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Amazon.com Receives Patent for 1-Click Shopping 201

jaydeekay writes "It looks like Amazon has patented the storing of credit-card and shipping info and then using it to facilate online purchasing via a single click. Check out this news release from Yahoo. Interesting to look at the actual patent - Amazon seems to have several patents which seem awfully 'generic' " Ah, yes, yet more dumb patents.
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Amazon.com Receives Patent for 1-Click Shopping

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  • Intel never tried to patent the phrase "x86." You're confusing patents with trademarks.

    --
  • by LL ( 20038 ) on Tuesday October 12, 1999 @06:49PM (#1619179)
    Back when the Patent Laws were first mooted, good ideas were relatively scarce (emphasis on good) so there was some justification to encourage open publication and greater dissemination. However, in today's modern era where any business process can be codified in software to some extent and thus automated, creating artificial exclusions seems to encourage too many ideas which frankly are minor and incremental. We need much better ways of filtering out the crap that floats by (perhaps a /. moderated version?).

    Also, nowadays, having a good idea is not enough, you need to be in a position to execute and solve a broader long-term customer need (or even create that need!). When patents become deliberate barriers to new entrants (either through unrealistic licensing or legal threats) then it starts to create systematic problems. For example, drugs can be patented so companies then spend more effort on manufactured designs rather than adapting existing commonplace plant-based remedies which they can't control. So given the choice between high margin patented solutions or low-margin systems, guess which gets widely advertised and pushed at doctors? Given the complications of body chemistry, I suspect that most people want the placebo equivalent of a nice cup of tea and less stress.

    Anyway, you can make still money by not using software patents [tinaja.com]. One path is to become an ultraspecialist and come up with completely new fields. For the rest of us, we have to be content with just surviving without getting too rippedoff. In the end, it's not the patented software that counts (business guys will always find a way of screwing over the inventor), it's the fact that you will continue to generate good ideas in the future that will make you an irresistable catch for whatever company that wants your skills (and threaten to quit if not happy).

    LL
  • The patent specificaly states the usage of HTML documents.
    Yep.

    This in and of itself indicates that the patent is useless.
    Nope, sorry

    Java, Javascript, VBScript, ASP, Perl, CGI, etc are all NOT HTML. Therefore it is fairly easy to argue that any document containing these things (AKA every dynamicaly generated web page) does not fall under the patent, regardless of the use of cookies.
    Yep, all of the above are NON-HTML - so? from the above, the ONLY one sent to the user as part of the response is Javascript - and that is imbedded in HTML. All the rest either generate HTML on-the-fly and send it, or in the case of Java, are linked to by the HTML document and are helpfully downloaded by your browser for you, and inserted into the screen display. For this to invalidate the patent, you would have to assume that including IMAGES on the page (which are non-html, and downloaded by the browser during it's parsing of the document) invalidated the patent too.....

    Assuming the patent itself could hold up in court (which is a big leap of faith), any decent lawyer can simply walk in, say "Our sales process uses scripting documents, not HTML documents" and that will be the end of the suit.
    That would be nice, yes - problem is, the nasty, bubble-bursting techie from Amazon would telnet to port 80 on your webserver, issue the request for the page, and guess what he would get back (and the answer isn't your ASP script). Amazon is stating what the user receives, not how the server made it.
    --

  • Looking at the patent it does seem to be more than one step. You send your selection and your details to the server the server send back a confirmation with the order button on it and you confirm it. I'm sure there's more than just a single button click in there.
  • I think patents exist for another reason: to allow people to make money.

    People would still invent and improve technology without the protections provided by patent law. Open source development is a good example. Patents exist to allow companies to license stuff to other companies, to sue people who don't license stuff or produce products that are similar to theirs.

    There's no reason to patent anything unless it means you can make money exclusively off it. Would anyone really care about owning the logical rights to anything if it didn't mean cash in a real and direct way?
  • How 'bout Buy.com? They store all of my address and credit-card numbers for future use. How is this diferent then Amazon's system?
  • I won't argue that there's no innovation here, but it's ludicrous to say that the idea of purchasing an item with a single click is innovative. Anyone who is designing a shopping system is going to tell you that (one of the) goals is to minimize the number of pages & forms to fill out. One click shopping does nothing more than succede in that goal.

    The innovation here is in the methods used -- the code behind the scene. And you know, there's already protection for that code: copyright.

    Or perhaps you're going to tell me that they were innovative to come up with the oh-so-novel idea of using a database?
  • Ah good! This is exactly what we've been trying to say. There are lots of possible combinations of these stages that are prior art. And they still express the same essential algorithm.
  • I thought shopping was already patented...
  • Obviously, the system is not working. Just as copyright and trade secrets are used to hamper the development of knowledge by a society in today's modern world, so do patents nowadays serve only to lessen the march of science.

    I disagree. Patents are extremely important to companies funding real research and development in many fields. We would not have the $1x10^9 investments needed to develop modern pharmaceuticals without patents. The patent system is in fact working to the great advantage of the US and its citizens. The fact is that the only countries that don't have patent systems are the same countries that don't develop any technology and have no real scientific infrastructure.

    What is being done in the software industry today with patents is irrelavent to the march of science. The advances in computer science that are occurring now have nothing to do with one-click shopping.

    In fact patents stimulate the advancement of science and technology because they increase the size of the pot of gold; they require that the inventor publish his results to insure wide dissemination of technology (i.e. you only get a patent if you open source your idea) and they encourage comapnies to develop their own ideas rather than just copying the competition.

    Are there problems? Sure. Many of the patents that are described here never should have been issued. Someday somebody will win a test in court, and the system will be revised, or the patent owners will realize the futility of their patents and let the maintenance fees lapse.

    But you should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Systems of laws are always and constantly evolving to keep up with the changes in society that occur with time.
  • ...that they also cite activation methods such as *sounds* produced by users, and TV remote controls, in addition to buttons. Maybe they're thinking of licensing set-top boxes or something.

    From an architectual point of view, it seems pretty specific in breakdown of clients and servers/databases and communcation between such -- and, it's an interesting idea.

    The one weakness is probably the existence of prior art, if any. I've not read the Java books cited earlier in the thread, but whether they match or not also depends upon the system design -- this is NOT just a patent on a cookie. If there is prior art, 'tho, well, tough luck Amazon...

    And to all those who uselessly post, "Well, now I'm gonna patent this...":

    Get a life.
  • See these claims:

    4. The method of claim 1 wherein the single action is speaking of a sound.

    17. The method of claim 11 wherein the single action is clicking a mouse button when a cursor is positioned over a predefined area of the
    displayed information.

