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Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Google Chase 'Got Milk?' Patents

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the object-lesson dept.

Google 250

theodp writes "Among the new iOS 5 features is Reminders, which Apple explains this way: 'Say you need to remember to pick up milk during your next grocery trip. Since Reminders can be location based, you'll get an alert as soon as you pull into the supermarket parking lot.' But does Reminders infringe on a newly-granted patent to Amazon for Location Aware Reminders, which covers the use of location based reminders to remind a user 'to purchase certain items such as, for example, as milk, bread, and eggs'? Or could Reminders run afoul of Google's new patent for Geocoding Personal Information, which covers triggering a voice reminder or making a computing device vibrate when a user approaches a location if 'one of the user's events is a task to pick up milk and bread'? Not to be left out of the 'Got Milk?' patent race, Apple also has a patent pending for Computer Systems and Methods for Collecting, Associating, and/or Retrieving Data, which covers providing a reminder to a user whose 'to do' list includes 'get milk' when the user's location matches 'a store that sells the item "milk."' (Continues, below.)theodp continues: "That should not be confused with Microsoft's pending patent for Geographic Reminders, which allows users to specify reminders such as 'pick up milk if I am within a ten minutes drive of any grocery store.' That all four tech giants chose to pursue remember-the-milk patents — and the USPTO is considering and granting them — is all the more remarkable considering that Microsoft suggested location-based reminders were obvious in a 2005 patent filing, which informed the USPTO that 'a conventional reminder application may give the user relevant information at a given location, such as 'You're near a grocery store, and you need milk at home.' So much for that immediate patent quality improvement promised by the America Invents Act!"

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And another useful technology is ripped apart (5, Insightful)

Eightbitgnosis (1571875) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116482)

To the strongest lawyers go the spoils

Re:And another useful technology is ripped apart (5, Interesting)

LordThyGod (1465887) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116646)

Yea, I was thinking it was the lunatics running the asylum, but it might be lawyers, indeed. What a sorry state of affairs that this kind of BS is not stopped at the door. "Get the fuck out and don't try that crap again".

Why are you blaming the lawyers? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117154)

This behavior is perpetrated by the corporate executives who don't want any businesses to be able to compete. The lawyers are gun, but the executives are the hand that fires it.

Re:And another useful technology is ripped apart (2)

durrr (1316311) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116676)

With some proper user-friendly dev tools it should be trivial to bypass patents such as this. "If location == supermarket then run milkreminder" shouldn't require much of a brain for the end suer to figure out, or read from a guide.

But of course, development tools and computer programming that is usable by ordinary mortals is apparently in the same folder as food for the poor, equal wages and general fair conduct that no one with influence is willing to do.

Re:And another useful technology is ripped apart (3, Informative)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117078)

I offer up Tasker as potential prior-art. It does a lot more than remind based on geo-location, but that is one potential application of the tool.

http://tasker.dinglisch.net/ [dinglisch.net]

Re:And another useful technology is ripped apart (2)

stephathome (1862868) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117206)

for the end suer to figure out, .

Such an appropriate typo, I love it.

Re:And another useful technology is ripped apart (5, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117056)

Actually I was thinking the opposite might happen.

The court might just line them up and bitch slap the whole lot of them.

If a whole bunch of people come up with the same invention at roughly the same time it becomes the perfect definition of TRIVIAL AND OBVIOUS.

Once you have bricks generally available in the market place, you can't patent the brick outhouse.

Ahhhh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116486)

I can't take it anymore! What has become of this planet?

Re:Ahhhh (4, Insightful)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116540)

Someone discovered you can make money much easier if you suffocate the competition using the law than producing better products.

Re:Ahhhh (2, Insightful)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116832)

I can't take it anymore! What has become of this planet?

Please do not confuse USA with the rest of the world!

Re:Ahhhh (0, Flamebait)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117342)

You know what... fuck you, buddy. This story is just rabble-rousing, and believe me, your part of the world (no matter where you are) has no shortage of dipshit rabble to rouse.

