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Amazon Patents Annotating Books, Digital Works

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the my-emate-does-it-better dept.

Books 125

theodp writes "On Tuesday, the USPTO granted Amazon a patent on its Method and System for Providing Annotations of a Digital Work, which covers 'receiving an annotation of the digital work, storing the annotation, and providing the annotation to a user.' This includes annotations received in a graphical or handwriting format, as well as highlighting of text." I think I smell at least one example of prior art.

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125 comments

Okular Is Not the Best Example (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39274955)

I think I smell at least one example of prior art.

Ughhhh, Unknown Lamer, you're making defend an Amazon patent. The earliest timestamp I can find for Okular is August 27th, 2006 [kde.org] while the patent in question was filed a year and a half earlier on January 19th, 2005. I'm not saying that there is no prior art, I'm just saying I couldn't find any hard evidence of Okular being conceived prior to Amazon's patent. Now I have to go take a shower ...

Re:Okular Is Not the Best Example (4, Informative)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39274983)

Yeah I would have mentioned the annotation features in Word, Excel and Adobe Reader.

Re:Okular Is Not the Best Example (3, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275023)

Hell even the Newton [wikipedia.org] could even do that, just not very well.

So - You had a Newton? (3, Interesting)

Cheech Wizard (698728) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275167)

So you're saying you had a Newton and were displeased with it? Or are you saying you read what some people wrote and are going with repeating their opinion(s)? I had (and still have and it still works) a Newton. It worked (and still works) fine. I really like my old Newton. Lots of people complained about the Newton but their expectations considering the technology of the day were a bit much. I wasn't as pleased with a "small toy" until I got an iPhone 4 (which is, in essence, derived from the Newton).

Re:So - You had a Newton? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275327)

their expectations where based on what Apple told them. The Newton was a marketing flop.

Re:So - You had a Newton? (1)

Cheech Wizard (698728) | more than 2 years ago | (#39276669)

Many good ideas from many people and companies have flopped over the years due to marketing and other reasons. Many bad ideas have done very well such as VHS over Beta. I was just checking. You obviously never owned one so you don't know how nice Newtons were for their day. It lived up to my expectations and more. As to "...what Apple told them..." - All advertisements are that way. That is the nature of advertising. Apple does it. Microsoft does it. The people who make Charmin bathroom tissue do it. Politicians do it (and then some). I don't have a TV any more but I see ads all over the internet that over state, at least to some degree, the product being sold. As a 'geek', "...speeds up to..." will probably ring one of your bells. Speaking as someone who actually bought and used a Newton, it was (and considering how old it is, still is) an awesome electronic device.

Re:So - You had a Distraction? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275329)

Did you know ...?

... that a product review of the Newton wasn't the point of this article, the summary, nor was it the point of anybody who happened to mention a Newton?

Re:So - You had a Newton? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275363)

Now, see, this, ladies and gentlemen, is a textbook, museum-exhibit-quality example of a Standard-Issue Classic Model Apple Fanboy. Note the stark contrast between his call to consider the technology of the time when the Newton was released with his primitive, volcano-god-worshiping fervor with which he rushes to defend what he perceives to be a slight against his master. Observe the immediate, hostile defensive stance taken by the poster, a reaction typically reserved for personal verbal attacks, generally not for negative remarks, no matter how factual or innocuous, against shiny, overpriced gadgetry. And, as is frequently the case with this sort of person, the attempt to dismiss any further criticism (including evidence to the initial claim, in this case including the fact that nobody bought the Newton) by likening this device to something popular today, hoping to change the subject before things get less-than-perfect for the history of the Cupertino company.. Simply marvelous.

Next up on our tour, an Amiga Persecution Complex sufferer and the closely-related N900 User...

Re:Okular Is Not the Best Example (2)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275275)

Hell even the Newton [wikipedia.org] could even do that, just not very well.

From the first claim:

--receiving multiple annotations from different authors for particular content in a digital work; --storing the annotations in association with the digital work; --providing a list of abbreviated versions of the annotations to a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations, wherein the list presents the annotations in an order determined by reference to a criterion; --receiving an authorization credential from a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations; and if the authorization credential is valid, --providing a full version of one or more of the annotations of the digital work to the user in context with regard to the digital work

I had a Newton, and I don't remember it doing any of those.

How about the bible ? Also an example of this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39280831)

No offence, but I remember the very first class I ever had about the bible showed me the result of doing just what the patent describes. Mostly non-digital commentaries, of course, but even digital ones. This was in the early 80s. By the early 90s this sort of thing was commonly done online.