    18. The method of claim 11 wherein the single action is a sound generated by a user.

    19. The method of claim 11 wherein the single action is selection using a television remote control.

    20. The method of claim 11 wherein the single action is depressing of a key on a key pad.

    21. The method of claim 11 wherein the single action is selecting using a pointing device.

    22. The method of claim 11 wherein the single action is selection of a displayed indication.

    It still sounds a lot like the "cookie" system to me. I could see if the patent were just for speaking a single sound where this might be an innovation. But IMHO this is too general to hold up.
  • by ecampbel ( 89842 ) on Tuesday October 12, 1999 @06:56PM (#1619194)
    Amazon.com's method is unique in the industry. They are the only website on the Internet where one click will have an order shipped to you. There is no messing with a basket, nor is there any need to enter your credit card. Can any of you name another site that has this ability?
    Trust me, it is really convenient. You can browse their site, find something you like, and with just one click, your product is ordered. You can continue shopping immediately, and keep ordering their products. When you're done shopping, Amazon.com bundles your items, and ships them off to you. So please, before you question the voracity of the patent, think about other websites and whether they offer this capability. This convenience IS the future of the Internet, and whether you like it or not, this unique method of business is patentable.
  • I think I've got a picture (provably from 70's) which would count as prior art against a "look and feel" geek patent.

    Sorry :-)

  • Were these relatively "open" machines? That is, not set up as multi-user systems with sane file permissions and so forth? If they're not, then regardless of whether the *server* stores data, I'd be concerned about things like the swap file/partition, logs, initialization / configuration files, keystroke loggers, Trojans, etc.

    'course, there are also sites that'll hose you by printing out the digits as you type 'em. Not good... but I digress.

    If there *are* good file perms, then there shouldn't be access to other folks' cookies. Particularly if you use a network file system, and getting authenticated on that is harder than simply rebooting with your own boot disk. If there *aren't*, then cookies are arguably the least of your worries.
  • for Amazon.

    I don't think that the people at Amazon grabbed this patent because they think they are going to go hunt down all the online shops that use the concept and charge them or force them to cease and desist. If that were to happen, it would eventually end up in court and Amazon would likely be on the losing end of that court battle (as many of you have pointed out). Rather, it seems that this is just the standard practice (and no, I don't blame Microsoft for starting this, although they are as guilty as the rest). It seems that the real value of holding such a patent is that it is a bargaining chip. The more you collect, the greater the chance that you can leverage one or more the next time you sit down to hammer out a deal with a competitor. Both sides don't want to see it go to court, but the one holding the patent has a slight upper hand...

    Is it a sane thing to do in a perfect world? No.

    Can the company using this tactic benefit from it? Yes.

    Will it happen over and over again? You bet.

    The down side: One scenario comes to mind. Amazon, Microsoft, Sun, whoever, sits around collecting little patents on obvious things that are mostly unenforceable. Some little startup comes up with an amazing new product and patents the part of it that is new. Our tragic startup company is approached by the multi-patent owner and told that if they don't sell out or license their product, then they will be in a dozen or more court cases based on the stinky little patents. Little guy loses and consumer possibly loses...

  • I happen to think that many information technology patents are pretty silly. Compare them to the original look-and-feel lawsuit by apple to M$. Look and Feel is ok to take and plagerize, but one click shopping is patentable?

    It is funny that patents are made to protect the inventor, but these days they seem to only make the patent laywer and companies who can afford them rich. Do you think the originator of one click shopping has anything to do with Amazon?


    -- Moondog
  • The thing that makes our little medium (Web/Ecomerce) so popular is open, and well documented protocols. These open protocols (TCP/IP, HTTP, CGI, HTML, cookies) makes it possible for anyone with MySQL and to much spare time to create a wonderfully interactive and customizable interface.(read Rob) ;)

    This is a good thing. This good thing attracts a potentially huuuuuuge audience (read /.) and can be a base for building the foundation for Ecomerce . What's most interesting, is that the one thing that makes it so accessible (open, and well documented protocals) is also the one thing that makes it easy to duplicate.

    Now, when an Ecomerce company goes public and looks for outside investors, the one thing investors want to here is ROI. They want to hear that you have something none else has. Something nobody can duplicate. something . . . ...wait for it . . ...proprietary. (cringe)

    I work for a large machine tool manufacturer and I use this wonderful little phrase (It's patented!) everyday in my pitch to clients. I even hand them a printout of our companies patent on each little piece of technology in the machine and I walk them through the value of each one.

    Does this mean that it's a defensive patent? No! Is it a patent that our legal department fights tooth and nail? Hell no! Are there others using the patented technologies in there machine tool? Yes! Do we care?.. not really . . we still get to use that wonderful little sales tool (patented!) in our presentation.

    It's a sales tool. That's all

  • Agreed, that with properly set up machines, this shouldn't be nearly as large of a problem. But think about how many school campuses you've seen (or any other public place with a lab) that have 'doze boxen just sitting out for the public to use...even if the user reboots the machine before and after use, cookies are still going to be stored. I agree that things like keystroke loggers are just as big of a problem, but many places put in protection against them, whereas cookies aren't something people tend to think about...
  • A group of Slashdotters should get together and write a patent application for the act of patenting. This is totally absurd, so the US patent office is sure to grant it, then we can sue them for breach of our intellectual property.

    We'll get so much damages from them in the ensuing lawsuit that they won't be able to afford to employ people to process any new patents.

  • Patents is just another sign of that the US legal system is quite bad. To say the least. The correlation between a conviction and income is probably much stronger that the correlation of guilt and conviction.

    yours

    arne
  • So how will this affect Microsoft's Passport?

    /ZL
  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @04:16AM (#1619204)
    People would still invent and improve technology without the protections provided by patent law.

    Yes, but could you get $200 million from a venture capital firm for a biotech startup if you could not patent the results? I think not.

    There's no reason to patent anything unless it means you can make money exclusively off it.

    Your point being? A patent is essentially a contract between you and the government. You get exclusive rights to an invention for 20 years in exchange for publishing a complete description of the invention that allows anyone else to duplicate it.

    Slashdotters don't seem to understand at all the parallel between the patent system and the Open Source movement. The only way you get a patent is by publishing your work. This allows anyone to examine your technology, and work on ways to improve it. After a fixed length of time everyone else is allowed free use of the technology. If it weren't for the patent system everyone would try to keep as much technology as possible secret. Patent systems were in fact put into place to fight the practice of keeping secrets within companies and guilds. The great industrial revolution of the 19th century may well have been triggered by the institution of a patent system in England.

