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USPTO Lets Amazon Patent the "Social Networking System"

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the all-your-farmville-are-belong-to-us dept.

Patents 265

theodp writes "After shelling out a reported $90 million to buy PlanetAll in 1998, Amazon shuttered the site in 2000, explaining that 'it seemed really superfluous to have it running beside Friends and Favorites.' But years later in a 2008 patent filing, Amazon described the acquired PlanetAll technology to the USPTO in very Facebook-like terms. And on Tuesday, the USPTO issued US Patent No. 7,739,139 to Amazon for its invention, the Social Networking System, which Amazon describes thusly: 'A networked computer system provides various services for assisting users in locating, and establishing contact relationships with, other users. For example, in one embodiment, users can identify other users based on their affiliations with particular schools or other organizations. The system also provides a mechanism for a user to selectively establish contact relationships or connections with other users, and to grant permissions for such other users to view personal information of the user. The system may also include features for enabling users to identify contacts of their respective contacts. In addition, the system may automatically notify users of personal information updates made by their respective contacts.' So, should Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg worry about Amazon opening a can of patent whup-ass?"

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265 comments

Like (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32596710)

Anonymous Coward likes this

Me too (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32597052)

I like it too. I also like to pee in kdawson's and CmdrTaco's asses.

Re:Me too (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32597286)

haha, you too?! I like to piss in Rob Malda's asshole and then Kevin Dawson drinks it with a straw.

Not only that- (1)

w00tsauce (1482311) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596714)

He's gonna do all that and a bag of chips!

Re:Not only that- (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32596748)

He's going to do a bag of chips? With all those friends you'd think he'd be able to find at least one girl to do.

Just posted this on my wall (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32596724)

So sue me

Patent Trolling (4, Funny)

TheGeniusIsOut (1282110) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596736)

1) Buy company that "invents" un-patented technology everyone is using.
2) Patent said technology yourself, because the USPTO can't be bothered to actually think about what they are doing.
3) Wait for the other users of "your" technology to make a substantial amount of money.
4) Profit!

Re:Patent Trolling (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596796)

It looks like the buyout by Amazon does predate Friendster and MySpace... though to be honest, there's no way in hell this should pass any "obvious" test.

Re:Patent Trolling (5, Informative)

TheGeniusIsOut (1282110) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596890)

It looks like the buyout by Amazon does predate Friendster and MySpace... though to be honest, there's no way in hell this should pass any "obvious" test.

That may well be true, but, the website based social networking sites are far from the first to utilize this "technology"

'A networked computer system provides various services for assisting users in locating, and establishing contact relationships with, other users. For example, in one embodiment, users can identify other users based on their affiliations with particular schools or other organizations. The system also provides a mechanism for a user to selectively establish contact relationships or connections with other users, and to grant permissions for such other users to view personal information of the user. The system may also include features for enabling users to identify contacts of their respective contacts. In addition, the system may automatically notify users of personal information updates made by their respective contacts.'

This has a very strong similarity to "elite" status granted to users of old school dial up BBSs for uploading or otherwise providing coveted data or services. Such similar systems were even loosely in place within AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy, and other dial-up ISPs long before 1998. Even forum profiles could conceivably fall into this category.

It's all BS. (3, Informative)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597040)

First, it's obvious that there was prior art for the patent as described, when it was filed in 2008.

Second, even if Planetall used a unique and patentable invention in 1998, it cannot be patented with an application filed in 2008. Here's a descriptive quote from the MIT Technology Licensing Office:

The U.S. patent law system is among the most lenient in the world with regards to prior disclosure of your invention. It allows you to publish your invention or offer it for sale prior to filing a patent application, provided that you file your patent application within one year of the publication or offer for sale. If you wait longer than one year, your patent rights are forfeited. The one-year period is a "grace period." - MIT-TLO [mit.edu]

Re:It's all BS. (5, Funny)

Random BedHead Ed (602081) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597336)

That's all very good, Mr. Patent-Law-Reader, but why should we expect a reviewer at the USPTO to be aware of that rule? They don't have time to read legalese: they have patents to grant. Including mine, for a method of storing and nesting hypertext comments in a networked news system. Now get off their backs!

