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Amazon Scores Gift-Delivery Patent

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the only-can-deliver-coal dept.

Patents 91

theodp writes "In May, the USPTO rejected Amazon.com's patent claims (PDF) for its Method and System for Placing a Purchase Order Via a Communications Network (a 1-Click spin-off). At the time, a USPTO Examiner cited Bilski, explaining that elements of CEO Jeff Bezos' gift-delivery invention 'may be performed largely within the human mind,' coming to essentially the same conclusion a NY Post reporter arrived at in 2002. But Amazon's attorneys have worked their legal wordsmithing magic (PDF), convincing the USPTO that 'obtaining delivery information for a gift from one or more information sources other than the gift giver and recipient' is indeed novel and patentable. A Notice of Allowance for the patent was mailed to Amazon on November 17th, just in time for Holiday Season injunction-giving!"

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91 comments

F It, I'm Patenting Eating (4, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202196)

METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR PLACING CHEESY COMESTIBLES INSIDE HOMO SAPIEN MANDIBLES

Abstract

A method and system for correctly and precisely placing a reasonable sized and digestible material inside the human mouth without death or injury to the consumer. This patent produces a new novel approach to the problems humans face in locating food in front of them and successfully placing it betwixt their teeth without injury to eye, nose or throat. The fact that the location of the food in front of them may or may not be immediately known inside their brain until they cast their eyes upon it establishes the validity of this patent.

Claims
  1. A method and system for placing cheesy comestibles inside homo sapien mandibles
  2. The method of claim 1 wherein the consumer relies on utensils (as fork, knife and spork patents apply) to correctly portion size said cheesy comestible such as to prevent choking.
  3. The method of claim 2 wherein the consumer does not yet realize the food resides in front of them and the two apparatuses known as eyeballs must convene on said cheesy comestible thereby bringing it into focus and (where appropriate central nervous system coordination patents apply) the feed from the cerebral cortex is relayed to the arms and hands to manipulate utensils of claim 2.
  4. ETC.

Prepare to starve.

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (4, Funny)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202240)

Well, I patented swallowing and digestion, so good luck getting people to chew stuff and spit it right back out. lol.

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (3, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202282)

Well, I patented swallowing and digestion, so good luck getting people to chew stuff and spit it right back out. lol.

Not a problem, I have earlier patented a method and system for contacting a legal consultant in order to sue for patent infringement. Balls in your court.

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (2, Funny)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202630)

Well I had earlier patented patenting so you're all screwed.

I trademarked the word "patent" and all variants (2, Funny)

mandark1967 (630856) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202844)

So all of you owe me $599 per use.

Re:I trademarked the word "patent" and all variant (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203876)

I think you should pay Microsoft and its IE branch for all "e"s in your post (that 1 in quotation marks was fair utilization, so it did not count). $300/"e" is a fair cost IMO.

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30204632)

Well I had sex with your wife!

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (1)

MBaldelli (808494) | more than 4 years ago | (#30207884)

Well I had sex with your wife!

Cupcake... Wives don't have inflatable nozzles. So please stop showing off your prowess when you're raiding someone's toys in the closet.

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202804)

"Means of idea and / or instruction transferral between two or more parties utilising pigment-based dyes or inks applied to a suitable porous or non-porous material, with a view to those ideas and / or instructions being appropriately absorbed and comprehended by the receiving party."

You weren't planning on writing to your lawyer, were you?

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202838)

Unfortunately for you, I appended "On the internet" and got the patent for that.

Licensing contract is en route to mitigate the need for litigation.

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (1)

ijakings (982830) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202862)

Well I patented a method for reoxygenating blood.

Good luck getting your cells to work on nitrogen. Chumps.

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203528)

Well, I patented swallowing and digestion, so good luck getting people to chew stuff and spit it right back out. lol.

Not a problem, I have earlier patented a method and system for contacting a legal consultant in order to sue for patent infringement. Balls in your court.

Since patent infringement suits have been around for several hundred years, your patent is long since expired. Thanks for innovating in this field, great-great-great-great-great-great-great granddad. Now, how about publicly disclosing your method of eternal life?

Apostrophize, young man! (2, Funny)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203626)

Ball's in your court.

"Your turn." Standard English.

Balls in your court.

A judge is alone at her bench when the handsome young lawyer walks in. Bow-chicka-bow-wow!

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30202848)

Good luck to both of you with your Eating, Swallowing and Digestion patents.

I just patented Feces Excretion!

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202850)

But without my excretion patent, then what?

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30208674)

Sorry, an AC beat you to it [slashdot.org] by two posts.

Otherwise, by modern US patent law, you'd like totally own it.

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#30209360)

Damn, in Slashdot time +2 on the comment_id column is probably half a second. Foiled again! If it weren't for those meddling anonymous cowards...

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204046)

No problem. I've patented excretion. See how long you can hold it in, suckers! ;-)

Re:F It, I'm Patenting Eating (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202334)

MMMmmm...*munch* *munch* *much* I claim mmmm.....*munch* *munch* prioahr aaurt ... mmmmmm ..mmmmm.... *munch* *munch*

Simply ignore. (0)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202230)

Simply ignore that "patent", and if a lawer go on your house because this, kill then.