  • Inxight (www.inxight.com) has a patent on the
    displaying of hyperbolic trees on a computer
    (paraphrased liberally). How can they patent
    the drawing of geometric surfaces?

    I dunno, but they did.

    -WW
  • But getting rid of patents is just as bad. Let's say I'm working on an Anti-Gravity device. When I finish it I sure want to be able to sell it. And I don't want people making genaric-brand Anti-Gravs without paying a licensing fee because that would mean I'd be 100% out of buisness.

    If there were no patents I'd probably be happy with just proving to myself that it could be done on paper then going off to play more Quake.

    Perhaps I'm just lazy, or gready or something. But I can't imagine I'm the only person who thinks this way.
  • In what seems like an increasingly common case of bad patents, this looks like the biggest so far.

    Any challenge to this should quote those shopping carts that seem to be everywhere. Surely those are better than this proposed 1-Click mechanism, which seems to make separate transactions out of every item.P I would certainly wonder if MS Passport + shopping carts counted as a patent violation. (of course it shouldn't, if the patent office had a clue)...

  • As other have pointed out before on patent issues, in the end it won't hold up in court. The patent office is so backed up it isn't even funny. I guess they figure they should grant the patents and let the courts sort em all out.
  • This seems almost as bad as Unisys's patent on the LZW comression method. (see BurnAllGifs [burnallgifs.org] for more on this). Maybe we could have a "Burn Amazon" day? Destroy our cookies? Request that Amazon delete out credit-card info? Somebody needs to tell these people that patents are supposed to be for fundamental technologies, not mathematical algorithms or minor UI improvements...
  • Perhaps they'd also like to patent the idea of a bartender recognizing you and adding to your tab. It's exactly the same thing (substitute your personal appearance with a cookie, and billing info with the bouncer at the door).
  • Please, let's not have 100 "I just patented . You all owe me money!" That got old after the first dozen or so stupid patent stories on slashdot.

    Thanks in advance!

    - A.P.
    --


    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • Then it's at least two click shopping. One click to turn it on, and one click to order. Of course, if you have to type in a username and password, that's two clicks, about 16 alphanumerics, and one enter key.
    Of course, requiring someone to log in has been done by just about everyone. Right? What if you then code the pages so that (after you're logged in) clicking on a link that says "click here to have this sent to your door" orders it and has the book sent to your default mailing address? That seems a logical step. The customer sees (and therefore needs to wait for) one less page. That's the way I'd do it. Of course, this isn't "One click shopping" is it? The customer had to log in to access the service.
    So Amazon (and the patent office) think this is something non-obvious, huh? I sure as hell don't.
  • If Amazon intends to use their patent portfolio to prevent others from pursuing their proprietary procedures, does this mean I can patent spam (of the UCE type) and sue anyone who sneds it without my permission?

  • I've placed just shy of 100 orders with Amazon, totaling somewhere around $9,000. (This doesn't count books ordered by/for my employer. - These are personal purchases over the last 3 years.)

    The day I hear about Amazon actually enforcing one of their patents to limit another site is the day they've seen my last order.

  • Abstract A method and system for placing an order to purchase an item via the Internet. The order is placed by a purchaser at a client system and received by a server system. The server system receives purchaser information including identification of the purchaser, payment information, and shipment information from the client system. The server system then assigns a client identifier to the client system and associates the assigned client identifier with the received purchaser information. The server system sends to the client system the assigned client identifier and an HTML document identifying the item and including an order button. The client system receives and stores the assigned client identifier and receives and displays the HTML document. In response to the selection of the order button, the client system sends to the server system a request to purchase the identified item. The server system receives the request and combines the purchaser information associated with the client identifier of the client system to generate an order to purchase the item in accordance with the billing and shipment information whereby the purchaser effects the ordering of the product by selection of the order button. and this was granted?!
  • If I was doing something this obvious, but no one else had done it... I'd patent it. In fact, I am patenting something.

    Uh, I said 'obvious clunkers', not 'something this obvious'. I don't know what it is you are patenting, and I don't really care, but some things are clearly stupid and the Amazon patent is an excellent example. For one thing there is plenty of prior art.

    Hell, I worked on something very similar myself three years ago as a contractor for a different eCommerce outfit in Seattle. So, if what you are patenting is just as dumb and has as few merits as the Amazon patent, I would hope the patent office chucks it out like a live skunk. No offense intended...

    Jack

  • What happens if you use it on a publicly-accessible computer?

    YOUR credit card gets billed when the next person clicks on an item!

    The security problems with this system are horrible, IMHO. How does the system know whether the person entering the one click is the same person who registered the credit card?

    Never mind whether it's patentable or not, it's certainly not a good idea unless it can be ensured that every computer (ok, or userid for multiuser systems) in the world has one and only one person that can access it.
  • the one-click system doesn't make a separate transaction out of every item... it "remembers" your information so all you do is choose sets of information (instead of typing them over and over)... so you have "one click" shopping

    this has been on amazon for a few months now...

    try this url [amazon.com]

    it *should* show you more information about 1-click.

    excerpt:
    Your 1-Click settings include your shipping address, shipping method, and payment information. They are created when you use a credit card to make an order with Amazon.com that is not a gift or an out-of-print title.
    and...
    1-Click ordering uses the same Netscape Secure Commerce Server as Shopping Cart ordering. All transactions made at Amazon.com on our secure server are covered by our security guarantee.

    i don't think this is exactly the same as the passport system.. but i haven't *used* the passport system (and don't plan on it) so i can't be 100% sure

    -nicole
  • No, it's even worse.

    The only companies who can afford to challenge it have a boatload of bogus patents themselves. So, they get together and agree not to challenge each others bogus patents, and sign a "cross-licensing" deal, trading use of each other's bogus patents.

    The little guys get hit with patent infringment suits they cannot afford to defend against, so they abandon the technology.

    Great system, eh?

  • you don't HAVE to use the 1-click system... the good ol' standard shopping cart is still there...

    also you can just give amazon your last four digits and a number to call to get the rest if you feel more "secure" over the phone ;o)

    it seems silly for a patent... i doubt it will hold any water (as someone else mentioned), however amazon appears to be making sure they have a hold on their "technology"

    maybe there is more to it... the exact methods for keeping the numbers and so on...
  • Woopdie Doo... The frantic search to patent something to make your investors beleive that you are actually doing something (other than rapidly going into debt...) has produced yet another stupid patent.