Happy Holidays from the Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116488)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you ever knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

Ugh... (5, Insightful)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116502)

This is where out US patent group, judicial branch, executive branch, I don't know who exactly, needs to step in and say "YOU DID NOT INVENT REMINDING PEOPLE TO DO STUFF!" and prevent these companies from spending (wasting) money and time on winning the patent to do it. Their struggle to win that patent is not value adding for the country in any way whatsoever, but they'll do it anyway for their own gain. It's wasted money that could better go into R&D, for example.
So tell them now, level the field... and prevent all that wasted effort.

Re:Ugh... (4, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116568)

...I don't know who exactly, needs to step in and say "YOU DID NOT INVENT REMINDING PEOPLE TO DO STUFF!" and prevent these companies from spending (wasting) money and time on winning the patent... prevent all that wasted effort.

Yes, but whoever it is that might step in and stop the madness, remember, they likely are lawyers themselves, or sons of lawyers, or otherwise deeply connected to the legal profession. Effort is not wasted when it leads to remuneration of yourself, your family, or your colleagues.

Re:Ugh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116726)

Indeed, even the US president has a degree in law (cum-laude, nota bene), so my hopes that this situation will somehow resolve itself are rather low.

Re:Ugh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117374)

Personal renumeration at the expense of just about everyone else on the planet ought to be punishable by death. The people you speak of are scum sucking assholes.

Re:Ugh... (2)

charliemerritt (2437060) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116760)

"I don't know who exactly, needs to step in and say "YOU DID NOT INVENT REMINDING PEOPLE TO DO STUFF!" " The USPTO (They are in charge of patents). But oh no, if you go to enough "schooling" you can get a license to be a professional lier (did I mean lawyer?). They like to talk of "professional ethics" - but they will use a mouse while writing a patent for a mouse - and the patent examiner will use a mouse while granting the patent. Then the little guy trying to sell a computer with a mouse can pay $5 each for use of "mouse" - or buy himself a better lawyer than (corporation with BIG bucks). I have a VERY OLD GPS that I have set up to beep every time I pass the grocery store, remembering eggs involves a phone call to wife ;-)

Re:Ugh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117278)

"I have a VERY OLD GPS that I have set up to beep every time I pass the grocery store, remembering eggs involves a phone call to wife ;-)"

Milk.... You're supposed to remember the Milk!... Not the eggs.

Re:Ugh... (1)

honkycat (249849) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117364)

This, and I think a patent like this misses the point. This is a patent on doing something, not on a method for doing something. A morally defensible patent needs to define a particular, specific method for accomplishing a goal. Furthermore, that method itself needs to be non-obvious to an expert who has been asked to achieve that goal.

Re:Ugh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117504)

Yeah, but R&D is *hard*

Bringing sanity to the patent system (and the legal system as a whole) is basically a call to shut down that entire industry. An industry full of talkers, not do'ers.

We're all looking for the milk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116504)

http://www.rememberthemilk.com/

Location-based reminders? (4, Interesting)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116518)

How exactly does one get a patent on location-based reminders? I know I'm not the only one who has considered that idea and the actual implementation should be fairly straightforward (when you consider that APIs and hardware required for it all exist, hell even if you go the "IN THE CLOUD" route it would be relatively easy to figure out (Track position constantly, periodic "pings" to "The Cloud" that pass along your approximate coordinates, in return you get a JSON/XML reply with any nearby reminder positions which are cached locally, if/when you are close enough to a reminder position your device reminds you, new reminders are automagically submitted to the same "Cloud server", for local storage you just skip "The Cloud" and store everything locally)).

Re:Location-based reminders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116576)

They have had apps that do this, like, forever. It's nothing new.

Re:Location-based reminders? (4, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116580)

How exactly does one get a patent on location-based reminders? I know I'm not the only one who has considered that idea and the actual implementation should be fairly straightforward (when you consider that APIs and hardware required for it all exist, hell even if you go the "IN THE CLOUD" route it would be relatively easy to figure out (Track position constantly, periodic "pings" to "The Cloud" that pass along your approximate coordinates, in return you get a JSON/XML reply with any nearby reminder positions which are cached locally, if/when you are close enough to a reminder position your device reminds you, new reminders are automagically submitted to the same "Cloud server", for local storage you just skip "The Cloud" and store everything locally)).