Re:Simply ignore. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30202290)

If a lawyer urinates on my house, I'll certainly kill him.

Christmas gifts,shoes,handbags,Tshirts,Jacket,ugg (-1, Offtopic)

coolforsale100 (1684556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202260)

http://www.coolforsale.com/ [coolforsale.com] Dear ladies and gentlemen Hello, In order to meet Christmas, Site launched Christmas spree, welcome new and old customers come to participate in the there are unexpected surprises, look forward to your arrival. Only this site have this treatmentOur goal is "Best quality, Best reputation , Best services". Your satisfaction is our main pursue. You can find the best products from us, meeting your different needs.Ladies and Gentlemen weicome to my coolforsale.com.Here,there are the most fashion products . Pass by but don't miss it.Select your favorite clothing! Welcome to come next time ! Thank you! ugg boot,POLO hoody,Jacket, Air jordan(1-24)shoes $33 Nike shox(R4,NZ,OZ,TL1,TL2,TL3) $35 Handbags(Coach lv fendi d&g) $35 Tshirts (Polo ,ed hardy,lacoste) $16 free shipping Thanks!!! Advance wish you a merry Christmas.

Psychic Postmen (3, Insightful)

tilandal (1004811) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202358)

"obtaining delivery information for a gift from one or more information sources other than the gift giver and recipient"

Hey, if they have truly figured out a way to determine who I am sending a gift to without asking me or the person receiving the gift I would say that is worthy of a patent. All other retailers will be stuck actually asking you where you want your stuff mailed and who has the time to enter all that info?

Re:Psychic Postmen (3, Insightful)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202508)

There is a little sleight of hand in that wording.

Some of the patent claims actually involve contacting the recipient in various ways to get delivery info. A nice feature in some situations, though I wouldn't be entirely surprised if there were prior art (though as I've mentioned elsewhere I'm not specifically aware of any).

Others, however, do involve going to 4th-party sources - online databases of contact info, I think it even mentions DNS records as a place to check, etc. This is the part I think least likely anyone else had thought of; but then again, it's the part I'm not sure I would want to rely on when trying to send someone a gift...

Re:Psychic Postmen (2, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202752)

i don't know, if I give a flower delivery service a name and city and give them a big tip I'm sure they would do much of the same type of sleuthing. Does having the guesswork be performed by a computer make it a novel invention?

Re:Psychic Postmen (2)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202820)

I'm sure if I give a strong guy a buck he'll crack a walnut for me, but a nutcracker is still an invention.

The method, not the thing being done, is what is patented. An automated way of doing something you'd otherwise have to pay a person to go to the trouble of doing manually is pretty much the definition of an invention. That you suspect you could get someone to do the task without the invention has no bearing on whether the invention is novel.

Re:Psychic Postmen (1)

crbowman (7970) | more than 4 years ago | (#30206602)

Perhaps, but if I can give somebody a wad of cash and they'd go off and do it, it hardly qualifies as novel now does it?

Re:Psychic Postmen (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30207160)

Since you've already ignored the explanation of why your assertion is incorrect, I don't know why I'm bothering to repeat it, but here we go anyway:

You do not patent "doing something". The thing being done doesn't have to be novel. You patent a device or method for doing something. The device or method must be novel. That you could pay someone to do the task without the device or method does not bear on whether the device or method is novel.

Re-phrasing the assertion that "you could pay someone a wad of cash to do it" in such a way as to obscure the distinction of whether "it" means the task or the method/device, is also not novel.

Re:Psychic Postmen (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#30210750)

Actually Bilski basically rules out method patents
Respondents filed in the Patent Office an application for an invention which was described as being related "to the processing of data by program and more particularly to the programmed conversion of numerical information" in general purpose digital computers. ...The claims were not limited to any particular art or technology, to any particular apparatus or machinery, or to any particular end use. They purported to cover any use of the claimed method in a general purpose digital computer of any type.

Re:Psychic Postmen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30203554)

Isn't this what Sunday Paper inserts do? IE: "Big Screen TV, $1299, Free Delivery"

Patentable? (4, Insightful)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202396)

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't; I'm holding off to hear more arguments.

The submitter and at least one other poster are convinced that it's not at some obvious level, and I guess I'm missing the basis for that. So here are my questions:

1) Did you read the patent claims?
2) Do you know of anyone in the history of online shopping that has done the thigns the patent claims cover?

My answers: Yes I did; and No, I honestly haven't.

Lack of prior art alone doesn't prove something to be patentable, but if (as submitter applies) there is nothing novel about this patent, then I would be surprised to see we'd gone this far with online shopping and never seen it. Remember that just because something is novel, doesn't mean it doesn't "seem obvious" after someone has pointed it out...

Re:Patentable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30203324)

Remember that just because something is novel, doesn't mean it doesn't "seem obvious" after someone has pointed it out...

But far too often -- including in this case -- the thing IS, in fact, obvious *specifically* because it isn't novel... it's simply yet another of the myriad patents thrown down to kill competition. Your "objective, healthy skepticism" is not warranted in the field of patents... they've been too thoroughly abused for far too long (and Amazon is one of the very worst abusers, mind you) to go tiptoeing around wondering if maybe our backlash is a tad too judgemental. YOU go read the patent and scratch your head. The rest of us see that the house is on fire.