    I did notice that the actual patent talked about using an HTML document. Wouldn't that mean that you could use a bunch of javascript print statement to actually create the document?

    Is the purpose of enhancments in communication to allow us to reach the pinacle of stupidity at an accelerating rate?

    I hope somebody gets a patent on SPAM!

  • I wonder if this is in any way related to one-click replies, IE slashdot stores a cookie or something on my system and then reads back the info.
    The next step is obviously NO-click shopping, where you just surf the web for a while while Amazon tracks it, and then they just buys you stuff. THen again, Microsoft may have already taken care of this with Passport -- when somebody steals your credit card number and does some shopping for you.
    I should patent the application of stupidity to writing on slashdot. -1's pay up!
  • barnes and noble uses the MS Passport stuff...


    MUCH better than amazon.com!


    sheesh... you'd think people would find something more important to protest about... if it's just "another stoopid patent", why even bother? just roll your eyes and move on...
  • I really vote for being unable to post if you haven't read the article:

    11. A method for ordering an item using a client system, the method comprising:
    displaying information identifying the item and displaying an indication of a single action that is to be performed to order the identified item; and


    or even:

    18. The method of claim 11 wherein the single action is a sound generated by a user.
  • Shakespeare gives some excellent advice:

    DICK
    The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

    CADE
    Nay, that I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should be made parchment? that parchment, being scribbled o'er, should undo a man? Some say the bee stings: but I say, 'tis the bee's wax; for I did but seal once to a thing, and I was never mine own man since.

    (For those who don't know, laws at the time were handwritten on lambskin parchment, and legal agreements were sealed with signet rings pressed in beeswax.)


    And Mark Twain in his collected letters wrote (I do not remember to whom he wrote, and I'm paraphrasing):

    "I agree with you and the bard, sir. Whilst killing all the lawyers in this country would probably not solve all of our problems, it would be a lot of fun and do no one any harm."

    That said, I have come to have a very healthy respect for lawyers and the law, and I have come to value the convolutions and wranglings of American jurisprudence. All one has to do is to look at what governments can accomplish against their citizens in countries that do NOT have a body law before all other authority.

    No, lawyers and laws are good things because the alternatives are despotism or rule by thugs. I would be very interested to see a survey of cases brought to court in the area of patent law and to see how often patent law has cut the wrong way. We know it has, an earlier poster brought up the contention over frequency modulation (an actual INVENTION!) and how patent law was used to screw the inventor.

    I know most working engineers sign agreements giving their employers patent rights on their work.

    Patent law has been a good thing. It encourages both innovation and dissemenation, in principle. I have frequently advocated that, if software patents must exist, they should last less than two years. It seems very bad in the software world; but is it really?

    How often does patent law *really* misfire? I submit the suspicion that no one posting to this discussion topic (myself included) has the slightest idea.

    Getting a patent is one thing. Exercising it is another. Is there a patent lawyer in the house who could actually throw some light on the state of patent law? How many cases result in the striking down of the patent. How many uphold the patent? And of those, how many really protect an innovation and how many protect dubious patents like "on-line sales," or "one-click shopping?"
  • You'll excuse me if I fail to see the inherent contradiction the granting of patents upon technologies that would otherwise remain secret and the granting upon technologies that are blatantly obvious bridgings of the old paradigms applied to newer technological environments. You cannot deny the corruption, the false taxation, and the raw abuse of the patent system by its present controllers, no matter what your view on patents as a whole. Yours Truly, Dan Kaminsky DoxPara Research http://www.doxpara.com
  • I don't know if they changed the way it works, but the first time I saw their one-click shopping it was after I placed an order a year or so ago, a web page popped up stating that they had this great one click shopping service that they had just enabled for me and that it would store the info of who I was and my billing / shipping info (or possible a reference to a central db, its been a while) on my computer so the next time I went to Amazon I wouldn't have to log in, I'd just have to click the one stop shopping button next to an item to have it shipped to me.

    I turned that off as fast as I could because it meant that anyone who sat down at my computer (or possible broke into my computer and stole my cookie file) could order stuff on Amazon with my credit card. Now unless they managed to convice Amazon to change my shipping address without access to my username password then I would recieve the book, but then I'd have to go through the hassle of trying to return things that I didn't order, but were changed to me...
  • none one has noticed that the USTPO is in direct violation of the patent. It is using a shopping cart to gather the patents to order AND using a cookie to identify me. Hmmm.
  • There are at least two requirements for a patent to be granted: The invention has to be new, and it has to be non-obvious for a practioner of the art. This patent is pretty weak on both legs. As someone wrote above, any pizza delivery service that uses a customer number does the same thing. And storing some information on a server and using a cookie to retrieve it is about as obvious as it gets.

    I would really like to patent a method to generate new patent application by taking a well-known and/or obvious process or method and adding "on the internet" to it. However, I suspect that there is to much prior art out there...

  • What about the other half of the industry that uses their version of
    this? I struggle just thinking where I can't do this. I guess using a
    cookie or flagging a field in a datbase has NEVER be done before!?!

    I am somewhat suspect in Amazons technical prowess at this point. You guys
    actually making money yet?

    I'm going to rush out and patent the coffee cup. I formerly announce my
    plans to form a company based upon this revolutionary idea. I plan to go

    public within 6 months. I need venture capitalists! The time to get
    onboard is now!

    --My Patent--
    "The device being used to contain a caffeine based liquid (or other
    liquids) in a state of suspension from the surrounding environment. The
    design being based on a cylinder in which the lower portion is sealed
    with a like substance that composes the cylinders walls. The top-most
    portion of the device would not be sealed, thus allowing a person to
    place said liquid substance(s) in the device. It could in theory, be
    used to remove aforementioned liquid with the mouth or drain it to
    larger container.

    A round semi-circle being attached to the side in the manufacturing
    process can be used to grasp the object by the thumb and index "finger"
    of a mammals hand (i.e and simian creature or humanoid).

    As a novelty item, clever designs or slogans can be affixed to the
    load-bearing outer portion of said device diametrically opposed to the
    'handle.'

    The device could assume the appearance of a multitude of familiar
    objects; including a flower-pot."
    --

  • Patents do assist in helping people make money, but nowadays we have mostly corporations registering patents, whereas in the early days of the republic we had people like my grandfather inventing a better radiator and getting a patent for it.

    The money is a method of:
    1. reimbursing the inventor for the time and effort of creation;
    2. assisting in the publication of the details of the work which is patented, so that others can adopt good ideas; and
    3. providing a mechanism for licensing those works and spreading the idea/work.