Re:It's all BS. (4, Funny)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597398)

Kindly cease and desist using a method of concatenating letters to form words. It is patent-pending.

prior art (3, Interesting)

sugarmatic (232216) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596752)

My company in the mid 90's had an online resume system for internal postings that allowed people to post resumes anonymously, and hiring managers could share postings and information selectively based on whatever criteria they wanted, effectively filtering job seekers.

This is prior art.

How about sixdegrees.com (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32597174)

Well lets see... there was sixdegrees.com [wikipedia.org] in 1997. AOL... Usenet... prodigy... FidoNET...

Re:prior art (0, Redundant)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597360)

My company in the late 80's had an online resume system that allowed people to post resumes anonymously, and hiring managers could be notified when their selection criteria was met by someone's posting.

We ran it on the cutting edge PC hardware of the era... It ran on a 10 MHz 80286 ELONEX PC, 640K RAM with a 20MB hard disk, 8 RS232 ports, connected to some 2400 baud modems.

Somewhere, I have kept the three 5 1/4" floppy disks which contain all the source code to the system.

Alas, it didn't take off because our customer base balked at the price of buying a modem.

General SNS Definition (1)

Rotworm (649729) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596758)

There must be examples of prior art of SNS. Wouldn't ICQ fall under the terms of that description? SMS?

Re:General SNS Definition (4, Interesting)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596840)

Prior Art can be found going back as early as the 1970s:

***grabbed this from wikipedia**
The first public dial-up Bulletin Board System was developed by Ward Christensen. According to an early interview, while he was snowed in during the Great Blizzard of 1978 in Chicago, Christensen along with fellow hobbyist Randy Suess, began preliminary work on the Computerized Bulletin Board System, or CBBS. CBBS went online on February 16, 1978 in Chicago, Illinois. [2]
**

If he's talking about the Internet, though, that award goes to VMS Notes - (don't have exact date - early to mid 1980s), which functioned similar to a stripped-down version of Usenet, but in a live chat manner.

Re:General SNS Definition (5, Interesting)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597120)

(Sorry for the double-post, but perhaps this can help some smart lawyer to help get this inane patent revoked)

A more in-depth explanation of VMS Net and VMS is required:
- The original intent was to create a version of an early Internet by linking VMS machines/clusters together like a super BBS. Eventually that fell away to where by the mid 80s or so, standard Internet/TCP IP/etc protocols had taken over and were being used. What it meant was that any university or major corporation that allowed access could link their machines to others and create a "web" of sites. These universities and corporations/government sites were the major original backbone of the Internet, so by definition it "used the Internet".

- How this worked in practice when I was at college in 1991 and first saw it(it had been implemented a year or two earlier, IIRC) was that each user had a space where they could program and make their own home page/space to use. Almost everyone had ASCII BBS type front-ends, complete with links, menus, and personal areas. This was a few years before the first web browsers came out, but functionally identical.

- The VMS link/Notes system usually was organized by areas, so that it was common to see a smaller discussion area devoted to each person. (in addition to the normal BBS/board type chat areas. So this was where everyone talked about their life, and so on, a lot like Facebook. You usually linked to your account's main page so that others could see and go there as well. (It was less thread driven and more topic driven by nature) ie - Ed's Corner/Life with Sandy/and so on... The admin found it easier to keep personal stuff limited to each main person/give them their own thread.

- There also was a live chat option as well. I remember getting online, checking out people's "pages" and so on when I was in Northern California for people who were in San Diego. And then logging into their local chat area and talking to them. In 1991.

Nothing really like it existed until much later, though, and so it's highly likely that nobody at these newer companies realized that a nearly identical thing to Facebook/etc existed that long ago on the Internet.(and of course BBS systems, but those technically didn't use the "Internet" until much later.(still early 90s - way before this patent's time-frame.)

It's not just a bad patent system (4, Insightful)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596770)

it appears that the declining quality of education in this country is reaching all the way to the patent registrars themselves. What a fine example of stupidity and.. dare I say.. incredible ignorance we have here. Honestly, who the hell hasn't heard of Facebook? Where do they find these people?