Re:Patentable? (2, Interesting)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204122)

"the thing IS, in fact, obvious *specifically* because it isn't novel"

So I'll repeat my question: if that's so, why isn't anyone doing it? There may be a legitimate answer to this, but I notice that instead of offering one to further the discussion, you've opted to repeat the asswertion that prompted the question in more aggressive terms. That suggests to me that you probably don't have an answer.

"Your "objective, healthy skepticism" is not warranted in the field of patents... they've been too thoroughly abused for far too long (and Amazon is one of the very worst abusers, mind you) to go tiptoeing around wondering if maybe our backlash is a tad too judgemental. YOU go read the patent and scratch your head. The rest of us see that the house is on fire."

I'm curious to meet this "the rest of us" you think you speak for.

Well, "the house is on fire" could accurately describe many innser cities. People get robbed, murdered, etc. This abuse has been going on far too long (and the poor are among the worst abusers, mind you). So following your logic, should the court system do away with the "objective, healthy skepticism" that leads us to presume any given defendent guilty (at least when the defendent is poor and from the inner city)?

If you want to call waiting to hear the facts and arguments "tiptoeing around", so be it. You certainly can choose to see the house on fire and react by throwing more fuel if you really think that's gonig to help.

Re:Patentable? (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30209002)

I'm curious to meet this "the rest of us" you think you speak for.

Who can see that the 'house' of patents is 'on fire'?

Well, what do you expect from a government-granted, tax-funded monopoly granting institute proposed, created, and run by lawyers?

Something useful and helpful to the public at large? Not likely.

So I'll repeat my question: if that's so, why isn't anyone doing it?

Who knows? It's irrelevant. Like one-click purchasing, nothing except desire stopped anyone from doing it. Maybe it's a good UI idea, maybe not, but there's no patentable technology in it. In fact, there were probably shopping cart malfunctions that caused other sites to function that way, but that were seen as bugs and fixed.

Patents are supposed to be on a device beyond the state of the art for the average practitioner. Any programmer who could write a shopping cart could write one Amazon's way, simply by having the desired UI described to them. Maybe even 'original', but not useful new technology.

If you want to call waiting to hear the facts and arguments "tiptoeing around", so be it.

Well, that boy (Amazon) has cried wolf before...

You certainly can choose to see the house on fire and react by throwing more fuel if you really think that's gonig to help.

Or spray everything with water and wait for people to come to their senses.

Funny how you see ignoring a known liar as throwing fuel on the fire. I see listening to them and validating their continual gibberish with a bunch of wild what-if-they're-not-lying-this-time hypothesizing to be the fire-fanning action.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Especially from known liars. They might be telling the truth, or they could be a bunch of rent-seeking assholes like the other 99% of the lawyer-infested patent abusers. I recommend a careful pessimistic stance. Hold onto your wallet.

Registry of Non-Patentable (1)

waitwonder (1014869) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203634)

What is needed is a Registry of Non-Patentable funded by a portion of fees from patent application. This will help in: 1- Converting all ridiculous patents as non-patentable. 2- Providing a way to protect for any future patent application by patent troll. (peace of mind for business reducing unnecessary protection patent applications) 3- Allow obvious to be filed by public. Does something like this exists?

Should Patents be done away with? (4, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202480)

It just occurs to me that, like so many other things, the government is simply incompetent at patents. They aren't like copyrights where you basically do the equivalent of a diff() between two works and come to a conclusion nor or they like trademarks which are also similiarly easy to evaluate.

People talk of fixing the patent system, but is it any fix at all? The really good stuff seems to be always "proprietary" and hidden anyway, and the goal of patent was to open knowledge in exchange for limited time monopolies - well, considering that society is different and much more fluid now, that you're hardly in a secretive guild, let alone one company your entire life, do patents satisfy the original purpose anymore?

And if they don't, why keep it around? Is it becoming too big a drag on commerce? I'm really curious what proponents have to say, because slashdot does tend to get one sided on issues.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202594)

Mod parent up.

This is out of control. It's time to start the boycott Amazon mission. This is plainly ridiculous and far beyond an abuse of the patent system.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (0, Flamebait)

gnick (1211984) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202852)

Boycott Amazon? No way. They've got low prices, typically fast, free shipping (especially if you're sharing an Amazon Prime account), and one of the best on-line shopping interfaces around. Now if they get big enough that they start abusing their power and are no longer the cheapest/fastest/easiest solution around, I'll shift over to whoever is. They may have buried their competition, but more will emerge if they get too greedy.

And if they pull shady stuff (and frankly I don't know enough about this move to make an intelligent call on whether they're being evil or innovative in this case), and want to tack on 0.01% of my soul to the purchase price but still save me $5, I'd say that's a generous offer for a small share of a liberally tarnished soul.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (3, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202938)

You have the spine of wet spaghetti. If principles can be easily sacrificed for a few bucks here and there, you tacitly approve of the evil you describe.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203080)

You have the spine of wet spaghetti. If principles can be easily sacrificed for a few bucks here and there, you tacitly approve of the evil you describe.