    The problem is that patents nowadays are used to make it very difficult to compete with another idea which improves on the original.

  • Im really freaking sick of people who don't understand and don't bother to know the facts about cookies. It's really infuriating. http://home.netscape.com/newsref/std/cookie_spec.h tml to quote: "When searching the cookie list for valid cookies, a comparison of the domain attributes of the cookie is made with the Internet domain name of the host from which the URL will be fetched. If there is a tail match, then the cookie will go through path matching to see if it should be sent. "Tail matching" means that domain attribute is matched against the tail of the fully qualified domain name of the host. A domain attribute of "acme.com" would match host names "anvil.acme.com" as well as "shipping.crate.acme.com". " Cookies are only sent to the server if they are in the same domain. I also used to have a refrence or maybe it was just some code that showed that cookies could only be set to have a maximum of 1 year life expectancy, but i might just be smoking crack there. b
  • change that to INSECURE publicly-accessible computer...

    from amazon.com's info [amazon.com] on 1-click

    However, as an added safety measure, if you are using a public computer terminal or a shared computer, you should not leave your 1-Click and Gift-Click ordering turned on when you are not
    using the computer.


    If you are stupid, you will leave your information turned on on the insecure publicly-accessible computer.

    You have to *turn it on* for the 1-click stuff to work... it's not just *there* as soon as you show up.
  • I'm confused by your post. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure than Amazon.com will only ship to one address, and if you want something delivered to another address you have to provide the credit card information again when you order. You can't just use the card information saved in the cookie.

    So, either you made these stories up, or the Amazon system is not as I remember it.
  • Hopefully this means that no other sites will shell out to Amazon to get 1-click on their sites. 1-click is far too dangerous for the general public to be using, especially the way that Amazon has their operation setup.

    If you purchase anything from Amazon, all of the defaults settings enable 1-click and remember you credit card details. The next time you shop with Amazon 1-click is instant purchase. If you aren't paying complete attention to everything on the display and never check your shopping cart the purchases are made and the books will arive. To bad if you were just browsing ;)
  • Prodigy had 1-click shopping way back in the '80s. It is too bad companies will put their integrity on the line for stupid publicity stunts.
  • They may have changed it since this happened, I'm not sure. However, at one point a couple years ago a close friend of mine ordered something from Amazon in a lab on her campus. A few hours later, she got another e-mail saying that 3 more books had been ordered on her card, and that they were being shipped to an address not hers. Amazon quickly took care of it, but the fact that things like this can (or could at some point) happen sort of weakens my faith in Amazon's system.
  • How about this, I could patent 2-second mouse_over shopping, then I could patent 1-second mouse_over shopping. Then after I have the industry in my back pocket, I will unleash instantanous mouse_over shopping. BUWHAHAHA
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It doesn't matter if it wont stand up in court. After a few million in lawyer bills, the company that's getting sued by the patent holder is bankrupt, in any case. And they'll never get that far. They'll just pay for a license.
  • Regardless of whether they're passing the info back and forth via cookies is not the issue for myself. If the cookie expires at the end of the browser session the information will persisit longer in your cache depending on your settings.

    I agree that you shouldn't be dependent on one or the other; it would be ideal if you could deny stored (time-based) cookies and allow session based.

    AC
  • The patent itself isn't ridiculous in this case. The problem is that Unisys didn't enforce the patent until it was popularized by the GIF file format. At that point it was so entrenched that, although unencumbered compression algorithms exist, companies were force to licence the LZW technology in order to conform to the GIF standard. It's sort of like bait and switch.
  • Patenting one-click shopping is like Slashdot patenting 0-click logins. When I go to www.slashdot.org, the web site knows who I am without any intervention! What Amazon has, while it may not be implemented anywhere else, was invented the day cookies were invented. As was pointed out before, I can call for pizza and with caller ID, they don't even have to ask for my name. It's exactly the same process.
    To patent an invention, the invention must be non-obvious. I'm sorry but one-click ordering is obvious.
  • They've been doing this for years...
    ...ok, so it's not quite 1 click-- you have to log in every time and enter your max bid, but that's it. What exactly is new about Amazon's deal? That they give you a cookie so you don't have to log in??? (and neither does anyone else who is using your computer ;)

    Jeez!

    -partap


  • ecampbel says the exact same thing in posts #99, #100, and #101. He has not taken into any consideration what people responded to his initial post above with. And he continues to claim that the patent must of gone way back "since it's a patent and patents take a long time to be done" (to paraphrase), without looking at the patent app itself which says it was filed in September 1997.

    p.s. - the patent is voracious, in that it will eat other small websites for lunch, but fails with veracity, in that it is not true Amazon should be able to patent this
  • Please, ecampbel (itiyrn:), go back and read the patent. Amazon filed for it in Sept 1997. It is unlikely that no one came up this before (preposterous really) and not the other way around.

    As for /. readers criticizing Amazon's patent, that's why the topic was posted in the first place. The patent deserves criticism since it lacks merit.

    As a reader points out above(#112 - in response to you actually), outpost.com has been doing this for a long time.
  • RCA may have gotten a patent - but they didn't invent television - that distinction goes to a man (nay, a boy!) by the name of Philo T. Farnsworth.

    Don't believe me - read the history yourself:

    The Farnsworth Chronicles [songs.com]

    Not only did Farnsworth invent television when he was a kid, he went on to develop what some think is a different form of fusion:

    Farnsworth Fusion [x0r.com]

    Farnsworth is one of those inventors, who much like Tesla, came up with ideas and implemented them, but was forgotten by the public - even though we use both men's discoveries/inventions EVERY DAY.
  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) on Tuesday October 12, 1999 @08:00PM (#1619261) Homepage
    I've been thinking alot about patents and the USPTO as of late, and I've begun to realize a much more politically effective and valid way to make the non-technical understand just how corrupt the US Patent system really is.

    Covert taxation backing a none-too-subtle amount of graft.

    What, did you think those patents are free?

    The United States Patent and Trademark Office has taken to delusions of grandeur. It is not illegal or questionable for a government body to charge for its services--a bill from the USPTO does not a tax make. Taxes achieve their special nature by the fact that they're enforced charges--if you meet conditions x, y, and z, then you pay the tax or face government enforced penalties.