In analog form, monks have been doing this since (at least) 38 AD. In digital form, probably not very long after the first computer became available. Collecting and distributing commentaries has been done since the ancient Greeks engaged in it about their philosophical works. That also has been done digitally online since the mid-90s at least.

How the hell does this get patented ?

Re:Okular Is Not the Best Example (1, Interesting)

Scarred Intellect (1648867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39276303)

Now now, we know that prior art doesn't matter anymore. Remember our awesomely wonderful patent reform? http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/09/09/0042242/patent-reform-bill-passes-senate [slashdot.org]. Amazon is the first to file, so obviously they retain all the rights!

Of course I didn't RTFAs

Re:Okular Is Not the Best Example (2)

Epimer (1337967) | more than 2 years ago | (#39279617)

The change from first to invent to first to file doesn't have anything to do with the consideration of prior art.

However, if PUBLISHED prior, can be doc prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39279629)

Key is published. Check out the new law, and write Sen Patrick Leahy and ask him if Senate intent allows this type of patent?

Re:Okular Is Not the Best Example (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39276375)

I concur: I had a couple Newtons. It did this, and I thought well.

Re:Okular Is Not the Best Example (1)

DdJ (10790) | more than 2 years ago | (#39278731)

It's true. In the mid-1990s, I was using a Newton connected to a phone line to receive faxes, annotate them, and send them back. It was crude, but extremely valuable to me at the time.

The devices running the General Magic software, "MagicCap", were a bit better at it, since it was almost all they could do!

(They were pen-based devices like the Newton, but unlike the Newton, they did not attempt handwriting recognition. So when you wrote a mail message to someone, you sent them a drawing, not anything a computer would recognize as text. The OS's infrastructure for handling that stuff was largely centered around "annotating" the documents with "stamps" or "stickers". Like, the way you'd mark a mail message as "important" was to annotate its envelope with what visually looked like an "important" rubber stamp. The OS bound meaning to the annotation. Pretty slick, for its day.)

(I still own four working Newtons and three working MagicCap devices. And yes, I also own several PalmOS and WinCE devices, and even an ancient Poqet, a palmtop with MS-DOS in ROM!)

This Patent is About Receiving and Serving (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275081)

Yeah I would have mentioned the annotation features in Word, Excel and Adobe Reader.

Hmmm, I wasn't aware that these products allowed you to connect to a centralized server for storing/receiving annotations as far back as 2005. Are you sure you're not confusing the functionality to store them on the documents themselves? The first line of the patent summary reads:

Methods and systems for receiving and distributing annotations of a digital work include receiving an annotation of the digital work, storing the annotation, and providing the annotation to a user.

Emphasis mine. I remember being able to save notes and annotations on documents in Word but if those are changed or updated or added to, they wouldn't get these changes until they got my new version of the document.

Re:This Patent is About Receiving and Serving (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275371)

You're doing it wrong. When there's a story about a patent filing, you're supposed to post about anything you can think of vaguely related to the patent in question's field, regardless of how it relates to the actual patent that you obviously didn't read, and scream PRIOR ART!!!!!! You get bonus points for every year after the patent filling that your "prior art" was released. 2X modifier if you manage to mix up trademarks and patents, 3X if you refer to the trademark as a copyright while doing so.

Re:This Patent is About Receiving and Serving (4, Interesting)

JobyOne (1578377) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275581)

So sending and receiving a digital file (after all, that's what the annotations are, at the end of the day) from a server is non-obvious? You can't say "well, nobody ever sent and received *this particular type* of file before, so I'm inventing!"

Fuck that. A file is a file, and syncing it with a server is syncing it with a server, regardless of the content of that file.

I think Wikipedia could count as prior art. After all, it's nothing but a system for storing/receiving annotations to a digital work, and then distributing them to users depending on various criteria. Annotating text is annotating text, whether that text is hypertext or an ebook...FFS most ebook formats ARE hypertext in a stupid wrapper.

Re:This Patent is About Receiving and Serving (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275889)

I receive annotations in word files all the time. Then I edit the file, adding annotations, and distribute the file back to the group.

So you're saying that SVN / e-mail / ... all ought to qualify as prior art? Interesting...

Re:This Patent is About Receiving and Serving (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39276229)

I'd say anybody who ever stored diffs on a server and retrieved them has prior art. Backup, anybody?

Oh no, an annotation is not a diff!!! this is a friggin CREATIVE PATENT!

It's more about controlled access (3, Interesting)

wireloose (759042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39276347)

The patent's main features, from what I can see, are that it allows for authentication controls to limit access to the annotations, and for compensation methods as well. Most of the abstract describes these features.

Methods and systems for receiving and distributing annotations of a digital work include receiving an annotation of the digital work, storing the annotation, and providing the annotation to a user. The user may be required to submit a valid authorization credential for the annotation. Annotations may be textual or graphical, and may be associated with particular content in a digital work. Indicators may be displayed to identify content in the digital work for which annotations are available. A user may exchange compensation or perform a specified action for access to an annotation. Some or all of the compensation received for an annotation may be distributed to the author of the annotation. Multiple annotations may be listed in an order based a criterion, such as ranking, price, or date of receipt. Users that purchase a digital work may automatically receive an authorization credential to receive annotations of the digital work.

Also, annotations for MS Office documents are stored in the documents themselves, not kept seperately. Authentication in MS Office documents is limited to encryption passwords, if you have the password to the document, you also have access to the annotations.

The focus here is on e-commerce related to the annotations. I can see it being used for educational e-texts. Certainly, an engine could also be sold to businesses of all kinds for sensitive document development and review.

I can also see it being used to patent troll against Microsoft and anyone else that has annotation and comment abilities in their applications.

Re:This Patent is About Receiving and Serving (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39276819)

Ah so thats the new patent flavor..

Doing XYZ with a Computer/Server with server being the new bit.

Re:This Patent is About Receiving and Serving (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39277561)

I worked for a company whose boutique app was submissions of annotations and markup on PDF documents where the daa was stored in a centralized database and then presented as an overlay on the document. The company still holds a patent on the methodology that was filed in .... 99 I think? Would have to look it up.

Re:This Patent is About Receiving and Serving (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39279829)

Hmmm, I wasn't aware that these products allowed you to connect to a centralized server for storing/receiving annotations as far back as 2005.

Yes. We called them file servers and it predates 2005.

In the early days this functionality was marketed as "workgroups" where people could create a document and put it on a centralized server. Coworkers would open the document and make annotations or even modify the document itself (a.k.a. redlining) and save the new version. It was a selling point for Microsoft Office Word and even Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Seriously this isn't that new of a concept...

Re:This Patent is About Receiving and Serving (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39279867)

In addition to my previous post, my office been doing group work and saving the modified documents using subversion for long while.

Re:This Patent is About Receiving and Serving (1)

Kielistic (1273232) | more than 2 years ago | (#39280461)

It is not supposed to matter if implementation is trivial. Let me guess: they send some kind of TCP/IP messages between nodes and a server. Let's make this clear right now; "receiving" and "distributing" information between nodes and servers should not be patentable. It is the number one use case of the server-node system. It does not matter if they are working with annotations, instant messages or email. If they have developed some novel method of message passing that deserves a patent (unlikely) then it should be about that. Annotations should never be part of the patent.

Could I patent being the member of a group that collates all the other members' analog annotations into one document and sending it back to them?

Re:Okular Is Not the Best Example (3, Informative)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39276405)

Barnes & Noble should be able to squash this one.
Their Reader, formerly Fictionwise ereader, formerly Palm Reader, formerly PeanutPress has annotation with highlighting (on both DRM'ed and non-DRM'ed content).

I used it to annotate stuff back in the late 90s, and I still use it.

Re:Okular Is Not the Best Example (1)

Bigby (659157) | more than 2 years ago | (#39277753)

How about Mr. Patent themselves: IBM

IBM Content Manager has had annotation layers on documents since at least version 7.0. They even created a format to store it (this was before SVG). I don't have any idea when 7.0 was released, but they are currently on 8.5 and 8.1 was release before 2003. My guess is that they have had it since at least 1999.

Re:Okular Is Not the Best Example (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275987)

Not to mention that we can't tell from that link how ocular is doing their annotations; there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Bogus summary (5, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#39274965)

. . . which covers 'receiving an annotation of the digital work, storing the annotation, and providing the annotation to a user.'