Oh come on, the moral issues regarding patents, despite the outrage on slashdot, are insignificant compared to the real moral questions of our time.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (3, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203472)

Greed, it strikes me, is one of the great moral questions of our time (considering how it has brought to the world economy into its worst position in 80 years). Exploiting a broken patent system to gain ludicrous patents to use to stifle competition is as much a cause and/or symptom of the insane push for profit regardless of cost or merit. I doubt very much that anyone thought patents would simply become one vast extortion racket.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (2, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203812)

Greed, it strikes me, is one of the great moral questions of our time (considering how it has brought to the world economy into its worst position in 80 years). Exploiting a broken patent system to gain ludicrous patents to use to stifle competition is as much a cause and/or symptom of the insane push for profit regardless of cost or merit. I doubt very much that anyone thought patents would simply become one vast extortion racket.

Only they didn't. Slashdot skews peoples' perceptions of patent issues. It's like, I've known a couple of NYPD cops who have an incredibly cynical view of humanity and the danger that's out there. Why? Probably because they're called when there's a problem, so that's what they see day in and day out. The same thing here, slashdot basically aggregates the negative stories, exaggerates them, then pumps them out to us day in and day out.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204356)

Oh come, serious concerns over software and business method patents have been around for some time. Amazon is one of the worst as it doesn't seem to be merely creating a defensive arsenal but goes out, dreams up things that are clearly not patents for any actual technology of any kind, shoves them through, changing the wording when necessary to fool some overworked examiner.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203394)

You have the spine of wet spaghetti.

Now that's patently unfair. Saying that I'm spineless implies that I'm either cowardly or an invertebrate. I submit that I'm not an invertebrate, as I've yet to meet on that can type. I also believe that I'm no coward, but as I pointed out my soul is certainly up for sale. Making a conscious decision to participate in a transaction that is marginally evil is not cowardly - It's just marginally evil. Sometimes being evil takes balls of steel (buying from Amazon doesn't qualify obviously). And, again as I pointed out, I don't even have enough information here to know whether Amazon is being evil or innovative in this case - My guess is that MOST people jumping on the hate-Amazon bandwagon here are in the same boat. About the only folks that I've seen post so far that seem to have solid opinions are the ones saying that ALL patents are out of control and need to be wiped - Everyone else is speculating on this nebulous move. And, in that case, should we boycott all companies holding patents?

If principles can be easily sacrificed for a few bucks here and there, you tacitly approve of the evil you describe.

I described no evil, I just admitted to being ignorant as to whether there was any (and admitted that I valuate my soul at about $50k - But that was obviously intended as a joke). Yes, if you're buying stolen goods off the back of a truck, you're supporting theft. Yes, if you buy a bootlegged DVD or download pirated music/video from a site where you viewed an ad, you're supporting copyright infringement. Yes, if you buy shoes made in sweat-shops, you're supporting sweat-shops. And yes, if you shop somewhere that holds patents obtained through a broken patent system, you're in some way supporting the broken patent system.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30207776)

But there is no joke here. Litigation will ensue over supposedly innovative process control. Their honest attempts at doing things will be thwarted by an organization that pulled this out of their very butt, called it their own, and now want to nick you for their share of what's plainly obvious.

Plainly obvious you say? When you RTFA and go to uspto.gov and look it up, read it, and go WTF?????!!!???? then you can have a sense of outrage and indignation rather than the indentured servitude you jokingly offer yourself up as.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (2, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203494)

Mod parent up.

This is out of control. It's time to start the boycott Amazon mission. This is plainly ridiculous and far beyond an abuse of the patent system.

How? If you read the rejection, the Examiner said "your system is obvious because of these references, and unpatentable due to Bilski, and oh, by the way, your abstract is 191 words long and it has to be under 150." The submitter here linked to the shortened abstract and claims that that "wordsmithing" - i.e. trimming out 41 words - fixed the obviousness problem. It didn't. The abstract has no legal weight - it's just to aid in searching the patent database.

The part that's plainly ridiculous is that people are so anti-patent that, based on an incorrect and misleading summary and a link to a one page pdf of an amended specification, they're calling for a boycott.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202622)

Patents are pointless they simply give a monopoly to one company, if they were withdrawn they would simply revert to using the copyright system, which is where most of this stuff should be....

Patents all give too broad a monopoly because they restrict you doing something no matter how you do it ...the patent holder has no motivation to improve

At least with copyright if you find a better way you can use your better way to supplant the current copyright holder ...

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (2, Informative)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202770)

"they restrict you doing something no matter how you do it "

Actually that is entirely untrue. If you find a way to determine the delivery address for a gift, and Amazon's patent doesn't describe that way of determining the delivery address, then you are free to do it, patent it yourself, etc. If you "find a better way", the law explicitly recognizes that as a new invention.

You cannot patent "doing something". You can patent "a device that does something", and apparently "a method of doing something". Granted when /. discusses a patent they always act like it's a patent on "doing <whatever>", but that is not the case.