    There's obviously a charge element to patents--last I checked, patents cost thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars to file. Every time a patent is rejected for having some trivial grammatical error, that's more money for the USPTO--more cash per patent, more charge per service rendered. The enforcement is, however, where things get hairy. Since everybody else has accepted the concept of attempting to patent any idea, obvious or not, anyone who refuses to pay for patent "protection"(we've heard this word before) is placed at the mercy of their protected competitors. And good luck to any company who crosses a competitor so armed--all profits can disappear with the signing of a court mandate. These same courts, of course, have been muzzled from attacking the USPTO's decisions, so those facing kangeroo justice aren't going to find much support from those who came before. Even genuinely invalid patents cost in the ranges of half a million dollars to address, so even if you win, you lose.

    Even the (now kinder and gentler) IRS isn't/wasn't this nightmarish. Imagine if Cisco and 3Com could sue eachother for taking excessive deductions, and thus competing unfairly. The USPTO doesn't need to lift a finger to enforce its taxation--those who have paid to join their little club will be more than happy to emasculate their competitors.

    Of course, such emasculation requires nice and expensive patent attorneys, and thus comes the graft. By assigning as many patents as they can get away with, patent attorneys(who, I'm sure, have quite a bit of pull at the USPTO) have more material to wield when hired to attack competing companies, more material to defend with when a company is attacked, greater stakes on either side from which to calculate an hourly rate, and much less predictability and guaranteed freedom for the clients--this translates directly into a greater need for highly trained patent attorneys to be on retainer, as well as longer time spent in court jousting-for-millions. (Look mah, longer hours!)

    More taxes for the Agency, and more cash for the agencies apparent constituents. Disguised behind claims of being understaffed and underpaid are patent office employees intentionally overworked and paid to accept, not reject. The lower ranks are mismanaged such that the upper ranks will be richer for it. "It's Net So It's New" has become the mantra for a thoroughly corrupted government body with delusions of being superior to the Judicial Branch, the IRS, the United States Congress, and the American People.

    Such oppression is out of place for the otherwise free and democratic ideals the Net so powerfully engenders, and particularly out of line with regards to the separation of powers between the governmental structures.

    We need reform. Complaining about patents on a technical level is effective, but needs to be prefaced by an explanation of not only how such patents are ludicrous and valueless, but why.

    Your livelyhood could be next. Call your congressman.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
    http://www.doxpara.com

  • Unique, maybe. Convenient, maybe. Secure? Not
    in a million years.

    The goal of Amazon is to make it as likely as
    possible that they get paid. Unlike other stores,
    they pursue this well into the realm where it
    is nearly certain that the customer will get
    screwed.

    They spam. They ignore privacy issues. They
    let random people buy things on random credit
    cards without authenticating that there's a
    connection between them.

    What sucks is that, like a lot of people, I was
    really really optimistic about Amazon. I
    thought "wow! A real internet company. They'll
    do things right and show the way."

    Thirty million unsolicited emails later, I'm not
    so optimistic.
  • This convenience IS the future of the Internet...

    Umm, no it's not -- thanks to their patent.
  • Did you even read the damn patent? They didn't patent Internet Shopping, but patented their methods that make up the One-Click Shopping feature. Have you even used One-Click shopping? I ask again, is there any company on the Internet that offers the ability to click one button and have your credit card validated, order processed and shipped to you with no additional intervention?
    Amazon.com was one of the first big-time retailers, and undoubtedly came up with a lot of the way things are done now on the Internet. Hell, when Barnes and Noble first started out on the Internet, their goal was to be as close to Amazon.com as possible. I'm sure many retailers thought the same thing. A patent takes years to be issued, so even if their methods are obvious now, they probably weren't when the patent was issued.
  • So much for Patent-related stupidity...maybe we can join as well? Form an organization, General Public Patent or whatever, patent as many participants' ideas as possible. The only objective? To make the ideas publicly available and not letting the idea being patented into the proprietary hell. Is it possible or plausible? By making ourselves part of the joke we'll get involved in a fun and maybe healthy process called "self-ridicule" =)
  • Who is this everybody? When did they invent this? One-Click Shopping consists of the ability to click ONE button, have the following happen: 1) Product Ordered 2) Credit Card Validated 3) Bundle the various one-click orders, and ship them all to the user. 4) Requires NO additional user intervention once the system is setup the first time Please name other companies that offer this technology, and had it in place before the patent was filed? If you can't, then you should be quite. Amazon.com was one of the first companies to pioneer Internet shopping. A patent takes years to be processed, so it very possible that they came with this way before anyone else did. A patent is not granted that easily.
  • Ever hear of patent roses? I can see it now: Skunk 42 x Durban = my patented wonder weed... Does it have to be a legal product to get a patent? I don't think so...

    The sheer stupidy of Amazon getting a patent on USING customer data has turned my brain into a snake pit...
  • I have actually read several papers (from IBM, etc. ) on this exact topic - including details about implementations. I would be very surprised if Google has not read these papers. I hope that they are not patenting ideas that were previously available in the public sphere. God damn I hate patents!!!!!!!
  • You are so smart. You are smarter than all the lawyers in the patent office. Good job. You did it you invalidated the patent with one quick read. Good JOB!
    Now that we are out of fantasyland think about how Amazon.com generates their pages. They use Javascript, ASP, and other technologies. So obviously, the patent at least covers THIER methods of business.
  • No it doesn't. Clicking one button does not send you the patent. There is always a second or third step involved in ordering things from all other sites, including the patent office. The "one click and the product is sent" method is the essence of the patent.


  • The original idea of having the state protecting your new "discoveryes", was to encourage inventors to disclose there new inventions.

    In his case, the idea seems so simple that surely somebody has thought of it before, even though it hasn't been put into practice before.

    Amazon is taking advantage of the fact that they were first do actually implement this idea. And if you think about it, the real problem with software patents is that companies will patent whatever they do, so long as somebody hasn't already done so.

    Does anybody realy think that Amazon wouldn't have put this idea into practice if they couldn't have patented it ??


    Of cource this is "legal", there is nobody here claiming otherwise, but that in itself is the real problem.


    --
    Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?
  • Your choice to enable this feature. I feel perfectly safe having this feature activated on my own personal computer. If you don't, then don't enable this feature.
  • I admit that it is very convient to use one-click type shopping, but it does not seem to be innovative enough to warrant a patent.
  • The idea is that the net's been perverted by a corrupt system into a get rich quick welfare scheme for patent attorneys and self-aggrandizing government administrators. Whatever basis patents had, the fallout "Its Net So Its New" proves we need reform, and soon.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
    http://www.doxpara.com

  • The patent in question was filed on September 12, 1997 and issued on September 28, 1999. Calculations yield a 2 year & 16 day period between filing and issue.
  • Bingo! It seems as though there are many company-specific zombies trolling /. these days, especially Microsoft and amazon.com drones.