The whole concept of "obvious to a person skilled in the art" has been ground into the dirt for 20+ years now.

Re:Location-based reminders? (1)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116802)

If only the people issuing the patents, arguing the patents, and judging the validity of the patents, were skilled.

Re:Location-based reminders? (4, Insightful)

Raenex (947668) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116876)

The whole concept of "obvious to a person skilled in the art" has been ground into the dirt for 20+ years now.

Yup. Before it was patenting X, "on the Internet". Now it's patenting X, "on the mobile".

Re:Location-based reminders? (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117102)

Don't forget X "on the cloud"

Re:Location-based reminders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116786)

A note on a fridge is a location-based reminder. It's based on a location, the kitchen, and it's a reminder.

Re:Location-based reminders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117292)

A friend did this with WLAN in the university like 6+ years ago. It was part of a research program which was associated with the city-wide WLAN, especially the location part of that.

So there is prior art and Apple can go screw themselves.

We're all peasants anyway (3, Informative)

Pete Venkman (1659965) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116524)

We are already all criminals anyway in one way or another. Why not just ignore these patents and keep living life? We're the peasants in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Re:We're all peasants anyway (5, Insightful)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116928)

You shouldn't ignore the stupidity of the patent system any more than we should ignore a burglar who only targets the opposite of your gender. Sure, you may not be directly effected directly, but it affects society.

Patent trolls stifle innovation, make the development of new products more expensive and have a negative effect on us all, even if it's only an indirect effect.

Re:We're all peasants anyway (2)

Pete Venkman (1659965) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117072)

I can still innovate all I want. The US's obsession with IP shows me that the US doesn't want new products to be manufactured or sold here. There are plenty of people that aren't Americans, and they like jobs and products just as much as we do.

Re:We're all peasants anyway (1)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117252)

Sure, you can innovate all you want. But if you try to make a living by selling those innovations and run into someone who bought a stupidly obvious patent that should never have been granted, prepare to be bankrupted by the legal system that you suggested we simply ignore since we're all criminals anyway.

And don't think that being in another country will protect you. Every developed country on the planet has a patent system. It won't necessarily be an American who rips you a new one.

And saying that "the US doesn't want new products manufactured or sold here" is idiotic. A company that applies for a patent here wants to prevent competition, but they damned want their own products to be sold here (and manufactured, too, if it's cost-effective).

Re:We're all peasants anyway (1)

cornholed (1312635) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117140)

Developer: Come and see the violence inherent in the system. Help! Help! I'm being repressed!
King Google/Apple/Amazon: Bloody peasant!
Developer: Oh, what a giveaway! Did you hear that? Did you hear that, eh? That's what I'm on about! Did you see him repressing me? You saw him, Didn't you?

I have a good idea (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116530)

Grab the Patent Lawyers and get them to Battle Royale fight to the death over the patent.

It'll be almost as much as fair and the world could use a few less of them.

Re:I have a good idea (4, Funny)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116618)

I know a Surinamese citizen who is kind of proud of their 1982 "kill a few lawyers" coup, they said it went pretty well for the rest of the country:

http://www.worldrover.com/history/suriname_history.html [worldrover.com]

Good God... (4, Informative)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116532)

So now a location-based reminder is a fucking patentable thing? What's next, a patent on something that remembers phone numbers for you?

This shit has got to stop...

Re:Good God... (2)

toppromulan (1362421) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117050)

Ja I was thinking like, doesn't having a passenger in the car who sees the store and reminds you we're out of milk at home fall under prior art? *facepalm* What'll they patent next, a sign for a urinal that reminds you to kind of lean into the urinal to save on splatter?

Don't Worry ! (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117172)

. I'm going to take out a patent on Claim 1. Executing logic and probability calculations in a computing machine,
Claim 2. Representing objects or aspects of reality, and in particular physical objects in spatiotemporal situation-types using binary numeric symbols. and
Claim 3. Applying the logic and probability calculations of claim 1. to the symbolic representations o claim 2 in order to have the computing machine discover significant associations between physical objects of different types in different stereotypical recurring situation types.

That should cover all questions about milk and other comestibles.

And I'm going to license it royalty free in perpetuity, because otherwise I would be embarrassed at patenting such an obvious use of Turing / Von Neumann / Babbage's technology.

Re:Good God... (1)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117256)

So now a location-based reminder is a fucking patentable thing? What's next, a patent on something that remembers phone numbers for you?

I think next, they will figure out that simply reminding you to buy milk when you are near a store isn't very smart. You buy the milk, then it sits in your car while you go to work. When you get back out of work, you see the milk is spoiled. Next, the patent will be for "location based reminders that remind you to buy milk when you are on your way home and you are near a store that is within 30 minutes of your house ". I work 38 miles from home - which in the morning is a 40 minute drive and on the way home is an hour and 25 minutes. I don't want milk while I am near work - that would be stupid. I want it when I am almost to my house and on the way home.

just obvious human logic (2)

Max_W (812974) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116534)

Should such obvious, humanly logical things be patented at all? What if someone patents, say, "To submit form press OK." The whole civilization may stop.

Re:just obvious human logic (1)

Brucelet (1857158) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116596)

Well in that case there's lots of prior art, but I guess that's never stopped absurd patent claims before...

Re:just obvious human logic (4, Interesting)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116806)

Location aware reminders do too. Geominder for S60 phones was released years before the first iPhone.

Re:just obvious human logic (3, Interesting)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116916)

Yeah, but the devil is usually in the details.

After all, we can pretty much say that any satnav is prior art. You tell it to give you a reminder when you're near your destination and lo and behold, when you're near it it does indeed inform you that you have arrived at the location.

The question is how, exactly, the patent applications are phrased and what, exactly, they cover. From the summary, for example, the Google one just covers a spoken voice and/or vibration.. in theory that would mean it doesn't cover a text and/or image reminder.. if that is the case it may even have been to specifically avoid a patent that covers the text or image implementation.

That to the common man they're practically the same thing, and even if they weren't, are all obvious.. doesn't matter to the patent office.
I feel for the guy working at the U.S. one who answered questions on Slashdot a long time back.. I doubt any of his frustrations have been addressed.. it only got worse.
Of course it's no better in Europe; http://yro.slashdot.org/story/02/08/09/0012208/peek-into-european-patent-examining-cancelled [slashdot.org]

Re:just obvious human logic (1)

kurthr (30155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117560)

You are absolutely correct... the details of the patent claims (and supporting specification) are very important.
However, the selection of the examiner is also extremely important.
I won't be surprised if one of these patents is issued in a first action allowance, even if another (perhaps even narrower) receives a final rejection.

Some companies even submit multiple applications with minor tweaks to the abstract so that they go into different branches of art.
When the first examiner allows the patent, you abandon all of the others so that any prior art discovered by another examiner doesn't make it to the file folder.

Multiple submission triples or quadruples the cost of filing, but you can dramatically improve the chance of allowance for highly suspect patents.

Just look at all those assholes (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116536)

Stealing a new innovative technology that Apple has worked on for years to invent.

Patent Reform (1)

orphiuchus (1146483) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116548)

I'd like to say I hope that we get some kind of patent reform which fixes all of this, but to be honest I don't understand it well enough to state with any confidence what needs to happen. IANAPL. Can someone who is shed some light on what would need to happen for this quagmire to end?

Re:Patent Reform (2)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116560)

The large companies have to stop making money using this magical method.

Then they'll call the lobbyists off and the government can finally obey like the good puppets they are.

So unless there's a nuclear war, society collapses, or zombies rise up - probably never.

Re:Patent Reform (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117150)

For the publicly traded companies to stop doing this, it has to stop helping boost stock shares. That means stockholders have to learn that a company doesn't become more attractive just because it patented something, but only if that patent will actually make the company a profit.

These are the same stockholders who will sell a very profitable company short because some metric says to always sell whenever employment costs in that industry have risen to over 18% or so of total operating costs, then invest in a non-profitable company that is engaged in a lawsuit and has promised to pay a law firm 33% of the resulting profits, without realizing that same metric says those lawyers are really just more employees.

Re:Patent Reform (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117438)

The problem is that it does. Look at what happened to Sun. It had some very nice patents. So obviously people wanted it - for the patents of course. That made it attractive, because you could use that sort of stuff to bully other companies into giving you a cut over the mobile technologies.

Re:Patent Reform (3, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116690)

Can someone who is shed some light on what would need to happen for this quagmire to end?

A gradually increasing restriction on granting new silly, obvious patents. A gradual raising of the bar in what it takes to defend a patent successfully.

The real problem is: any shock to the status quo will make the people with money nervous, they'll feel uncertain about the future and less confident in predicting how they are going to turn their giant pile of cash into a more giant pile of cash, and in the face of that uncertainty, they'll just sit on their piles and watch them shrink slowly instead of putting the money at risk (in use).

Patents are a big part of that security blanket for investors, it makes them feel warm and fuzzy knowing how they can strike back at other kids who might try to steal their lunch money, it's kind of like that line "God created man, but Mr. Smith & Wesson made all men equal." A smaller version of nuclear detente'. If you have access to a sufficient nuclear arsenal of patents, you can go up against much larger companies and hold your own with a threat of mutual annihilation.

I put part of the blame on the .com bubble - investors were feeling all warm and fuzzy then, and the patent office was helping them feel that way by granting them patents on whatever they wanted. Change the rules quickly, and you'll have negative economic consequences.

You forgot to get X patent is what I really need. (2)

Ice Station Zebra (18124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116552)

I don't need a reminder on what to get, I need a reminder on what I forgot to get. Let's say I'm baking bread and I put down that I need flour. However, I forgot that used up my yeast when I last baked two weeks ago and I forgot to put that down on my list. The "you forgot to get" feature would look at my past purchasing history and tell me, hey you might want to check if you have enough yeast since you last purchased yeast 6 months ago. Maybe even it could see if a phone is currently located in the house where you live, is one of your families phones and send a text message asking them to check and see if there is any yeast in the cupboard.

However, I really think a majority of software patents are STUPID and COMPLETELY FUCKING OBVIOUS.

Re:You forgot to get X patent is what I really nee (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116624)

What you forgot to get= what you should get (as in these patents)-what you have got (trivial information)

Re:You forgot to get X patent is what I really nee (4, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116710)

The more interesting data mining is currently implemented as trade secrets. Apparently, the credit card companies can predict [thedailybeast.com] , with 99% accuracy, if you are going to get a divorce within the next two years.

They could do useful little tricks like reminding you about the yeast at the checkout counter, but that would be creepy to most people and not as profitable for the company with the data.

Re:You forgot to get X patent is what I really nee (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117272)

The more interesting data mining is currently implemented as trade secrets. Apparently, the credit card companies can predict, with 99% accuracy, if you are going to get a divorce within the next two years.

Note that Visa flat-out denied it. Which is unusual; usually there's a mealy-mouthed denial or a refusal to admit or deny it.

Also, the banks don't usually know what you bought, only where you bought it. This makes such precision a little harder. That's why there's 'loyalty cards'.

Re:You forgot to get X patent is what I really nee (1)

Jakester2K (612607) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116730)

Nice.

Actually my girlfriend suggested a variant:

Since you may go to one store for milk, and a different store - where milk is more expensive - for something the milk store doesn't have, how about an app that DOESN'T remind you to get milk when you're at the other store.

In other words, I'm going to patent an app that doesn't remind you to get something when you're not at the right place.

With all those apps out there not reminding users, I should be able to sue for billions!!

Re:You forgot to get X patent is what I really nee (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117164)

Sadly, you need to patent that shit, man or we'll be hearing about it in a years time.

Re:You forgot to get X patent is what I really nee (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117468)

I don't need a reminder on what to get, I need a reminder on what I forgot to get. Let's say I'm baking bread and I put down that I need flour. However, I forgot that used up my yeast when I last baked two weeks ago and I forgot to put that down on my list. The "you forgot to get" feature would look at my past purchasing history and tell me, hey you might want to check if you have enough yeast since you last purchased yeast 6 months ago. Maybe even it could see if a phone is currently located in the house where you live, is one of your families phones and send a text message asking them to check and see if there is any yeast in the cupboard.

