stop reading here. Those who take malicious pleasure in crapping on the greedy dreams the greater fools may want to read on for a minute.

    Third, you might like to crack it yourself, just to show that you can do something that isn't related to binary logic. Here's how:

    Go to
    http://patent.womplex.ibm.com/cgi-bin/viewpat.cm d/EP00738446B1

    From the page selector, select page 7.

    Go to the bottom of it and read claim 1 entirely. Yes, read. Yes, you. Stop whining. You will have to be brave and shift to the next page also.

    Notice that as you read it, it is NOT {whatever you are doing in E-commerce} -- if even one key element is missing, it does not apply. (It won't, but you really must read it.) Scratch claim 1.

    Pretend that claim 1 is a class object. Notice the many claims which follow that are built upon it via inheritance -- geez yah, you can do that. They are all dog-meat. (Ewww!, aren't you clever!) Scratch claims 2 through 10.

    Notice the ones that are not based on claim 1 in any manner. Hmmm... that would be claim 11. Repeat the dissection of claim 11. Notice that as you read it, it is NOT {whatever you are doing in E-commerce}. Scratch claim 11 and its children, claims 12 through 26.

    Well, now you can smirk as you think of all the time and moolah these guys wasted. Or can they smirk as they think of all YOUR time that THEY wasted?

    I salute you, 'me druggees!

  • No, patents _used_ to cover specific claims, now they cover algorithms as well. RSA has a patent on all public/private key encription, not just the specific implementation that RSA wrote.

    We are discussing the exact definition of the the current patent, exactly as it was written. They are specifically claiming to have invented all idea of performing barter over public and private networks, which includes phone and the internet. And to have invented this in 1993.

    Since I have order things from the phone and the internet before 1993 I think that the entire patent claim is bogus.

    I further think that this person should be put in prison for engaging in a consiracy to extort money from real businesses, you know, those businesses who are using the internet to actually sell things...

    Try to figure out what is going on before you post blanket condemnations of what we are talking about.

    Thank you.
  • In the Computer Telephony field. We began getting frantic emails from companies similar to ours that one company had Patented the "idea" of Computer telephony, basically making it illegal to do any kind of app with a phone line and a computer. This company actually sued and destroyed several small companies who could not hire a large group of lawyers to defend themselves. Luckily we ignored the whole thing and never got hit. I believe it all ended when they tried to go after somebody big (AT&T or someone of that caliber).

  • UK patents have no effect in the US. Ditto visa-versa. There is some sort of reciprocity through Europe with the EP system, but I am not sure exactly what the details are.

    Didn't ecommerce exist via Minitel long before the Internet? Unfortunately I can't read German, and the bitmap format of the patent images precludes pasting into Babelfish, so it's difficult to say how much this article has been distorted by reading the patent claims.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Harold is truly the "Father of the Internet"!

    ...watch out Al Gore!
  • Sorry, but this patent was issued by idiots in Europe, not the US.
  • In the US anyway there is such a thing as patent fraud which includes naughty activity like not disclosing all you know about the prior art to the patent office during the patent application. Perhaps Bellboy could be brought up on the European equivalent.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @06:51AM (#1653263)
    I don't think the Internet icon is appropriate for this. Due to some recent lawsuits and postings here we need to give these stories their due and come up with a new icon, I suggest a steaming pile of doggie doo. Damn lawyers
  • > Our patent has been a closely kept secret [...]

    Well, I think that will pretty much assure them of a loss in court. You can't patent something "obvious". Considering how many e-commerce sites there are, all completely unaware of their secret invention, it's gonna be hard for them to prove that this one wasn't obvious.

    Of course, the prior art will kill them as well. Before the web, there was CompuServe, and CompuServe had an online mall in the 80's.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll