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Google Patents Telling Time

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the ok-ok-I'm-with-theo-on-this-one dept.

Google 267

theodp writes "Will Google's battle against Microsoft and Apple over their use of 'bogus' patents result in greater scrutiny of its own IP holdings? Take Google's new patent on 'Electronic Shipping Notifications' (please!), which might pique the interest of Amazon.com, UPS, the USPS and others in the shipping business, since providing customers with guesstimates of what time The King of Queens will show up at their door with Christmas presents could now constitute patent infringement. From the patent: 'The broker sends an electronic message, such as an email or text message, to the customer prior to the estimated shipment arrival time to inform the customer of the impending arrival. The customer can thus arrange for someone to be at the shipping address to receive the shipment at the estimated arrival time.' To help the USPTO understand its invention, Google supplied this diagram."

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EAT MY SHORTS SLASHDOT !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37060652)

eat my shorts slashdot !!

Nothing to see here (5, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060656)

Chill. It's Google doing this, so it must be okay.

These are not the absurdly obvious patents you are looking for.

Re:Nothing to see here (0, Flamebait)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060746)

geeks have turned their backs on google over the last few years.

at this point, only hardcore fanboys are still defending google and its ad-men.

the rest of us really have given up on them. you can't use google-based sites anymore unless you have serious j-script and ad blockers. 'do no evil' stopped about 5 years ago.

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

Pulzar (81031) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060840)

you can't use google-based sites anymore unless you have serious j-script and ad blockers. 'do no evil' stopped about 5 years ago.

What evil does google.com do if you don't have javascript and ad blockers? I'd love to know whether it's just becoming popular to say things like that now, or if they are really doing something evil?

Re:Nothing to see here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37060902)

What evil does google.com do...?

Google plus. Jumping on the social networking bandwagon, and especially requiring users' real names and information, is a sure sign that Google has jumped the shark.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

drjones78 (961270) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061162)

Google plus is evil?! Ok.....

Last time I checked, google doesn't check your id when you sign up for gmail, google plus, or any other of their free services. You can use any names you want.

FUD

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061330)

And using google.com requires you to have a Google+ account now?

Re:Nothing to see here (-1, Flamebait)

bonch (38532) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061022)

It's the closed-source gatekeeper of the internet, and Google places its services above others on the search results page regardless of their actual algorithmic placement.

Re:Nothing to see here (4, Insightful)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061340)

You mean at the top of the fucking page? Where the toolbar would be?

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

earls (1367951) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060934)

Woot! I have finally graduated to hardcore fanboy! Spew some more generalizations please!

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061498)

Yes, we replaced Google with Bing because MS is so perfect now and those millions of dollars of support Google gives to opensource is just plain evil.

drama much?

Re:Nothing to see here (3, Interesting)

AJH16 (940784) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060798)

Personally I wonder if they are intentionally patenting the absurd simply to point out how broken the system is. I know some people don't like ads, but at the end of the day, ads displayed on websites by the choice of those websites as a means of generating revenue is not evil. Trying to make the ads more targeted so as to be meaningful to the user is not evil. It is actually really kind of good. The deal is they take what I want to do anyway and use it to be able to get marketers that I might want to actually hear from to pay for what I want to use and show me other things I may want to use. That is not a bad deal for me, it is in fact far better than the classical model of throwing any old thing in front of me regardless of whether it could have anything to do with my interests and wasting my time while giving me almost nothing for it.

Yep (2)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060898)

This is Google poking fun at the patent office. They probably have hundreds of these in the pipeline, all with the same purpose: find out "How stupid a patent can you get?"

Re:Yep (-1, Troll)

bonch (38532) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061084)

Google patents something absurd: "They're just poking fun at the patent office. Hell, I bet they have hundreds of these just to see how stupid they can get with them. Go Google!"

Anyone else patents something absurd: "This is an abomination. It's proof that the patent system is completely broken! Viva la revolución!"

Re:Yep (0)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061256)

Patent troll patents something absurd, then starts suing everyone under the sun: "This is an abomination. It's proof that the patent system is completely broken! Viva la revolución!"

There, FTFY. You got your /. meme wrong.

Re:Yep (1)

zget (2395308) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061258)

This is Google poking fun at the patent office. They probably have hundreds of these in the pipeline, all with the same purpose: find out "How stupid a patent can you get?"

Now seriously. This is just on the side where I don't know if you're serious or poking fun at the Google fanboys who really believe that Google is some kind of new jesus on earth. If this was Microsoft patenting this there would be huge outcry about it. But when it's Google, it's suddenly "poking fun at the patent office" and trying to find some kind of higher meaning in it. There isn't one. They patented it because they also do specialize in such applications. It's strictly for business purposes, not some kind of "poking fun at the system".

Re:Yep (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061268)

This is Google poking fun at the patent office. They probably have hundreds of these in the pipeline, all with the same purpose: find out "How stupid a patent can you get?"

It could be, but they filed this in 2007. That is long before Google was on its current anti-patent abuse crusade. I doubt even Google was prescient enough to predict in 2007 that they would be bad mouthing the entire patent trolling industry in 2011.

There is one interesting difference (which the summary and the linked article fail to mention):

16. The system of claim 15, wherein the arrival prediction module is further adapted to determine actual delivery times for previous shipments to locations geographically proximate to the shipping address specified by the customer.

We have all received shipment notifications via email, some of which were automated as far back as 1995 ( found in my saved mail folder from that date). But these were at best notifications of shipping and best guesses on transit time.

The patent examiner even cited news releases from DHL and UPS showing similar technology was in use a year before this filing and the filing itself cites patents issued dating back to 2000 which, in turn, were filed in 1996.

All the cited patents simply notified of a shipment being sent, some included an estimate of delivery, but none cited measured delivery time based on similar shipments to nearby addresses.

Because this patent was in fact issued, the examiner must have thought that some aspect of it was dissimilar enough from existing practices to warrant the patent.

Re:Yep (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061608)

Because this patent was in fact issued, the examiner must have thought that some aspect of it was dissimilar enough from existing practices to warrant the patent.

AND not plainly obvious is where it tends to fall down.

Re:Yep (1)

Trillan (597339) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061472)

So you're of the "This is Google, we can trust them" school of thought?

Re:Nothing to see here (4, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061070)

Oh, I see, so when Google patents absurd things, it's a protest against the patent system. Like when they patented changing their logo for special events and holidays [pcworld.com] back in 2001. Thank goodness Google is rebelling against the patent system by patenting the invention of "periodically changing story line and/or special event company logo to entice users to access a web page."

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061276)

Have they sued anyone over that? No? Then what is your point?

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

Wovel (964431) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061736)

Do you KNOW they have not made people license the "technology".

Absurd patents are not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37061184)

See this method of exercising a cat [google.com] . Sun had internal competitions to get the most ridiculous patent [theregister.co.uk] . I have heard rumors that other companies had similar practices back in the 90's. Of course that's not their official policy, but the employees joke around about it.

Re:Nothing to see here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37060878)

It turns out, "Don't Be Evil" is still the unofficial motto of Google, but they've changed the punctuation around a bit,

It's now "Don't! Be Evil!".

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061292)

Actually how about - "Don't" Be Evil

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061112)

I think Google is just trolling the patent office, myself.

TROLOLO!! [youtube.com]

Re:Nothing to see here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37061424)

It's Google doing this, so it must be okay

You Google fanbois will excuse anything they do!

Pizza Tracking (2)

aardwolf64 (160070) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060664)

No! That means no more pizza tracking from Dominoes!!! :-(

And no telephone notifications either (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060730)

Telephone systems are electronic. Calling up the customer by phone and telling them you'll be there around 3pm is therefore delivering an electronic message. There's prior art, but getting the messenger service or the pizza or the cable repair guy to actually show up around 3pm is a bit more tricky.

The diagram was "Page 6 of 6" and showed steps 610-616 - perhaps the useful and novel part of the patent was in steps 1-500?

Useful, novel, and non-obvious (4, Insightful)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060752)

perhaps the useful and novel part of the patent was in steps 1-500?

Perhaps. But where's the non-obvious part?

Re:Useful, novel, and non-obvious (1)

tycoex (1832784) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060808)

Does not the word "novel" basically include non-obvious?

Re:Useful, novel, and non-obvious (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061284)

Not exactly, no.

Nonobviousness means "sufficient difference from what has been used or described before that a person having ordinary skill in the area of technology related to the invention would not find it obvious to make the change". Novelty just means there isn't prior art.

http://smallbusiness.findlaw.com/patent/obtain-patent/useful-novel-nonobvious.html [findlaw.com]

So if a pizza chain decides that instead of calling you 10 minutes before the delivery guy arrives like their competition does, they'll have their delivery guy send you a text message, that isn't nonobvious enough to be patented. Texting is an obvious alternative to calling someone, even if nobody else has used it for that specific purpose.

Re:Pizza Tracking (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061012)

Why on earth would you order a pizza from that dump, or one of the other God-awful chains, in the first place? Support a local Mom & Pop and starve the beast!

If that was the only pizza place near me....I'd make my own. You'd have to be seriously deficient in the culinary arts to make a pizza at home that doesn't taste better, and pizza is one of the most retarded easy foods to make. Hell, put it on bagels if you can't handle the crust...10 minutes prep, 10 minutes cook time. Done and done.

Re:Pizza Tracking (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061368)

You still have to make the dough, which takes a lot longer than 10 minutes.

Re:Pizza Tracking (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061806)

You can buy that pre-made, and even the grocery store pizza dough is usually much better than the crap Dominos puts out...

Still, pizza dough doesn't take that long to make, and it freezes well.

This is clearly a valid patent (1)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060680)

From the supplied (extremely complex) diagram I can see that Google put a great deal of effort into this. Looks like Google is finally learning to play the silly patent game like the rest of corporate America.

Re:This is clearly a valid patent (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060874)

I kinda wonder if Google didn't apply for this patent just to show how thoroughly bad the patent system is broken. I mean, come on, this patent is absolutely ridiculous. It can't be that Google doesn't know about it already (it is a search engine company, after all). But if Google can go to court and hold up this patent as being granted, it pretty much calls into question the entire USPTO and every patent they have granted in recent years.

Unless there is something more to this patent than meets the eye, which seems entirely possible, though unlikely.

Re:This is clearly a valid patent (1, Troll)

bonch (38532) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061124)

This is a great defense fans have invented here for Google. Every company should use it. "It's okay when we do it! We're just trying to show how bad the patent system is!"

P.S. They also patented the changing of their logo for holidays [pcworld.com] back in 2001.

Re:This is clearly a valid patent (1)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061238)

This is a great defense fans have invented here for Google.

We should patent it then!

Re:This is clearly a valid patent (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061318)

I kinda wonder if Google didn't apply for this patent just to show how thoroughly bad the patent system is broken. I mean, come on, this patent is absolutely ridiculous. It can't be that Google doesn't know about it already

Oh, come on.
It was filed in 2007, not last week.

If you had read it, rather than rushing in to bad mouth google, you would have seen that there were elements that were unique back in 2007.

Hint:: see claim #16.

Re:This is clearly a valid patent (1)

Wovel (964431) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061788)

Expecting /. Users to read anything in context is like asking chickens to do calculus.

Re:This is clearly a valid patent (0)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061380)

Doubtful. And if you're gonna hate on other companies for filing retarded patents, you should hate on Google for this one too.

Re:This is clearly a valid patent (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061546)

Really? Because I haven't wondered that at all.

Google is happily trying to play both sides of the issue:
- Poor besieged underdog when somebody else is alleging they infringe on something;
- Really nice guys, and titans of innovation and industry whose ideas are just being jacked left and right by all their competitors, if they happen to hold a patent relevant to the domain;

Do you really think for a second that if Bing started really chipping away at Google's search business, that Google wouldn't find a half a dozen patents that Microsoft is infringing on? Problem is, Google doesn't hold a lot of patents in the areas where their competitors are making all their money, because they're releasing a host of "me too" responses to the products of their competitors, rather than in-house or home-grown innovations.

Re:This is clearly a valid patent (1)

Wovel (964431) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061762)

It is from 2007. Google has been a big player in the patent game since they opened their doors.

I know this is a defensive move but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37060700)

telling time... really? this patent thing is going WAY out of line

Maybe Now Apple Will Think Twice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37060706)

Maybe now Apple with think twice about suing Google for selling a mobile OS that's better than the iPhone.

Defensive patents are an important weapon in the war against iFascism.

cookie-happy site (here's the text, fuck the link) (2)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060718)

too many cookie requests! so to screw them back, here's the article for all that its worth:


Google’s battle against Microsoft and Apple over their use of “bogus” patents promises to result in greater scrutiny of its own intellectual property holdings. And we have a hunch that Amazon.com, UPS, the U.S. Postal Service and pretty much everyone else in the shipping business will be highly interested in this new addition to Google’s portfolio.

The search giant this week was awarded a patent on electronic shipping notifications, of all things. Here’s the abstract, explaining the approach.

A broker facilitates customer purchases from merchants. Shippers ship shipments containing the purchases from merchants to the customers. A shipper identifies a shipment using a shipment identifier. The broker uses the shipment identifier to obtain the status information for the shipment from the shipper. The broker analyzes the status information in combination with other information to calculate an estimate of the time that the shipment will arrive at the customer’s address. The broker sends an electronic message, such as an email or text message, to the customer prior to the estimated shipment arrival time to inform the customer of the impending arrival. The customer can thus arrange for someone to be at the shipping address to receive the shipment at the estimated arrival time.

Of course, the real test is whether Google will assert the patent against anyone who does something similar, as Microsoft and Apple are doing against Android with their own patents.

In the meantime, we’ll be left scratching our heads over the need to patent something like this.

man, last time I leave cookies enabled on FF's prefbar. sheesh! I had forgotton how NASTY some sites really are.

fuck them. so here's the text - no need to visit their damned site.

Re:cookie-happy site (here's the text, fuck the li (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061366)

Excuse me, but what content did you supply that was not in the summary?

Perhaps Google is only trying to make a point? (0)

scottbomb (1290580) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060728)

"Illustrating absurdity by being absurd." - a phrase commonly used by Rush Limbaugh.

Excuse me while I go patent running water.

Re:Perhaps Google is only trying to make a point? (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060830)

Irony - gotta love it.

Re:Perhaps Google is only trying to make a point? (2)

bonch (38532) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061146)

Yeah, and everyone else is "trying to make a point" too. How awesome of Google to be just like everyone else when it comes to patents.

I suspect (0)

JayRott (1524587) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060750)

... they are doing this to prove a point about the patent landscape. If that is the case, I'd call it a success. The more people are exposed to how grossly fucked the USPTO is the more aware of how frivolous all these IP lawsuits truly are.

Google's Response (0)

russlar (1122455) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060758)

They see me trollin', they hatin'.

Maybe they're making a point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37060766)

Google has succeeded in patenting the act of estimating when a package will get somewhere. If this doesn't make people think "hmm maybe patents aren't such a good idea" then I don't know what will

I just about think that making abuse of the system extremely obvious is the only way to get lawmakers to recognize there is something wrong. If I were Google, I'd file as many bogus patents as I possibly could and bring to attention the fact you can patent the process of making toast.

Re:Maybe they're making a point? (1)

bonch (38532) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061222)

So this is like the twentieth "They're just making a point!" post from Google fans. Ignoring the fact that every other company could claim that too, did you know Sergey Brin filed a patent for Google Doodles [businessinsider.com] --a.k.a., the changing of their logo for special events and holidays?

The patent describes their revolutionary method of simply uploading a new logo:

"A non-transitory computer-readable medium that stores instructions executable by one or more processors to perform a method for attracting users to a web page, comprising: instructions for creating a special event logo by modifying a standard company logo for a special event, where the instructions for creating the special event logo includes instructions for modifying the standard company logo with one or more animated images; instructions for associating a link or search results with the special event logo, the link identifying a document relating to the special event, the search results relating to the special event; instructions for uploading the special event logo to the web page; instructions for receiving a user selection of the special event logo; and instructions for providing the document relating to the special event or the search results relating to the special event based on the user selection."

That explains a lot (1)

Nemesisghost (1720424) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060790)

Well, now we know why we can never a package on time from anybody. It is because Google Patented the ETA system for package delivery.

Patent Trolling (1)

JaZz0r (612364) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060814)

Sounds to me like Google is playing the system as it is currently designed to be played - but with a different intent. I hope they continue to file for more and more ridiculous patents until the real patent trolls (or, more importantly, the government) have nothing left but to call for reform.

Re:Patent Trolling (2)

noahm (4459) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061056)

Sounds to me like Google is playing the system as it is currently designed to be played - but with a different intent. I hope they continue to file for more and more ridiculous patents until the real patent trolls (or, more importantly, the government) have nothing left but to call for reform.

Why do slashdotters insist on reading some kind of noble intent into this, just because it's Google? If Microsoft or Yahoo! or somebody like that did it, they'd be mass outcry. Google, and all the other big corporate names, patent things like this to give them more ammunition in the inevitable patent battles that come up from time to time with their competitors. Eventually, somebody will get pissed at Google and sue them for some kind of patent infringement. Google will then compile a counter suit, alleging infringement of all sorts of patents like this one, and the two parties will settle out of court by signing some kind of cross-licensing agreement. That's how the game is played, and Google is not going to play it any less effectively than anybody else.

Re:Patent Trolling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37061132)

... because Google has publicly said that the patent system is broken, called for reform, and stated that they need patents (even baseless ones) simply to defend their innovative products from frivolous attacks?

Re:Patent Trolling (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061710)

And it's funny that you believe that.

If Google was such a fan of openness and anti-patent, they wouldn't file for patents, they'd produce defensive publications, showing that they developed the technique, but rather than patent it, they've opened it up and created prior art (in the form of the defensive publication) preventing anybody ELSE from patenting it.

They could nullify bullshit patents, and further the cause of openness and free-as-in-freedom in one fell swoop, protecting their products, and actually doing good. Instead they shout on one hand about how broken the patent system is, and on the other hand, file for patent after patent in order to protect their business just like everybody else is doing.

Re:Patent Trolling (0)

bonch (38532) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061286)

Yeah, just like they were being purely defensive when they bid on mobile patents all for themselves while refusing an offer to jointly bid with others across the industry.

I think Slashdot has drilled the idea of "patents = bad" into its readers for so long that the idea of one of the presumed good guys being just as bad as the rest has blown their minds. The comments here are awash with a sea of "They're just doing it to make a point" posts--never mind that they didn't announce this themselves or publicly proclaim their intent, which they would have done if it was to prove some kind of point.

Purolator (1)

future assassin (639396) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060822)

called me on their phone/smart phone about making sure someone was at the house for my last two orders from Dell.

Re:Purolator (1)

DontBlameCanada (1325547) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060914)

Nice! I might spring the $14.99 for proper shipping form Purolator instead of relying on Futureshop's default free Canada Post overnight delivery.

Canada Post (the f-ers) left my brand new (free!) XBox on the step in full view of the street with a threatening thunderstorm. Fortunately the retired couple across the street noticed and picked it up before either the weather or someone untrustworthy did.

LOL ... with a computer ... (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060832)

This is about as close as I've seen to a "System for accomplishing a well known task with a computer".

This patent sounds like complete rubbish. I'm pretty sure that FedEx and several other companies have been giving me an estimate as to when my parcel will arrive for some number of years.

Doesn't stop apple. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37060972)

I'm pretty sure music players, touch screen phones, tablets, etc were all out far before apple tried their hands at it, and they're still the ones out suing other makers of said products.

Re:Doesn't stop apple. (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061082)

All true ... which is why I think patents are generally counter-productive in this day and age.

I'm pretty sure I've seen patents on things I learned in school as part of classes, and which had been fairly obvious at the time as an expected evolution.

As long as the system is geared so that lawyers are running the show, it's going to be a train wreck for the rest of us. Especially where a patent can be approved 10 years later, suddenly making a bunch of stuff that's been pretty common become something which infringes.

Re:LOL ... with a computer ... (1)

marga (455344) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061170)

Even though it's still obvious and quite plainly not patentable, what the patent says is that _the broker_ (i.e. not _the shipper_) 'pushes' the estimate the client.

So, it's not the same as inputting your tracking number into a FedEx website, because it's A) a separate entity B) it's a push rather than a pull.

That is not to say that other people don't do exactly this, but still, it's better to really know what's being patented here.

Re:LOL ... with a computer ... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061428)

Had you read the patent you would have seen that systems from UPS and DHL were already in place when this patent was filed back in 2007.

But those just guessed on the delivery time based on plane flights and truck time etc.

This one contained a more real-time estimate based on ACTUAL transit times to similar geographic locations. This was not common in 2007. Back then you got a best guess.

I understand that its fun to poke fun at Google and the patent office. And its a whole lot easier than reading the actual patent isn't it?

Re:LOL ... with a computer ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061572)

This one contained a more real-time estimate based on ACTUAL transit times to similar geographic locations. This was not common in 2007. Back then you got a best guess.

Yeah, but you're describing an incremental improvement to a process that's been in place for most of the last decade.

Is that really the intent of a patent? I'm inclined to think not.

However, the trend seems to be to patent something people have been doing for years but with one more component. That doesn't make for a novel invention, that makes for a minor refinement.

Re:LOL ... with a computer ... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061700)

This one contained a more real-time estimate based on ACTUAL transit times to similar geographic locations. This was not common in 2007. Back then you got a best guess.

Yeah, but you're describing an incremental improvement to a process that's been in place for most of the last decade.

Is that really the intent of a patent? I'm inclined to think not.

However, the trend seems to be to patent something people have been doing for years but with one more component. That doesn't make for a novel invention, that makes for a minor refinement.

And of course you are free to use such systems minus this one improvement.

The wright brothers patented their airplane.
Does that mean that boeing and airbus have nothing to patent?

The technology of the world progresses by baby steps.

Measuring ACTUAL delivery times of packages to NEARBY addresses is neither trivial or obvious. No one else did so back in 2007.

Re:LOL ... with a computer ... (1)

eh2o (471262) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061564)

The patent claims a "delivery estimate and notification system" that is calculated by a third party (a "broker system"), since FedEx/UPS is the shipper, not the broker of the sale, their current and pre-existing tracking systems are not in conflict with the invention.

Moreover the patent claims that the utility of the invention is in that estimates provided by the shipper are typically inaccurate, forcing the receiver to wait for "days" at home, meanwhile playing hooky from work and school as to not miss the delivery, and therefore an this ancillary calculation of estimated delivery arrival time, carried out on the broker's computer system, is needed to provide a better estimate of delivery time, in other words its a hack to fix a broken system. Now, maybe that was the case back in 2007 when this was filed but in all my dealings with FedEx and UPS in the past couple of years their estimates of the day and time of delivery are extremely accurate even for long shipments several days out. One can also subscribe to get notifications of shipment status directly from the shipper, which sidesteps this patent entirely which only covers those notifications coming from a broker.

Based on this my conclusion is that this patent is useless and simply irrelevant.

Patent Title != Patent Scope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37060864)

FYI: I've done a cut and paste below of the broadest independent claim (this is what the patent covers, not the title or the figure that's cited). To infringe this claim, you would have to do every one of these steps:

1. A method of providing notification of impending delivery of a shipment shipped by a shipper to a shipping address specified by a customer, comprising:

periodically querying, by a broker computer system independent of the shipper and a merchant and which enabled the customer to purchase an item contained in the shipment from the merchant, a shipper computer system to obtain status information for the shipment with each query, wherein a periodic query of the shipment computer system comprises:

requesting status information from the shipper computer system by providing a shipment identifier of the shipment to the shipper computer system; and

receiving status information in response thereto;

responsive to status information obtained with a periodic query indicating an estimated delivery date for the shipment, halting, by the broker computer system, the periodic queries and scheduling the restart of periodic queries of the shipper computer system a day prior to the estimated delivery date;

restarting, by the broker computer system, periodic queries of the shipper computer system the day prior to the estimated delivery date to obtain updated status information with each query;

responsive to updated status information obtained with a periodic query indicating that the shipment is out for delivery to the customer, halting, by the broker computer system, the periodic queries and calculating an estimated delivery time for the shipment based at least in part on the status information; and

sending, by the broker computer system, an electronic message including the estimated delivery time to the customer.

Re:Patent Title != Patent Scope (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061446)

Oh, thank you for the cut and paste. Why I might never have known the content without your diligent efforts.

Patently ridiculous (2)

drobety (2429764) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060920)

Software patents are patently ridiculous. When I worked for a subsidiary of Microsoft, I was harassed (it's how I felt, being interrupted from writing code for what I perceived as silliness) into helping finding any angle in the code which could be turned into a patent, and to help with the serious-sounding language to describe the patent. I'm ashamed my name is out there attached to silly laughable software patents which purpose is just to perform the obvious.

Re:Patently ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37061064)

Do you think that's limited to subsidiaries of Microsoft or something? Almost any company will file for any patents if they can.

Re:Patently ridiculous (1)

drobety (2429764) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061210)

Where do you hget the idea that I might think that? I was just relating *my* story. Sorry if it bother you that I happened to work at a subsidiary of Microsoft in particular. Gee.

In all seriousness, how the hell does this happen? (2)

scottbomb (1290580) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060928)

We've had such package tracking in use for YEARS. Now, all of a sudden, someone can patent it? I wonder who will patent the wheel? How about a patent on picking one's nose or walking across a street? Aren't there rules that prevent such absurdity? Or is the entire patent office about as incompetent as the White House?

Re:In all seriousness, how the hell does this happ (1)

Marc Desrochers (606563) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061088)

I do believe that the sentiment you express here is exactly what Google are hoping the patent office, lawmakers, etc, will finally realize. It's what I first thought when I read it. I also believe they already have a list of examples prepared when they get challenged on this new patent. I also think they will also patent all kinds of other silly things real soon. The sillier the better. The system is broken, clearly, and perhaps they think that if they lean on it a little it will come crashing down. Here's to hoping.

Re:In all seriousness, how the hell does this happ (1)

flimflammer (956759) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061096)

Because it's not the same thing. What you see on UPS's website when you provide your tracking code and what Google is claiming is actually different.

Not that I support this patent.

Re:In all seriousness, how the hell does this happ (2)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061114)

We've had such package tracking in use for YEARS.

This patent was actually filed in 1952, according to a Google search.

If this is what I think this is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37060930)

then I'm grabbing some popcorn. After being disgusted by the past few months of patent abuse I can't help but be very amused by this. If this is what I think this is then it is precisely the sort of thing I was hoping Google (or anybody for that matter) had up their sleeve. I can't wait to see what else is in the pipeline.

Et tu, Brute? (1)

Calsar (1166209) | more than 3 years ago | (#37060958)

I'm afraid Google may have reached the tipping point. Companies generally start off with high goals and innovations, but they eventually degenerate into lumbering behemoths who's only goal is to squeeze every last penny out of their customers.

Re:Et tu, Brute? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061462)

Yeah, rush in and blame google for nonsense in the patent office.

Patents suck... (1)

JavaBear (9872) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061014)

...the life out of inventiveness.

Sadly in the current "patent" climate, everyone have to obtain as many patents as they possibly can, bogus and all, simply to have enough of a patent portfolio to scare off competitors who might try and quench competition, as we see ... well all of them do at the moment.

The best thing that could happen would be an immediate stop for new patents, and a permanent stop and revocation of all "software" patents.

But because it'll be the best thing to happen, it never will.

it's a bit more complicated than it sounds (5, Informative)

Chirs (87576) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061054)

Looking at the actual patent, what they're doing is figuring out based on historical delivery information a more accurate estimated time of day for the delivery and sending an email to the recipient with that information *on the day of delivery*.

Basically it saves the recipient having to constantly check the tracking page for the courier.

Not earthshaking, but more than is currently offered.

Re:it's a bit more complicated than it sounds (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061242)

I've often wondered why FedEx/UPS/USPS could never give me a better prediction than "sometime this day." (I think one of the three may have narrowed it down some, but not much.)

They've got the same trucks doing mostly the same routes every day, they've got to be able to make some kind of general prediction about the time.

Re:it's a bit more complicated than it sounds (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061490)

Because people would complain if they were wrong.

Re:it's a bit more complicated than it sounds (1)

jkcity (577735) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061594)

orange in the uk use a delivery company called dpd that do this except instead of sending you an email they send you a txt message to your phone although I guess back end of working it out may be very different. while this is in uk and not usa I bets oemthing similar already exists over there.

You realize what is actually being claimed, right? (5, Informative)

beachels416 (1275784) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061094)

For those that are so quick to jump on Google about this (which I suppose is understandable these days), you would hope that one would actually read the patent, or understand that the only important part of a patent is the claims, NOT the abstract or diagram provided. Yes, Google has patented providing delivery notifications...but the important, relevant question is HOW it calculates and provides those notifications. For, example, Google has decided that it is more efficient to, during shipment, halt the queries to the shipper's computer system until the day before the expected delivery date, then resume so as to provide up-to-date notifications. It has also claimed analyzing historical data of shipping routes and times to determine, down to the minute (theoretically) estimates of an arrival time, not based on what the shipper says, but what it has demonstrated in the past. Finally, UPS or other shippers could not possibly infringe because the patent clearly provides for a "broker" computer, which is explicitly not the shipper's computer, to query the shipper's database. The point is that Google has a novel idea here, and has defined it as such. Boiled down to its essence, it provides shipping notifications just like others do. But ice and a/c units both cool air, coffee cups and vases both hold liquid, dial-up and cable both provide access to the internet. The method is what is important, not the end result. To infringe a patent, one has to infringe on all claims. While some claims may be obvious, it is the (sometimes few) non-obvious ones that actually matter. Google has provided some of those non-obvious, novel claims (at least it appears to have) and it seems to have a valid patent.

Re:You realize what is actually being claimed, rig (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061352)

Welcome to any Apple-themed post, except this time it's Google.

You didn't expect any of these armchair patent experts to actually *read* more than the headline before offering their infallible expert opinion, did you?

Also, hilarious that we have apologists out for Google too. When Apple patents something absurd it's "evil, greedy, anti-competitive", but when Google is perceived to do the same they are "doing it as a protest to put a spotlight on absurd patents". Nice hypocrisy, slashdot!

Re:You realize what is actually being claimed, rig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37061738)

Apple has been know to sue other companies to keep them out of their markets.

You are telling lies to yourself (2)

roguegramma (982660) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061624)

I was all with you, till you said "To infringe a patent, one has to infringe on all claims". That is actually not true.
It depends on how the patent is structured and how nice the court is when the patent is tried there (Hello Texas!).

For example, typically claim one says "Claimed is the same thing you all are used to, but with an improvement".

Then claim 2 says "The object of claim one, with yet another improvement", then claim 3 either says "The object of claim 2, with yet another improvement" or "The object of claim one, with yet another improvement".

Most of the time if you infringe on claim one, infringing is what you do.

Suppose claim one is bad. When tried in court, for some strange reason courts sometimes allow e.g. claim 2 to stand by itself, even if claim one is found to be obvious. So you can be found infringing on claim 2 even if claim one is a bad claim.

Depends on how they use it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37061218)

Patents don't have to be defended in order to maintain their status. Google could hold this patent purely as a defense mechanism. i.e. don't complain when Joe's Pizza uses it, unless Joe decides to hit Google with a suit for infringing his patent on adding additional vowels to a logo in order to indicate quantities of something. Yup, the patents situation in the United States is fucking stupid.

Not /bad/ until they do something bad with it (1)

Asten (674521) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061326)

Yes, absurd patents are absurd, but when you have people suing you using absurd patents *coughapplecough*, and absurd patents are how the US landscape is, then you file absurd patents too. This is only problematic if Google goes and attempts to use this to sue people with. There's mountains of absurd patents, and the vast majority only come into play as defense against trolls *coughapplecough*

This used to be known as phoning ahead... (1)

Endophage (1685212) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061430)

"Hello? Mr. Smith? Will you be at home between 2pm and 5pm tomorrow? Excellent, you package will be delivered between those hours. Thank you."

You need to read the claims to understand a patent (1)

tamyrlin (51) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061486)

Something which seems to be overlooked by most of the commenters is the fact that the human readable description of a patent does not define the patent. The part you need to read to really understand a patent is the claims. Some patents which seem fairly obvious when reading the title, and description of the patent are actually very narrow when looking at the claims. Other patents seem fairly narrow when reading the description whereas the claims are very broad.

I'm not a lawyer, so take the remaining parts of this part with a big grain of salt, but it seems as if there are fairly obvious way to work around this patent without infringing it. As I understand it, the independent claims are the most important parts of a patent. They are reproduced below for your enjoyment. Note that both claims discusses periodic queries. It seems likely that you wouldn't infringe the patent if you did away with the periodic queries and instead had the shipper computer notify you whenever it had new information available. (As a side effect, this would be less bandwidth and processor intensive, similar to how it is usually better to use IRQ driven I/O instead of polling based I/O in an operating system...)

In both independent claims they also discuss that the periodic queries are halted and restarted a day prior to the estimated delivery. If you never halted the periodic queries you may have another possibility of avoiding infringement.

Nevertheless, this seems fairly close to "System for accomplishing a well known task with a computer" as gstoddart mentioned in an earlier comment.

Independent claims:
"1. A method of providing notification of impending delivery of a shipment shipped by a shipper to a shipping address specified by a customer, comprising: periodically querying, by a broker computer system independent of the shipper and a merchant and which enabled the customer to purchase an item contained in the shipment from the merchant, a shipper computer system to obtain status information for the shipment with each query, wherein a periodic query of the shipment computer system comprises: requesting status information from the shipper computer system by providing a shipment identifier of the shipment to the shipper computer system; and receiving status information in response thereto; responsive to status information obtained with a periodic query indicating an estimated delivery date for the shipment, halting, by the broker computer system, the periodic queries and scheduling the restart of periodic queries of the shipper computer system a day prior to the estimated delivery date; restarting, by the broker computer system, periodic queries of the shipper computer system the day prior to the estimated delivery date to obtain updated status information with each query; responsive to updated status information obtained with a periodic query indicating that the shipment is out for delivery to the customer, halting, by the broker computer system, the periodic queries and calculating an estimated delivery time for the shipment based at least in part on the status information; and sending, by the broker computer system, an electronic message including the estimated delivery time to the customer. "

"11. A system for providing notification of impending delivery of a shipment shipped by a shipper to a shipping address specified by a customer, comprising: a computer processor; and a computer-readable storage medium storing computer program modules configured to execute on the computer processor, the computer program modules comprising: a shipper interface module for: periodically querying, by a broker independent of the shipper and a merchant and which enabled the customer to purchase an item contained in the shipment from the merchant, a shipper computer system to obtain status information for the shipment with each query, wherein a periodic query of the shipment computer system comprises: requesting status information from the shipper computer system by providing a shipment identifier of the shipment to the shipper computer system; and receiving status information in response thereto; responsive to status information obtained with a periodic query indicating an estimated delivery date for the shipment, halting, by the broker, the periodic queries and scheduling the restart of periodic queries of the shipper computer system a day prior to the estimated delivery date; restarting, by the broker, periodic queries of the shipper computer system the day prior to the estimated delivery date to obtain updated status information with each query; an arrival calculation module for, responsive to updated status information obtained with a periodic query indicating that the shipment is out for delivery to the customer, halting, by the broker, the periodic queries and calculating an estimated delivery time for the shipment based at least in part on the status information; and an arrival notification module for sending, by the broker, an electronic message including the estimated delivery time to the customer. "

I stopped reading the summary... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37061514)

... after seeing the term "guesstimates"

I didn't think you could (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37061574)

patent a business process... I wonder if anyone's patented the "wake up call" offered at hotels? * walks away mumbling to self * Muhahahahaha....

Google vs. Cable TV (1)

andy9o (1235174) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061638)

Why is it that people love the services provided by Google at no cost, due to advertising, but also find no qualms with the advertising encountered on cable television, a service which we directly pay for? I don't have cable, but everyone I know does, and I'm always curious why they have no complaint with essentially paying twice to watch the latest CSI. Once out of pocket, and once via advertisements.
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