With regard to your use case, if you used a recipe and it was in an application on your device, you could track the usage and know exactly how much you had left. Exapanding that a bit, use the bar code, scanned by the camera on the device, to record which brand you use. Cross reference that with a coupon management application to determine who has the best price today and add it to a shopping list, tagged with the geolocation of the store. The coupons are scanned and tagged to determine if they are store specific with current coupon doubling/upgrading policies taken into account when figuring the value.

In a broader use case, if the register could use near field to communicate ( or email to start) your receipt to you. You could then update an aggregate database in the cloud for other users with up to the minute pricing similar to gas buddy types of applications. The application could then tag all of the prices with geolocation data to determine the store, region and chain involved. Shopping applications could then use that data for the most accurate savings.

On an even larger scale, someone could then data mine that information to determine retailer's pricing trends and spot inconsistencies based on geographic location or other geographic related data such as median income, census data etc. I think it would be very revealing, which means the retailers will fight it tooth and nail.

Time for this to all end. (2)

pro151 (2021702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116564)

Someone in a position of authority in Government has got to wake up and say STOP! This shit has gone so far beyond ridiculous, I doubt that there is a word or phrase to describe it other than FUBAR. (Change the meaning of "R" from recognition to recovery)

[NSFW] no..... (-1, Offtopic)

Cyko_01 (1092499) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116574)

but she [beautifullife.info] does!

Maybe it's just me, but, (3, Informative)

Daneurysm (732825) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116584)

this sure seems to reek of obvious. The fact that multiple companies are racing to patent essentially the same thing--which is just seemingly logical extension of an existing idea (reminders)--seems to underscore that.

What about the legacy stuff? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116594)

So does that mean all those billboards that say "If you lived here you'd be home by now" violate this patent? Me thinks they do... time to get out the pitch forks, the duck and the scale...

possible fix (5, Interesting)

khipu (2511498) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116604)

Right now, you can patent anything, and if you can get it past the USPTO, you're a winner: you can collect royalties as long as you keep your demands below what it would cost to strike down your patent. There is almost no risk or downside (at worst, you lose what you paid for getting the patent, maybe $10k).

Since lawyers are ultimately driving this, maybe we can fix it by giving lawyers an incentive: create laws that allow companies to be sued for damages if they obtain patents if they should reasonably have known about prior art. This might restore some balance to the patent system, and companies would think twice about filing bad patents if they incur potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in liability.

All of them are so similar (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116616)

Since they are all so similar, wouldnt it make sense to deny ALL of them?

Re:All of them are so similar (1)

green1 (322787) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116912)

It's more likely that they will approve ALL of them with the theory of "let the courts sort it out." The end result of which is that the big companies continue as business as usual, but any smaller company that tries to implement a similar thing will find themselves quickly on the wrong end of a patent infringement suit from one of the big players. Of course that's par for the course right now, the primary purpose of patents shifted from protecting innovation to stifling it years ago.

Of course your version would be how it SHOULD work, after all, what is better proof of the obviousness of an idea than 4 different companies racing to patent the same idea!

Height of invention. (2)

drolli (522659) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116620)

Excuse me. The idea to combine geographic positions with specific messages to the user is *not new*.

Re:Height of invention. (4, Insightful)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117348)

Turn Left 5 miles.

I'm almost bald, but.... (3, Funny)

jhd (7165) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116642)

... it makes my (remaining) hair hurt just thinking about how stupid this "patent race" is becoming.

-- john

Re:I'm almost bald, but.... (0)

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Useless USPTO again (4, Insightful)

webdog314 (960286) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116652)

And the only reason that this hasn't been patented in the past is that nobody honestly believed that the USPTO could be so freaking stupid. Boy did we underestimate THAT...

Re:Useless USPTO again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117152)

Future patents: telling people its dinner time, reminding children to brush their teeth before they go to bed (a location), alerting people to shovel snow if it's snowed.

Prior art (3, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116672)

Some billboards are art. Pretty sure they're location based too.