Re:It's not just a bad patent system (4, Insightful)

skine (1524819) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596868)

If Facebook came afterward, then Facebook is not prior art.

More importantly, the USPTO seems to allow patents on whatever hasn't been patented before, regardless of whether it should be patented.

Honestly, I don't think this is the failure of the registrars, but a serious defect in the system that such a simple idea as social networking is patentable.

Re:It's not just a bad patent system (0)

rollingcalf (605357) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596926)

"If Facebook came afterward, then Facebook is not prior art."

The patent was Filed in 2008. Facebook was up and running years before that.

Re:It's not just a bad patent system (3, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596962)

If Facebook came afterward, then Facebook is not prior art.

The patent was filed in 2008. It literally looks like something that might have been written in 2000 and sat around in the bottom of a desk drawer for years before someone found it and mailed it in. Hell, it cites Palm Pilot, Lotus Notes, and the Internet White Pages as prior art, and nothing since!

Re:It's not just a bad patent system (1)

trentblase (717954) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596936)

It appears that the declining quality of education in this country also failed to teach you that patents aren't registered

It also appears that you have failed to learn that 2004 (the year facebook was launched) > 1998 (the date of the application to which this application claims priority)

Re:It's not just a bad patent system (2, Informative)

tkohler (806572) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597072)

It appears that you have failed law school or at least the part of the patent bar that recognizes that the first effective filing date of this patent is 2 Nov 1997. "RELATED APPLICATIONS This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/022,089, filed Dec. 22, 2004, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,386,464 which is a division of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/780,486, filed Feb. 17, 2004, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,194,419 which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/348,355, filed Jul. 7, 1999 (now U.S. Pat. No. 6,714,916), which is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 08/962,997, filed Nov. 2, 1997 (now U.S. Pat. No. 6,269,369). "

Re:It's not just a bad patent system (1)

trentblase (717954) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597164)

More like I failed my typing test and fat-fingered a 7 into an 8. However, as 1997 is even earlier than 1998, the typo does not change the analysis.

Re:It's not just a bad patent system (1)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597098)

It appears that the declining quality of education in this country has failed to teach you the concept of synonyms. This patent application was filed in 2008, that it took 10 years to be filed with ample demonstration that the technology in question is highly successful and lucrative should be grounds for rejection per se.

Re:It's not just a bad patent system (1)

trentblase (717954) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597210)

If your talk about synonyms is implying that registration is that same as examination, then you are simply wrong. In the context of intellectual property, examination includes substantive review while registration does not. Even in plain English, I find it dubious that registration is a synonym for examination.

You are entitled to your own views of whether extended prosecution should be grounds for rejection, but as the law stands, it is not.

Re:It's not just a bad patent system (1)

lalena (1221394) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597080)

This Amazon patent cited other Amazon patents going back to 1997 (filing date) - approved 2001: 6175831 [uspto.gov]
Abstract: A networking database containing a plurality of records for different individuals in which individuals are connected to one another in the database by defined relationships. Each individual has the opportunity to define the relationship which may be confirmed or denied. E-mail messaging and interactive communication between individuals and a database service provider provide a method of constructing the database. The method includes having a registered individual identify further individuals and define therewith a relationship. The further individuals then, in turn, establish their own defined relationships with still other individuals. The defined relationships are mutually defined.
I also found this patent reference very odd: 5263160 [uspto.gov]
Abstract: Augmented doubly-linked list search and management method for a system having data stored in a list of data elements in memory

Re:It's not just a bad patent system (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32597130)

You've obviously never filed a patent. All of the patent examiners I've ever dealt with are immigrants - i.e. not educated (entirely) in this country.

Fucking lame! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32596772)

Constructive, eh?(c)(p)

Can someone please put an end to this constant stream of approval diarrhea pouring out of the USPTO?

Love it! (4, Funny)

portrman (1660077) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596782)

I love this, I hope Amazon tries to sue every Social Networking like site out there! Then we can watch it crash and burn. Most likely, they'll just hold on to it and claim it's value. Possible go after small dogs to gain a few pennies. But I'd love to see them try to hit up Microsoft/Google/MySpace/Facebook and probably several dozen other sites.

If Zuck isn't worried, he should be. (1)

keirre23hu (638913) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596786)

Bezos has shown he will apply the patents whenever he thinks it benefits Amazon, having a taste of FB's profits would definitely benefit Amazon in a very big way. There really needs to be something done about the way that patents are being awarded for things that it seems obviously are outside the scope of the patent examiners. If the problem isn't the examiners, then the process definitely needs to be looked at. For all of the skepticism I've heard about some of the referred journals and conferences in computer science and related fields, it seems more difficult to publish there than to get a patent. That's not saying too much having read some pretty badly written published research. At least tech patents could expire on a pretty quick timeline if they are going to allow people to patent everything under the sun from ideas to genetic sequences. I'd love to hear the examiner(s) for this patent speak their case.

Filed in 2008? Are they serious? (0)

rollingcalf (605357) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596788)

The damn patent reads like a high level specification of Facebook, and Facebook already had tens of millions of users in 2008. This is new heights of idiocy at the USPTO.

Re:Filed in 2008? Are they serious? (2, Informative)

trentblase (717954) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596950)

This is a continuing application claiming priority to an application originally filed in 1997.

Re:Filed in 2008? Are they serious? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32597026)

Couple things:

- The date to beat is Nov. 2, 1997, not the 2008 filing date. That is, art after Nov. 2, 1997 is not prior art.
From the patent: This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/022,089, filed Dec. 22, 2004, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,386,464 which is a division of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/780,486, filed Feb. 17, 2004, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,194,419 which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/348,355, filed Jul. 7, 1999 (now U.S. Pat. No. 6,714,916), which is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 08/962,997, filed Nov. 2, 1997 (now U.S. Pat. No. 6,269,369).

- The abstract of the patent, quoted above, is not the critical part. The claims are what determine infringement. Here, the claims are pretty broad and do seem to cover facebook.

-- Patent Attorney

Prior art? (1)

nebaz (453974) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596810)

I worked for a start-up in the .com boom whose selling point was "self updating address book". It consisted of a web app PIM suite (email, calendar, chat, address book, etc) where each field displayed was available for access to "friends" etc. This was 1999. The original patent filing date looks like 1997 though, so is that prior art, and if not, why is a patent whose filing date was 1997 finally granted now?

Re:Prior art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32596912)

at least it is only valid until 2017

Re:Prior art? (2, Funny)

yuhong (1378501) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597176)

The original patent filing date looks like 1997 though, so is that prior art

No, I don't think so.

Unbelievable (2, Interesting)

bteed (1832400) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596832)

I don't even completely fault Amazon for this, the system is so broken that a company needs its own patent arsenal to defend itself from trolls. This one is really egregious, though.

The end does not equal the means (2, Insightful)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596846)

The part of the patent posted in the article looks like the end. That's like patenting a Bicycle by saying it's a device with two wheels and some pedels which you can power to transport you places. Obviously that kind of patent would make not sense and there can be an infinite amount of bicycle designs which acheive the same goal but don't copy each other or rip each other off. In this case I highly doubt that Facebook actually took any code or even any major functionality from PlanetAll. I mean that's giving Facebook way too much credit. Basically Facebook was a dead technology until they went and merged a hack of Twitter's timeline in with their social networking system. Until they did that they didn't stand out from the pack at all.

Re:The end does not equal the means (4, Interesting)

Microlith (54737) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596884)

Filing extensions. It's how more than a few patent trolls managed to set their patents up, by continually filing extensions and amending them to better line up with where technology was going already then dropping them like bombs on anyone that came along.

Re:The end does not equal the means (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32596924)

This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/022,089, filed Dec. 22, 2004, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,386,464 which is a division of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/780,486, filed Feb. 17, 2004, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,194,419 which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/348,355, filed Jul. 7, 1999 (now U.S. Pat. No. 6,714,916), which is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 08/962,997, filed Nov. 2, 1997 (now U.S. Pat. No. 6,269,369).

Sing with me! o/~ We all live in a patent submarine, a patent submarine...

The USPTO Itself Has a Facebook Page. Bizarre! (4, Interesting)

Ron Bennett (14590) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596854)

Even the USPTO has its own Facebook page. Bizarre!

http://www.facebook.com/uspto.gov [facebook.com]

Why does the USPTO need that when their own website is sufficient for posting information...

Or is social networking how the USPTO decides applications now ... get enough "Likes" and you're approved ;)

Ron

While I don't (3, Insightful)

al0ha (1262684) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596858)

agree with most patents like these, as long as it was awarded I personally would not at all mind seeing some cash rich entity open a can of whup-ass on Zuckerberg, at the very least it would be some form of karmic payback for stealing ( as is alleged) the Facebook idea from the students who hired him to help them. Cheating is one way to win at business, but not at life and I will never applaud a cheat, regardless of apparent success.

The main function of the (1)

EEPROMS (889169) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596870)

internet is social networking in reality (the transfer of information between individuals and groups), so basically Amazon have been given a patent for the internet, wtf crack monkey at USTPO let this one pass.

Re:The main function of the (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32597096)

STFU you dumb ass cunt.

Go blow a goat.

Late to the party (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32596872)

Isn't 2008 a little late for Amazon to be trying to crash this patent party?

Invalid (2, Informative)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596876)

The time limit for patenting after public sale or disclosure is one year. A judge would declare the patent invalid and throw this case out in five minutes. Minimal attorney fees will be involved.

IANAL, but I have seen a similar case thrown out where the patent was filed one year and three days after first sale.

Re:Invalid (1)

yuhong (1378501) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597118)

Well, seems that PlanetAll was launched November 16, 1996 according to this [navy.mil] , while the original patent application dates back to November 2, 1997.

Re:Invalid (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597226)

Well, seems that PlanetAll was launched November 16, 1996 according to this, while the original patent application dates back to November 2, 1997.

Thank you for that information. I thought maybe the companies might have submarined it, but I thought -- 13 years, no impossible. So I didn't look it up or RTFA before I posted. My mistake.

Various Services? (1)

hondo77 (324058) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596886)

...system provides various services...For example...

Various services? What am I doing sitting at work like a sucker? I should filling out a patent application for...oh, I don't know...teleportation! Everybody wants teleportation, right?

The system provides various services to transport an object from point A to point B. For example, it could do it instantaneously and invisibly.

Since everybody wants teleportation I just sit back and collect those licensing checks. Am I forgetting anything?

Facebook and twitter share buttons (1)

drexlor (1314419) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596892)

To quote my friend who works for Amazon, "The "share on" facebook and twitter buttons below the summary should be replaced by the amazon smile ;)"

Niggers are worthless (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32596900)

Fucking Giggaboos.

Priceless! (1)

dragisha (788) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596930)

I think we can just hail Amazon for bringing patent troll to new heights! They bought company, scrapped it... and came to senses 8 yrs later only so they can do a patent troll!

If that does does not make whole software patent mess obvious enough, I am sure some new Amazon will make even better exercise of it soon enough. We'll sit and wait while they troll each other and whole software patent system to ruin.

Criteria for patent infringment (1)

ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596946)

I read the claims, and noticed that 2 specifies 'friend requests' are sent via email. I only mention claim 2, because while everything else is unavoidably broad, and vaguely worded, I am fairly certain that Facebook specifically does not do this. Does this help to exonerate them?

More generally, since I care not a whit for facebook, how many claims must one infringe on to be held to task? All of them? 50%? 1? Or is it ultimately, and entirely, up to a judge/jury to decide if you acted in good faith in the event that you get sued (similar to Fair Use)?

Re:Criteria for patent infringment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32597016)

Facebook forwards friend requests via email.

Re:Criteria for patent infringment (1)

ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597124)

I see. Does Amazon sell tiny violins? It would be equally useful to serenade either Bezos or Zuckerburg when this is through.

Re:Criteria for patent infringment (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597086)

I lack a Facebook account, but YouTube friend requests are forwarded through e-mail.

Meet all the elements of one claim and you infringe.

Re:Criteria for patent infringment (1)

ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597266)

Meet all the elements of one claim and you infringe.

Is there leeway for the judge to decide that while you may infringe, the claims you infringe upon are ridiculously broad? Is there a possibility for justifiable infringment; or is it completely black and white: You infringed, you pay the fine.

Re:Criteria for patent infringment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32597170)

I haven't read this patent but usually they are worded such that the claims are separate. Eg, there is this system for associating contacts thats patented. Such systems that e-mail friend requests are covered, but so are systems that don't

Re:Criteria for patent infringment (3, Informative)

rilister (316428) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597344)

Thanks for asking! Most people just go ahead and comment...

You are in violation of a patent if you violate any single claim - but!

Typically, you can describe claims as "independent" or "dependent" - in this case Claims 1 and 13 are the independent claims: they don't refer to any other claims.

These are the most important claims. To work out if you're in violation of a patent, read these first. If you aren't covered by either of these, then you aren't violating the patent.

The dependent claims (all the others) build on the independent claims by adding detail of some sort. You can't be in violation just by having the same detail in your implementation: you have to be violating this claim and the independent claim it refers to together.

By the way, most discussions on patents on Slashdot are usually the result of an accumulation of misinterpretations of the way patents work. It's really *only* the claims that matter, and when the other parts seem broad, it doesn't matter at all. Don't get riled up by the background text or the abstract - as people so often do. However, to my eyes, (IANAL) this patent actually is absurd, for once.

This is broken (4, Insightful)

karlssberg (1025898) | more than 3 years ago | (#32596948)

Software patents are clearly a huge mistake. The US should never have allowed them. They are costing business in the US a fortune and do nothing to protect the little guy inventor with the next idea that will change the world. They are simply a tax on innovation and must be stopped immediately.

Prior Art (2, Interesting)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597002)

A networked computer system provides various services for assisting users in locating, and establishing contact relationships with, other users.

How long has 411 been using a networked computer system?

Wouldn't... (1)

future assassin (639396) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597032)

having a geocities/or web page with links to your fiends pages which then contain links to other friends pages be the same thing? What about a webring?

Are you persuaded to let go of patents yet ? (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597044)

how many absurd examples and exploits will it take to make some of you realize that this thing, CAN NOT work ? 'logic' being patented in the climax ? if a=> b, and b=>c then a=>c being patented ? what ?

Software Patents Have Missed The Boat (5, Interesting)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597054)

I'm very pro-patents. I think they are necessary to spur new innovations in technology and, more importantly, share innovations with everyone as quickly as possible. Without patents, almost all manufacturing would be a trade secret, instead of the knowledge being spread world-wide as soon as a new invention arises. This, I think, is vital to our society.

However, the more I think about the nature of software the more I think software patents are unnecessary, even for the true innovations out there, and therefore actually harmful to progress. With traditional patents, what you get is a machine design, which by necessity must give you the "secret" to the innovation. That secret can be small, so long as it's new and non-obvious it's still worth copying. But with the current state of software patents, even if you read the patent you must still either re-create the patented idea from scratch, using the patent as nothing more than a direction (with no "secret" revealed at all), or you must reverse engineer the product to discover the secret for yourself. That doesn't spread the knowledge of the innovation at all, and does nothing to add incentive to the creators of a new innovation. In fact, thanks to patent trolls, it actually inhibits innovation in a lot of cases.

In my opinion, software patents need to either start coming with pseudo-code or be dismissed out of hand. All this bullshit of just listing a bunch of claims without any actual code behind it that can be applied by a software engineer is worthless. If the patent doesn't need any code for a competent engineer to re-create the product, then it's obviously not novel and should have been dismissed in the first place. Given the speed with which the software industry moves and strength of the open source movement, I think there is also strong evidence to suggest they are entirely unnecessary to promote innovation (which is what they exist to do).

Flowcharts (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597102)

In my opinion, software patents need to either start coming with pseudo-code or be dismissed out of hand.

Read the "description" and you might find something like pseudocode. Certainly the diagrams in a software patent represent flowcharts.

hooray! (2, Interesting)

bugi (8479) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597062)

I for one applaud amazon's efforts at destroying the patent system by demonstrating the extent of its absurdity.

lolwut (1)

bender183 (447302) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597068)

What exactly does this mean for the social networking giants like facebook? Are they going to have to pay royalty fees to amazon now every time someone writes on ur wall? This is a really bizarre patent issuance.

Hmm (2, Insightful)

nightfire-unique (253895) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597092)

When a process runs amok and takes down the host OS, we don't blame the process. We blame the OS. The OS's job is to protect the host (and other processes) from errant processes.

While it's certainly unethical behavior, I don't think we should rush to blame Amazon for this and any of its future actions. It's like putting candy in front of a baby and getting upset when the baby reaches for it.

The patent system should be dismantled. It is obsolete.

Failing that, software patents should be unquestionably and finally ruled invalid.

Social Networking - What's that? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597126)

I'm 33, have seen the rise of the dial-up BBS, Internet boom of the 90s, and still work in the IT industry. I don't have a MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter account. The only social networking that comes even close is Slashdot and the occasional postings on in other forums. Even so, I'm still relatively anonymous with the exception of what I tell you, and my online handle.

Is it me, or am I the only one that could get a rats ass about these social networking sites. Some how, I feel like *I'm* the odd ball here with all the hype surrounding these sites.

Re:Social Networking - What's that? (1)

Joe U (443617) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597304)

You're not alone. I only have the accounts on Facebook and Twitter as placeholders. I think it's because I pretty much grew up with the BBS back in the 80's and the early web chat sites in the late 90's, I'm social-ed out.

buying != inventing (1)

Red_Chaos1 (95148) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597208)

Amazon bought another site and it's software. They didn't invent a fucking thing. IMO that should immediately make it impossible for them to have claimed to have invented anything. They may own it, but they didn't make it.

Just another example of our wonderfully and horribly broken patent system.

Slashdot violates this patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32597224)

You realize that the patent is broad enough to claim /. as an infringer.

Re:Slashdot violates this patent (2, Interesting)

dwarfsoft (461760) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597260)

Exactly what I was thinking. Friends and Foes infringes on this patent. Having said that, the fact that they only applied for a patent after these types of systems were already built should stop it from being enforceable right? Prior art?

Prior art back in 1971, if not earlier. (2, Interesting)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597284)

First there was the Who program that let you see who was logged on. Then Les Earnest wrote the Finger program which displayed their .plan file. This enabled them to share personal information like which high school they went to. Then you could send them E-mail or ttymsgs and talk about it. The Name/Finger protocol makes it work over the network. Social networking in a nutshell.

Assholes.

Re:Prior art back in 1971, if not earlier. (1)

Joe U (443617) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597340)

Finger is built into Windows 7, which is pretty impressive. Now I'm coming up with some very evil thoughts about underused services and getting around firewalls.

Yes they should worry (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597306)

And Facebook should really try to partner with Amazon or establish other agreements / arrangements to align the two company's interests.

The consequences for FB could be dire if Amazon decides to back a new social networking venture, and use their patent as leverage against the competition.... or...

Maybe since the social networking sites Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google buzz, Google Wave, Myspace, Orkut, Yahoo profiles, Frienster, eHarmony, delicious, ...., seem to be so popular these days, maybe there is money to be made, if not in pursuing lucrative *cough* extortio^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H licensing arrangements with these social networking websites, ..

Then by renting out the patent, or outsourcing 'Intellectual property rights monetization' to another company, preferably one located in the district of East Texas.

The final straw.... (1)

Rhadamanthos (1835206) | more than 3 years ago | (#32597314)

I can only wish and pray so much: but let us all hope that this is the last straw that broke the copyright' back. If you’re interested in knowing more I would suggest Shamans, Software and Spleens, Law and the Construction of the Information Society by James Boyle. Granted it's more of an educational book/ref book for college students. But it does shed light on much that is controversial in this topic.

Delete the Patent System (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32597352)

One more beautiful example of why the patent system should be disbanded. Amazon is positively evil about this sort of thing.

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