    Generally, whatever happened to people disqualifying themselves from debate because they have a financial stake in one of the views?

    Methinks many of the IT managers force Microsoft solutions on a company because they own MSFT stock.

  • What Amazon is, in effect, telling you in their press release is that they intend to make shopping on other sites either more cumbersome (no one-click ordering) or more expensive (license fees) for you.

    I wouldn't buy from a company that pollutes my street, so why would I buy from a company that pollutes my intellectual environment with what I consider unreasonable, bad patents? I'll start buying my books elsewhere.

  • The fact that it is stored on your private servers offers little comfort for me since it doesn't protect my information from the company that is most likely to do something stupid with it: amazon.com.

    If only I could keep amazon.com from exploiting my precious information for purpose other than allowing me to buy a book. I do not want to send another email to really-fuck-off-this-time@amazon.com or fax an official letter on my company stationary everytime one of the amazon geniuses comes up with a brilliant new idea.

  • Microsoft steals patents all the time. Makes sense since they have gobs of money with which to control the U.S. patent office.

    As a recent example, PriceLine's patented technology [excite.com] is being stolen right now:

    CEO Bill Gates told Priceline founder Jay Walker that he wasn't going to let patent infringement claims stand in his way. ... "Mr. Gates went on to say that many other companies were suing Microsoft for patent infringement and that priceline.com could, in effect, get in line."

    A little further in the past, GoldTouch technologies filed a lawsuit which is still pending over MS's outright theft [goldtouch.com] of their patented ergonomic mouse technology:

    The Meeting with Microsoft 9. In September 1997, during an intensive two-hour meeting, Goldtouch representatives met with Microsoft representatives, disclosed the design of the Goldtouch mouse to Microsoft, and proposed that Microsoft license and market the Goldtouch mouse. Microsoft knew of Goldtouch's pending patent application at the time of this meeting. 10. During the September 1997 meeting, senior Microsoft design staff closely examined a sample of the Goldtouch mouse and extensively questioned Mr.Goldstein on how and why it had been invented. Being very familiar with product design generally, they used their own extensive background to explore in detail both the unique design rationale and the underlying scientific measurements which demonstrated that the Goldtouch mouse was superior to competing mice. Microsoft thus was able to acquire valuable design information even beyond that disclosed in the then-pending patent application (which had not yet been made public). As experienced industry hands, they knew that this information was extremely valuable, not just for Goldtouch's current product line, but for the future innovation which Goldtouch relied on for its very existence. Microsoft Markets the Goldtouch Mouse As Its Own 11. At the conclusion of the September 1997 meeting, Microsoft professed to be completely uninterested in the Goldtouch mouse, and led Goldtouch to believe that Microsoft was entirely satisfied with its existing mouse designs. Despite these representations, only about one year later Microsoft introduced its own ergonomic mouse, the Intellimouse® Pro. In the year following the meeting with Goldtouch, Microsoft copied important features of the Goldtouch sample mouse examined at the September 1997 meeting, implemented additional advanced features discussed at the meeting, and began to manufacture its knock-off product. Microsoft misappropriated Goldtouch's trade secrets to enhance its own inadequate designs. 12. Microsoft's knock-off mouse copies patented features relating to the shape of the Goldtouch mouse and adds rubber inserts to enhance ease of gripping. But the additional inserts themselves are an idea stolen from Goldtouch - a premium feature that was specifically discussed at the September 1997 meeting. Nevertheless, Microsoft's Intellimouse® Pro is an inferior product and it certainly infringes Goldtouch's issued patent. Microsoft is effectively draining Goldtouch's lifeblood by unlawfully exploiting its most carefully guarded ideas and their scientific basis. 13. Through the unconscionable scheme described above, Microsoft has sought to add Goldtouch's purloined intellectual property to Microsoft's already impressive hoard of ill-gotten gains, in so doing, Microsoft has dealt Goldtouch a grievous wound. Goldtouch invokes the jurisdiction of this Court to obtain compensation for Microsoft's theft of benefits which Goldtouch otherwise would have received for its innovation and leadership in ergonomic mouse design. Goldtouch further requests that the Court enter an order enjoining Microsoft from further violations of state and federal intellectual property law.

    More is at... Complaint [goldtouch.com]
  • our country got rid of patents as soon as the stupid idea proved wrong, and now we're stuck with them again. the country is holland, but nearly every other self-respecting country was fooled by egocentric bastards. it's making me insane. so much money's spent on war, couldn't we just spend $10 on a thought? sigh sigh sigh sigh BIG GROUP SIGH. (author drops dead after hitting submit button)
  • by dartboard ( 23261 ) on Tuesday October 12, 1999 @08:39PM (#1619291)

    Don't blame Amazon for this. They are protecting themselves, because we all know someone else would have tried to patent it if amazon didn't.

    Blame the patent office for granting it, and stop jumping on the "boycott Amazon" bandwagon until you see them try to exercise their patent. (They never will, because everyone knows it's utter silliness -- including Amazon.)

  • To whoever downgraded this post:
    It's a joke shithead! What's up with all the humorless idiot moderators? Ok, sometimes I am a humorless idiot moderator myself...
  • You know, the sad truth is that patents aren't necessarily a bad thing. I remember the original patent RCA held on the TV; that was a good thing. Their engineers spent thousands of man hours, millions of dollars, and frittered away their lives to design the time waster we know today called television. Had there been no patent to protect their specific invention, everyone would have ripped off and reverse engineered RCA's TVs and made their own. Their competitors were forced to come up with their own televisions, and the competition eventually led to color TV. There was a PBS documentary on the whole thing, in which the narrator said that had RCA NOT patented their original B&W TV, it'd have taken considerably longer to get where we are today in terms of television. So in that instance a patent did what it was supposed to do -- it encouraged competition, protected YEARS of nonstop work from being ripped off, and ended up benefiting us all.

    However the situation today is much different. RCA patented an object, something their engineers poured their lives into. Today we're seeing ludicrous patents, not on inventions, but on concepts and processes. Had RCA patented the process, you can imagine what would have happened. Who's fault is it? Is it the Greedy Corporation (tm) or the patent office? I believe it is the patent office. The agency itself hasn't changed, only those running it. In this case we can see it's morally bankrupt people who sell out to the highest bidder. Patents themselves (at least how they were intended) are not evil. Those that administer the patent office, however, are. Plain and simple. So when we call for change, let's take the first step before changing the underlying system (which is idealogically sound) and boot the corrupt sell outs who run the patent office out on the street where they belong.
  • This comment isn't about the patent, it's about the 1-click junk....