Re:Prior art (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117564)

This one? [blogspot.com]

What they do with the patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116700)

Google: Use it defensively most likely, when you are attacked with better weapons, get the same weapons?
Apple: Used against competitors as a means to bolster it's own product (blocks features)
MS: Used as a way to get more money especially it's competitors (probably high license fee)

Me: Charge them all insane fees to show how stupid this whole thing is. Use money to reform patent laws.

Make obvious patent filings result in a fine.. (5, Interesting)

Grave (8234) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116720)

Any time an exceedingly obvious patent is filed by a company, it should be immediately placed in the public domain, and the company that filed it should be forced to pay royalties to the government. Not only would this reduce the amount of stupid patent filings and court battles, it would get our national debt paid off within a year or two.

Re:Make obvious patent filings result in a fine.. (2)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116780)

I somewhat agree that the patent office should be in the business of declaring what is public domain just as much as what is protected.

post-it violates those pantents? (1)

slacer42 (1534475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116762)

or is this just a kind of prior art? It simply does not make sense to allow patents for such simple things. Is geo-caching violating location aware reminders?

All These Location Based Patents (5, Informative)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116766)

Are going to run into trouble, since the guys at MIT were doing the same thing in the 90s. http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~rhodes/Papers/wearhive.html [mit.edu] , for example. I ran across a paper in the mid 90's about leaving messages for other users in specific locations. They also published some articles about some very neat camera things things they were doing, such as recognizing someone's face via a camera the wearable user was wearing, and looking up up relevant information on that user (I think out of BBDB.)

So if you're looking for prior art to go patent busting on these big companies, a good place to start would be in the wearable computer projects in the 90's. A lot of these guys published in the journal of the ACM, too. Apple, Google and Amazon think their balls are all shiny and they're doing something new, but they're not.

Re:All These Location Based Patents (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116840)

> Apple, Google and Amazon think their balls are all shiny and they're doing something new, but they're not.

  You know, they probably don't even think they're doing something new. They're counting on us believing them when they tell us they're doing something new.

4 companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116814)

4 companies are, at nearly the same time, patenting the same thing. How is this not obvious to a person skilled in the art?

Re:4 companies (1)

green1 (322787) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116960)

Forget "skilled in the art" even lay people found this obvious! I remember many years ago thinking that if my GPS knew where I was it would seem logical that it could also tell me what to do when I was there. Later I was frustrated that my PDA had calendar, to-do list, and GPS, and yet had no way of combining the three of them. I'm technologically inclined, but I'm certainly not "skilled in the art" of making phones/GPSs/PDAs/etc.

That's it! (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116818)

I'm turning GPS off right now!

Cross License to keep Plebes Out (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116822)

Microsoft, Google, Apple and Amazon will likely eventually just cross license each other and keep the wannabes out, at least for the U.S. market (don't know about foreign patents issued).

I see a lot of bitching with respect to patents, but without patents we would not have seen the 19th & 20th century rise of the U.S. in mechanical and electrical and electronic invention.

A society where everything is kept a Trade Secret means that few people are willing to disclose or trade information. Patents only give you a limited time right to exclusive use IF, and only when, you disclose the invention in its entirety via the patent, so others can duplicate it, invent around it or improve it. It is a magically simple solution to the older age of "guilds" where you often had to be born into the guild to be a person who could become skilled in the trades.

You assume there is a secret (1)

roguegramma (982660) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116924)

You assume there is a trade secret which is worthy to be disclosed.

This is not the case when there are 100.000s of equally able engineers and software developers.

Also this is not the case when the patent is generalized so much in order to earn more money that it is hard to detect any implementation apart from the idea.

Re:Cross License to keep Plebes Out (4, Insightful)

green1 (322787) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117020)

Except that many patents these days are so broad as to not include any way of implementing what they describe (which means they are no better than a trade secret) AND the "limited time" isn't even applicable anymore when you realize just how long that time frame is and how fast the technology is progressing.

I'm not an expert on patents in the 19th and early 20th centuries to know for certain if they did in fact encourage invention at that time or not (I suspect it was really a bit of a mixed bag). But I am quite certain that by the end of the 20th century and in the early 21st century they do no such thing, and in fact actively stifle innovation to large degree. At this point there is no way to invent ANYTHING without running afoul of one patent or another. Even something new and novel that nobody has ever even dreamed of is likely to run afoul of one patent or another on the shape of it's case, the method of powering it, or the user interface to run it (among other ridiculous things).