You ever read a recent patent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30203068)

You ever read a recent patent? I guess not because most of them don't say HOW you do it, just that it gets done.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30203246)

If you "find a better way" you better have millions in the bank or you'll be litigated into the ground by someone selling the product already while you're just trying to start.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224928)

If I find a better and different way of determining the address,

1) Amazon will sue me anyway

2) They will probably win because they have been so vague in their patent that it can be argued that it covers my way as well

3) when they win they will adopt my way of doing it, without paying me, and will stop me using my idea

Even If they lose I will have no money left ...

All this means that I will probably not even bother trying ... another win for the Patent system

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202726)

Copyright does not come down to "basically [doing] the equivalent of a diff". Literal copying is only one form of potential copyright infringement; there are many ways to modify a work and still infringe on the original; and determining whether your work was the source of material in my work is really only the first step (and the easiest step) in determining infringement.

Trademark is far from "easy to evaluate"; I'm not sure I can think of any law with definitions as murky and subjective as trademark.

I don't know that individuals moving from job to job has anything to do with the original purpose of patents. If a company chooses to protect knowledge instead of patent/publish it, they make a trade secret of it. They can do this today with patent law, they could do it without patent law, and an employee taking the idea to his next employer could be sued off the map.

I'd say that sometimes patents do serve their intended purpose, but that even when they do people are more inclined to see them as unfair restrictions because "I could've thought of that".

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (1)

mounthood (993037) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203926)

It just occurs to me that, like so many other things, the government is simply incompetent at patents.

Depends on what outcome you want. The patent system in the US is primarily a way to protect large companies from competition (foreign or domestic), and it's doing a good (but expensive) job at that. Ask yourself if Amazon is better off in the US where it gets this extra defense, or in a country without patent protections? And note that the question isn't whether the overall economy is better off, which is a different question.

...the goal of patent was to open knowledge in exchange for limited time monopolies

You started by arguing that the Government is incompetent, but that conclusion depends on the goal, and "the goal" is many different things to different interests. It's like when people look at the devastating effects of the war on drugs and conclude that it's failed. Failed relative to what goal?

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (2, Insightful)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204462)

I'm really curious what proponents have to say, because slashdot does tend to get one sided on issues.

Allow me to offer my opinion on the subject as I am a proponent of the patent system (in principle, not the present implementation). The primary purpose of patents is to acknowledge that ideas have value. Manufactured things, of course, have value and those who build them earn a wage for the manual labor that goes into making them. Without the inventor, however, we would have only raw materials and muscle but no manufactured goods. The patent acknowledges that a person has a right to earn money from their ideas as well as from their physical labor. That is a right that I wholeheartedly support because I make a living off my mind not my muscles, as do many on Slashdot.

I happen to think that patents are necessary for the promotion of ideas and technology but that isn't the basis on which I think patents are a good thing. The argument hinges on the fact that people have a right to profit from their ideas because they thought of them. The notion that ideas are public is simply absurd. If I have an idea nothing can compel me to tell it to you; it's in my head, it's my idea. If I wish to build something using my idea and sell it, that is my right. The patent codifies the system that allows me to license others to build something from my idea if I don't have the means to build it myself, thereby distributing the fruits of my mental labor to the public. It is the patent that distinguishes the value of the idea from the value of the resources to build the thing. I disagree with the notion that physical labor can be done for the benefit of the individual but mental labor must be done for public good.

I also think that absurd "methods" patents and broad software patents like the ones that show up on Slashdot undermine the patent system. Those patents should be done away with. In most software cases I would agree that the copyright system is the better venue for protecting intellectual rights since I have yet to see a software patent that I think should exist. The existing implementation of the patent system needs to be dramatically reformed to avoid the obvious patents that get through on the virtue of the legal departments of large companies.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (1)

nasch (598556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30208316)

The patent acknowledges that a person has a right to earn money from their ideas as well as from their physical labor.

No problem for you to believe that of course, but just to be clear, that has nothing at all to do with the purpose of patents as defined in the US Constitution.

I happen to think that patents are necessary for the promotion of ideas and technology but that isn't the basis on which I think patents are a good thing. The argument hinges on the fact that people have a right to profit from their ideas because they thought of them.

The former point (promotion of progress) is the legal basis for patents in the US, and the latter (the right to profit) has no place whatsoever in US law. I also think it has no place in any reasonable ethics either. You have no right to profit. You can earn profit in the marketplace, or not. You have a right to do whatever you want with your ideas, including attempting to profit from them, but saying you have a right to profit also means someone else has the obligation to give you money. Which I think is wrong.

The notion that ideas are public is simply absurd. If I have an idea nothing can compel me to tell it to you; it's in my head, it's my idea. If I wish to build something using my idea and sell it, that is my right.

And then the idea is... public. Anybody who sees your product now also has your idea.

I disagree with the notion that physical labor can be done for the benefit of the individual but mental labor must be done for public good.

Is anybody actually promoting that notion?

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30209124)

You misunderstand my argument; perhaps I phrased some of it poorly. I don't think that a right to profit exists. Certainly I think that a person has a right to do what they wish with an idea, including attempting to earn a profit with it. My argument is that the idea is divorced from the thing and the the inventor has a right to the idea (the "right to profit from it" was, perhaps, a poor choice of words). You nicely summed up what I object to:

Anybody who sees your product now also has your idea.