    A few months ago I finally ordered something from cdnow.com, and it setup cookies and stuff to save my info, I later gave a URL to an audio clip to a friend, then he told me cdnow.com thought he was me. The reason is the URL, the URL's are like:

    "www.cdnow.com/cgi-bin/mserver/SID=##########/pa gename=/share/ensotrack2.html/item descriptionid=321208/disc=01/track=02/source=RAM/r a.ram"

    the SID contains my ID, when he went to the URL, it set a cookie on his PC with my info, good thing I chose not to store my credit card info, or he would have been able to order stuff with my card! If amazon.com is the same way, you don't just have to worry about people having access to your PC, you can give a link to a friend accross the country and he will be able to order whatever he wants..... does amazon.com work this way? I hope not

    (I've never ordered from them and now I never plan on it)

    #----------------------------
    $mrp=~s/mrp/elite god/g;
  • ... are not competant to examine software patents. If they were, they wouldn't approve the howlers that we regularly see from these incredible idiots.

    Two things must be done:

    1. The USPTO must take its examiners out of their offices, line them up against a wall, and terminate them.

    2. The Congress must amend the patent act to cut the period of time that a patent is viable to five years.

    As things are, progress is being impeded, not accelerated, by the patent system.

  • by Blackheart ( 100013 ) on Tuesday October 12, 1999 @11:16PM (#1619305)
    I've been thinking alot about patents and the USPTO as of late, and I've begun to realize a much more politically effective and valid way to make the non-technical understand just how corrupt the US Patent system really is.
    Covert taxation backing a none-too-subtle amount of graft.

    Dear Mr. Kaminsky,

    Your use of a "thesis statement and supporting evidence" is in violation of our patent on Logically Supported Critical Argumentation Technology (US patent #591273297689786576). Please refrain in the future from using this method of reasoning or we will be forced to enjoin our lawyers to initiate legal measures against you and your employers.

    Yours Truly,

    Walter P. Quackmeyer
    Everything Under The Sun Enterprises(R)

    P.S. Don't bother replying either; such an action would likely be in violation of our Witty Rejoinder Technology (US Patent #98217439102738) and would also put you in danger of receiving legal action.

    P.P.S. The style of humor presented in this article is covered by our pending patent, Cynical/Sarcastic Humorous Remarks Technology.

  • Does this apply to the online ordering system for a hard copy of patents they have on the page? :)
  • They actually beat themselves in the worst patent: look at number 5715399. It's patent (that was granted!) for the invention of only sending part of a credit card number over the net to chose which one you want to use (ie. if you've 6 different cards in the past, and you actually want to reuse one you used before, they give you a list of all the cards you've used, but only showing the last 4 digits). This is insane!
  • Seriously, in addition to being in the Constitution of the United States of America (as opposed to the separation of church and state, which is in the writings), patents exist for one reason only:

    To encourage people to come up with new inventions.


    Obviously, the system is not working. Just as copyright and trade secrets are used to hamper the development of knowledge by a society in today's modern world, so do patents nowadays serve only to lessen the march of science.

  • Dear Mr. Blackheart:

    My lawyers have advised me to inform you that we at DoxPara Research have entered into a cross-licensing agreement with Arrow Films and Actress Linda Lovelace, which grants us relicensing rights to Patent #12346969, "Business Model for Extremely Low Level Tracheal Stimulation."

    Your request for a sublicense assignment to yourself has been granted. You may proceed exercising all the technologies contained within the patent forthwith upon us immediately.

    As to the possible violations of ancillary sarcasm patents, we possess Patent #000001, "High Dual Clue Particle Accelerator Device", and thus put little stock in your chances in a court of law.

    We at DoxPara Research thank you for allowing us to address our concerns. Please, feel free to respond in any manner you see fit.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
    http://www.doxpara.com

    P.S. *LOL* Your response was excellent. ;-)

  • ...not to shop at Amazon. You'd think they'd realize that this gratuitous usage of cookies is not only a feature, but a huge security hole.
    I know personally at least two people who have had other people order things on their credit cards, because they made the mistake of ordering something from Amazon from a public computer lab, where their cookie was then stored, and retrieved (and thus their credit card number used) when another person came along and used the same machine to order from Amazon. You'd think people would realize that letting any remote site "store" your credit card number is a hugely bad idea...but then I suppose these are the same folks who randomly run the binaries sent to their AOL e-mail address...
  • Part of the television patents were stolen. Didn't you know? Look up the name Edwin H. Armstrong!

    RCA flat-out stole the technology of frequency modulation from Armstrong to use in television and was able to hold off Armstrong's lawsuits because of its great legal resources. The Britannica says:

    When FM slowly established itself, Armstrong again found himself entrapped in another interminable patent suit to retain his invention. Ill and aging in 1954, with most of his wealth gone in the battle for FM, he took his own life.

    But--and I didn't know this until I looked up Armstrong's bio--this was the second time that Armstrong had gotten stiffed in a patent suit. Armstrong, it turns out, had a hand in almost every innovation in broadcast radio. In 1912 he invented the vacuum-tube oscillator and, again from the Britannica:

    Armstrong's priority was later challenged by [15]De Forest in a monumental series of corporate patent suits, extending more than 14 years, argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court, and finally ending--in a judicial misunderstanding of the nature of the invention--in favour of De Forest.

    As far as I can tell, the patent system works best for people who have the most money. I am convinced it is at the very least in need of reform.

  • This may indeed take only two lawsuits to demolish -- but the odds of it ever being fought out in court are between slim and none. A patent lawsuit costs a _minimum_ of US$500,000 for both sides.

    We're not going to be able to afford that, and odds are Amazon is going to license it for cheaper than that to companies.

    Depressing.

    (This info courtesy of the CTO at Hi/fn, who has 12 patents to his name, one of them court-proven against MS -- the famous Stac compression patent.)

    -Billy
  • Try a search on Google, compare it to the other search sites, and then tell us that it's the same.

    It's not the same -- Google manages the meanings of the links as well as the number of links.

    I'm not saying that I'm sure Google's patents are good, but I see no evidence to suggest otherwise.

    -Billy

I THINK THEY SHOULD CONTINUE the policy of not giving a Nobel Prize for paneling. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

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