Patents today are badly broken. They protect mega-corps at the expense of small time inventors. they protect exactly the people who need it least against those who would require it the most. It's time they were abolished, or at the very least, subjected to a MAJOR overhaul.

Re:Cross License to keep Plebes Out (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117338)

I see a lot of bitching with respect to patents, but without patents we would not have seen the 19th & 20th century rise of the U.S. in mechanical and electrical and electronic invention.

Maybe it would have been the 18th and 19th century rise instead. Sewing machines, steam engines, and digital computers -- three important inventions delayed in development for years over patent wars.

colossal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116892)

1 YOU ARE STANDING AT THE END OF A ROAD BEFORE A SMALL BRICK
1 BUILDING . AROUND YOU IS A FOREST. A SMALL
1 STREAM FLOWS OUT OF THE BUILDING AND DOWN A GULLY.

Method? (2)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116894)

I thought patents were based on the method and not the product/service in and of itself. Everyone could implement their method slightly differently (that's the trick part) and be scot-free.

Prior arts. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116966)

I'll say there's a natural prior arts.
Your girlfriend (if you have any)

You just walk around with your girlfriend then suddenly she reminds you: "hey! I just remember we're missing {milk,bread,whatever}. Let's go in there and buy it."

This works the other way around too.

Apple patents suck (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117076)

Apple should also have a patent which covers providing a reminder to a user whose 'to do' list includes 'suck' when the user's location matches 'an area that is near "my balls."'

The difference... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117084)

Microsoft and Apple are patenting things so they can extort companies to pay the licensing fees. Google is patenting things so they don't get extorted.

Military System prior art (1)

laughingskeptic (1004414) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117092)

Military systems have been providing location based alerting to soldiers for decades now.

Thank you patent attorneys! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117130)

I'm just glad that these companies had the patent system to incentivize them to come up with such clever and novel ideas! Imagine a world where someone had to think something like that up without the promise of 17 years of licensing revenue, I mean, who would bother?

This should be allowed (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117224)

Assuming it will point out the closest gun store on the way to the patent attorney's office.

Patents are fucking ridiculous. (1)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117318)

How do you patent what basically is a fucking grocery store shopping list that has been used for ever?

How do you patent what every family has been doing for years? Which is simply calling to remind their child, their wife, their husband... to pick up some eggs and milk.

This fucking world needs to hurl itself into the sun.

"America Invents Act" (1)

xkr (786629) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117358)

Takes effect on the Ides of March, 2012. For new filings after date. Those new filings will start to come out of the Patent Office mill around 2017. Most professionals in the patent field (including me) don't think the new law will change patent practice much.

Like many others in my field, I prefer to call it by its original name, the "Smith-Leahy Act," since it, disappointingly, doesn't provide meaningful improvement in "inventing."

What patents are supposed to be for... (1)

robus (852325) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117408)

Patents were invented to make trade secrets public for the betterment of society - for example some enterprising engineer comes up with a method for making super strong steel - just looking at the end result doesn't give you any clue and if the engineer kept it as a trade secret the method might go with her to her grave - thus hurting society. She taking out a patent means that society gets to learn how to do it and she is rewarded for sharing by getting extra compensation from licensing the patent to other engineers.

Location-based reminders is not a significant advance by that definition.... and should not be patentable IMHO. All the necessary patentable advances were in the GPS system etc upon which this simple and obvious idea is built. Makes me sick how much this system is abused.

Doesn't it feel like almost every societal tool has been switched into reverse these days?

Robert.

Better late than never (1)

kylemonger (686302) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117426)

I'm glad phones are finally getting smart. I've been waiting for years for my phone to be smart enough to turn itself off when I go into a theater, and more importantly, turn itself back on after I leave. That someone can patent ideas as simple as this is proof that the patent system needs large bombs dropped on it until there is nothing left.

Pathetic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117528)

Just plain pathetic.

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