I think that the idea behind the product has it's own value. The patent codifies that value by allowing the sale of a product to be divorced from the sale of the idea.

From the constitution:

"...to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

I do, in fact, think that it is the "Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" that is the core value that should be upheld. The promotion of progress follows from honouring that right.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (1)

nasch (598556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30210168)

I don't think that a right to profit exists. Certainly I think that a person has a right to do what they wish with an idea, including attempting to earn a profit with it.

Great.

You nicely summed up what I object to:

Anybody who sees your product now also has your idea.

You're objecting to reality, then. I wasn't talking about something current patent law allows, or the way things ought to be. That is just the way it is, always has been, and always will be. Once you show me your idea (or the embodiment of it), there is no way you can keep me from also having the idea. As soon as you show me whatever it is, I have the idea.

"...to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

I do, in fact, think that it is the "Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" that is the core value that should be upheld. The promotion of progress follows from honouring that right.

I think you have it exactly backwards. The core value is "to promote the Progress", and "securing...the exclusive Right" is nothing more than a means to that end. And that's how it's phrased: "to promote... by securing". The purpose is promoting progress; the means is temporary monopoly rights.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212256)

Once you show me your idea (or the embodiment of it), there is no way you can keep me from also having the idea. As soon as you show me whatever it is, I have the idea.

Hence the need for a law to control usage.

Re:Should Patents be done away with? (1)

nasch (598556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30217120)

Hence the need for a law to control usage.

Actually the need for such a law would be evidence that it promotes the progress of science and useful arts. If patent law does not do that, then it has no Constitutional justification (again restricting my comments to the US).

eye pee (1)

czarangelus (805501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202512)

Copyright and patents are both impediments to technological and cultural progress enforced by the barrel of the government gun. Both of these serve to create a government-enforced monopoly.Against intellectual property [libertariannation.org]

Re:eye pee (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202632)

Ironically, without copyrights, we'd probably have a government enforced monopoly anyways, because they could recoup publication costs through taxes, where other book publishers must rely entirely on the actual sales of the books. Since without copyright, nothing would stop a competitor from cutting off their source of income by giving a work away for free, existing incentives for publishers would disappear without copyright. All that would then be left is our government.

Oh sure, there's the internet where everybody can self-publish, but most people still prefer to read physical books rather than computer screens.

Re:eye pee (1)

czarangelus (805501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202882)

This is just publisher's propaganda. Publishers would always be able to be successful even without copyright - people want a physical book, they want a signed physical book, they want a physical book on high quality paper, they want a physical book with hard covers and rich colored imagery - they'd just have to, you know, innovate to stay ahead.

Re:eye pee (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203868)

What about digital goods? Is there any incentive to create, say, the next Photoshop if everyone can immediately copy it to their heart's content? Movies? Those are damn expensive to make, even low-budget ones (10.000 bucks is a plausible figure if you want to make a trash movie).

Copyright isn't inherently evil it's just been stretched out to a point where it's harmful. Reduce copyright to a few years (let's say 15), non-extendable, and you keep a clear incentive to create while cuting out the "Disney owns popular culture forever" nonsense.

Re:eye pee (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234050)

Sure there'll be a demand for books, but book publishers aren't about to publish material that they can't have any assurance of *AT LEAST* recovering their operating costs on, and if somebody else starts distributing what they publish without compensating them (perhaps because the competitor has alternative revenue sources other than publishing that enable them to distribute the material at a lower cost or possibly even to simply deliberately undermine the publisher's revenue stream), then they aren't going to have very much incentive to print works at all. Governments, at least, are in a position to recover such losses through additional taxation, so they would likely be an effective monopoly in the realm of book publication in a society without copyright.

Prior art (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202648)

obtaining delivery information for a gift from one or more information sources other than the gift giver and recipient

OK, I'll bite on this one. If anyone is a frequent shopper at a store whereby the salesclerk knows you quite well, and you walk into a store and the clerk makes a suggestion based solely on the feedback you give them "I need a gift for a 3yr old boy", then they are using sources of information (the clerk's knowledge of gifts appropriate for a 3yr old boy, and not your knowledge) that is a source "other than the gift giver and recipient".

Now I highly doubt the patent means "sole sources of information other than gift giver or recipient." Otherwise, that would be a random guess. How would any system know upon you entering the store what would be appropriate for the recipient without knowing atleast some information about said recipient. I believe that would be a random guess. Just because I bought a table saw on my last visit to Amazon does not mean that power tools are what I'm looking for in a gift for my 3yr old nephew.

Don't supermarkets already do this? They look at what I just bought and make a recommendation for some related product, by printing out a coupon at the cash register.

Re:Prior art (2, Insightful)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202738)

That's not prior art at all. The patent is about "obtaining delivery information," not gift ideas or suggestions. A better example would be walking into a store and saying "I'd like to send this widget to my friend Bob who lives on Main Street," the clerk looking up Bob in the phone book and confirming that you meant Bob Smith who lives at 123 Main St, Apt 1, Anytown, Somestate, 12345.

The patent is just about filling in the blanks in the delivery information in case you don't happen to know the gift recipient's ZIP code, apartment number, etc. It's actually an extremely narrow patent, and I've never seen another retailer offer the service. That doesn't mean it's novel and nonobvious, of course, but it passes the laugh test, in my opinion.

Re:Prior art (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203818)

Fine.

I've been sending flowers to my mother for years using the exact same florist. That florist happens to know who my mother is and where we live. So when I call around mothers day and tell them my name, the florist already knows where to send them to. Without me having to tell her where my mother lives.

Re:Prior art (1)

nasch (598556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30208346)

If you never told them where your mother lives, that works. But I think in your example you, at some point, gave them your mother's address.

Re:Prior art (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 4 years ago | (#30208462)

It's actually an extremely narrow patent, and I've never seen another retailer offer the service.

But the original patent examiner who rejected the application had. See Houston and Hill, referenced in the rejection letter.

Re:Prior art (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203446)

obtaining delivery information for a gift from one or more information sources other than the gift giver and recipient

OK, I'll bite on this one. If anyone is a frequent shopper at a store whereby the salesclerk knows you quite well, and you walk into a store and the clerk makes a suggestion based solely on the feedback you give them "I need a gift for a 3yr old boy", then they are using sources of information (the clerk's knowledge of gifts appropriate for a 3yr old boy, and not your knowledge) that is a source "other than the gift giver and recipient".

That's a gift suggestion, not "delivery information". Delivery information would be that you tell the clerk that you need a gift for a 3 year old boy, and the clerk tells you where a 3 year old boy lives. Which is just suspicious.

Amazon has, effectively, patented Santa Claus... (1)

rootrot (103518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202730)

Appears they've patented a delivery system where the source is other than giver or receiver...I wonder if Santa will have to pay per delivery or if he can negotiate a single license for all annual activity...

Re:Amazon has, effectively, patented Santa Claus.. (2, Informative)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202936)

I don't know what you mean by "the source is other than giver or receiver"; but since you're comparing it to Santa Clause, I assume you mean the origin of the delivery. Since that is how every catalog or online shopping service works - the source is a warehouse somewhere - there would be a tidal wave of prior art, if that were what the patent covers. But it isn't.

I wonder what this patent is for? (2, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202774)

The real problem here is I have no idea what is being patented. Since /. patent-related headlines and summaries are always false and misleading, this posting just makes me wonder what Amazon has actually patented. It would be interesting to know, but since neither the headline nor the summary of the article contains any factual information about the patent that could be used to form a rational judgement about the novelty of the subject matter there's really no point in discussing it.

Since it's Amazon--assuming the summary has the assignee correct--the patent probably has something to do with online sales, but I wonder what? I just wish there was some way of figuring that out without digging down into the USPTO site myself, which I can't be bothered to do because all it will tell me is that a patent has been granted on something that might actually be kind of innovative. At least, that's what's always happened in the past when I've bothered to contribute to the /. community by trying to inform people about how the (badly flawed) American patent system actually works.

If we knew what had been patented, people might be able to present prior art, but since we know nothing about what has been patented there really isn't any point in talking about it, is there?

Re:I wonder what this patent is for? (3, Informative)

billrp (1530055) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203900)

Here's what they seem to have patented: If you (the gift purchaser) don't know the complete mailing address for a gift recipient, then amazon will use the information that you provide (eg, name and city, or maybe just email address), and the amazon servers will find the complete address for you, using their own databases or public database sites.

Amazon Violates Wedding Gift Register Patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30205100)

Wow! Way to sheepdip the OP, all contributors and whole discussion in general.

Has anyone here heard of a WEDDING GIFT REGISTER?

1. Go to a shop
2. Say you're buying something for Joe and Hilda's wedding
3. Pimply workers shows you J&H's wish list
4. You buy something
5. The store has it delivered to their wedding.

Queue slippery law type to criticise "flawed example"........

Patent depression (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30202806)

Nothing quite like patents is capable of making me so angry that I want to break my computer. I only hope that a reasonable minded government realizes the ridiculous nature of the current patent situation.. business method patents, software patents et. al. are getting so incredibly out of control and illogical that they no longer serve their original purpose. These things simply do not deserve a patent, and any patent office that keeps releasing patents for these types of activities is not only discrediting the institution but introducing increased complexity and inefficiencies into the business system.

I don't blame companies for doing what they're doing because any self serving company would and should do this. They're in a situation where if they don't make the patent, some patent troll will and they will end up having to either fight a legal battle or pay a royalty. My only hope is that respectable companies like Amazon, IBM and others that happen to have a large patent presence realize the inefficiency that these patents are introducing and decide to not enforce any of these "patents".

Sometimes I wonder... (1)

isd.bz (1260658) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202816)

Sometimes I wonder (or perhaps hope is a better word) if these corporations are buying up all of these absurd patents just to show how unfathomably absurd software patents are.

Secondly, I am pretty sure many websites and forums have been doing "Secret Santa" [wikipedia.org] for at least a decade now. That always involves collecting information from more than just the "seller" and the "buyer" in order to complete an online transaction.

Link to Amended ABSTRACT is Wrong (4, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203154)

But Amazon's attorneys have worked their legal wordsmithing magic (PDF), convincing the USPTO that 'obtaining delivery information for a gift from one or more information sources other than the gift giver and recipient' is indeed novel and patentable.

The PDF linked by the submitter is the amended Abstract. What legal weight does the Abstract have? NONE.

In fact, the single-page PDF with the amended abstract was to fix the Examiner's object that the abstract was 191 words long. That "wordsmithing magic" is just trimming the length down. It has nothing to do with the Bilski arguments.

At the time, a USPTO Examiner cited Bilski, explaining that elements of CEO Jeff Bezos' gift-delivery invention 'may be performed largely within the human mind,' coming to essentially the same conclusion a NY Post reporter arrived at in 2002. But Amazon's attorneys have worked their legal wordsmithing magic (PDF), convincing the USPTO that 'obtaining delivery information for a gift from one or more information sources other than the gift giver and recipient' is indeed novel and patentable.

And this is two different arguments: inventions that are "performed largely within the human mind" are unpatentable under Bilski, even if they're completely new and non-obvious. In other words, if I invent a brand new type of mathematics that is completely unknown to the world, it's unpatentable because it's just done in your mind. It's not that it's not "novel".

So, essentially, the submitter has tried to claim that the attorney's fixing the length of the abstract, which bears no legal weight whatsoever and is merely for use in searching patent databases, somehow solves any question of patentability and novelty. And that's just wrong, and stupid.

Now, what did Amazon really say regarding the Bilski rejection? They amended the claims to include a server computer, which means they're tied to a specific machine, under the Bilski test. You can't do the method in your head unless you've got a web server installed in there.
Incidentally, as I explained above, this has nothing to do with whether something is novel or not obvious - this is just about "can you do it in your head"? Novelty is an entirely different question, and one that Amazon got around with further amendments to narrow the claims and additional arguments.

Also, this is the law as it currently stands. The Supreme Court will likely clarify the Bilski test in a few months, but currently, that's the test. So don't bitch at me about how a server is a generic computing device or how any computer method is still really just a mathematical algorithm. I'm just pointing out that the submitter's "they changed the abstract and that somehow convinced the USPTO that it's novel!" is completely, entirely, absolutely WRONG.

Re:Link to Amended ABSTRACT is Wrong (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203968)

Thank you for explaining that. Saves me the trouble!

It never ceases to amaze me, with the number of times that Slashdot has incorrectly and/or misleadingly reported on patent issues, and people who know better have complained about it in the comments, that we still see Slashdot articles quoting the abstract and generally misreading a patent application to arrive at apparently righteous indignation with the process. In this case, the OP used a lot of fancy language to appear like they did their homework, but in the end, they didn't really read the claims. They provided easier links for various parts of the patent prosecution, including an Office action, but what about a link to the issued claims?

Ah, well, I guess it just wouldn't be Slashdot otherwise.

Re:Link to Amended ABSTRACT is Wrong (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204964)

The PDF linked by the submitter is the amended Abstract. What legal weight does the Abstract have? NONE.

So, essentially, the submitter has tried to claim that the attorney's fixing the length of the abstract, which bears no legal weight whatsoever and is merely for use in searching patent databases, somehow solves any question of patentability and novelty. And that's just wrong, and stupid.

Why shouldn't the USPTO judge patent applications based upon the abstract as well as the claims? Since the abstract is used for the purpose of performing preliminary searches of patents, poorly worded abstracts, or those that don't properly summarize the patent claims should be a basis for denial. Polluting the patent database with misleading data is one thing that the examiners should be taking into account.

Re:Link to Amended ABSTRACT is Wrong (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204990)

Why shouldn't the USPTO judge patent applications based upon the abstract as well as the claims?

They do - hence why the USPTO objected to the abstract and made Amazon amend it before they can get a patent.

Since the abstract is used for the purpose of performing preliminary searches of patents, poorly worded abstracts, or those that don't properly summarize the patent claims should be a basis for denial.

They are. But the abstract, like the abstract of a scholarly article, is not the claims - it's a brief description of the subject matter, 150 words maximum.

Polluting the patent database with misleading data is one thing that the examiners should be taking into account.

And they do. If Amazon's abstract was "systems and methods for doing your mom", they'd be rejected and hit with sanctions.

Removed my business from Amazon (1)

hughbar (579555) | more than 4 years ago | (#30203406)

At the last patent, I just removed my account, a hard and confusing process that they will no doubt patent: 'process for trying to prevent a cognitively deranged customer from leaving the Amazon paradise of books'.

I think this is the only thing that they will understand, loss of business with linkage. However, non-techy society needs a clear education about how damaging this is to the whole human endeavour, a few people like me dumping their accounts isn't going to do it. So, spread the word...

In related news ... (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204866)

...Amazon serves North Pole with cease and desist order.

Santa Claus counters with: Method for gift allocation by means of naughty/nice behavioral data mining.

Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30205040)

I want to claim prior art. In BI (Before Internet) times I called my mother to get my grandmothers address so that I could send her a gift from the grandkids. I paid for the gift over the phone using a CC# from my sister. I think Amazon owes me a ton of licencing money for all the stuff it sent out using my process.

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