No, it does not. It covers A PARTICULAR METHOD of 'receiving an annotation of the digital work, storing the annotation, and providing the annotation to a user.' Specifically,

A computer-implemented method for providing an annotation of a digital work, comprising:
--under control of instructions that are executed by one or more computing devices:
          --receiving multiple annotations from different authors for particular content in a digital work;
          --storing the annotations in association with the digital work;
          --providing a list of abbreviated versions of the annotations to a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations, wherein the list presents the annotations in an order determined by reference to a criterion;
          --receiving an authorization credential from a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations; and if the authorization credential is valid,
          --providing a full version of one or more of the annotations of the digital work to the user in context with regard to the digital work.

The patent covers a method that includes all five of the listed elements (receiving, storing, providing, etc.). Your favorite method must include all five of these elements, and be published before the filing date (19 January 2005) to be classified as disqualifying prior art. Not include one (or more) of these elements? Then it's not disqualifying prior art. (I'm speaking in generalities here, and ignoring other independent claims, apparatus claims, and lots of special cases. See your attorney if it matters to you.)

The Okular annotation method, while no doubt earlier and better in every way, seems not to include many of these elements, and so would not be disqualifying prior art.

Can we become better educated on patents -- maybe just a little -- so that we can not panic every time somebody patents something? By that I mean, can we start quoting Claim 1 in the summary, instead of the abstract?

I note in passing that the Patent Examiner reviewed (approximately; I counted by hand) 184 US patents and patent applications, 6 foreign patent documents, and 80 other references, looking for art, and that the examination process took more than seven years to complete. Whatever else one may say about this patent, it wasn't rubber-stamped.

Re:Bogus summary (4, Informative)

jabuzz (182671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39274979)

Sure but it should have failed the "obvious to someone skilled in the art" test.

Re:Bogus summary (0)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275107)

Sure but it should have failed the "obvious to someone skilled in the art" test.

Sadly, there is no such test.
The USPTO is fine with granting you a weak patent as long as you've dotted your i's and crossed your t's. It's essentially up to the courts to decide. Unfortunately, they're more expensive and even less skilled in the arts.

Re:Bogus summary (0)

Rolgar (556636) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275463)

The obviousness standard in place should be replaced with this:

Press Release: USPO announces that Amazon has filed for a patent on annotating digital books. This patent will be considered obvious if somebody else can provide a working model of this within the next two months. Any submissions after the end of the second month 1 month for every 2 business days before the alternative submission is submitted. When the patent length has reached 10 years (on date XXX-XX approximately 1 year from today's announcement), it shall be considered non-obvious, and Amazon shall be approved for 10 years of patent protection beginning today.

--------------------
That way if somebody else has been working on a similar invention, they can still use it even though they can't get a patent of their own. If something is trivially recreated in less than two months (ether by an open source advocate or by IBM, MS or another big companies' research lab with a few engineers and scientists assigned to invalidating each others patents) then they can help keep the number of patents being granted down to a much more reasonable level. If a patent gets through this obviousness test where the solution can't be produced based upon a simple description of what it does, then the solution should be considered novel, and the inventor deserves to be rewarded with a 10 year monopoly as a thank you from the rest of us.

Re:Bogus summary (1)

Rolgar (556636) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275567)

Correction for a mis-edit: Any submissions after the end of the second month shall grant the filer a patent for one month for every two business days before the alternative submission is submitted.

To explain: If a patent is filed Jan 2, on March 2+4 business days, if nothing has been submitted, then every business day that no solution is found will make the patent good for 2 weeks/half a month. Since there are 520 weeks in 10 years, 10 years of immunity will be reached after 240/260 business days (depending on if counting by weeks or half months), which is either 11 or 12 months from the end of the initial two month period.

Re:Bogus summary (3, Insightful)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39276007)

The obviousness standard in place should be replaced with this:

Press Release: USPO announces that Amazon has filed for a patent on annotating digital books. This patent will be considered obvious if somebody else can provide a working model of this within the next two months.

By definition, your proposed standard relies on hindsight, since you're showing something is obvious only after looking at it. Any engineer these days can sketch out a simple internal combustion engine on the back of a napkin. Does that mean that in the 1800s, internal combustion engines were obvious? No. Hindsight has no place in patents.

Re:Bogus summary (1, Insightful)

Rolgar (556636) | more than 2 years ago | (#39276979)

Of course somebody over a hundred years after the original invention of a device could have a complete understanding of the device in question. But the point of the obviousness standard should be to determine if an invention is something that multiple inventors could have come up with today, or if one person came up with the invention and that person is the only one who could have done it. If the industry was at a point where the invention were inevitable because dozens or more engineers could come up with it, then it's obvious and shouldn't be granted a patent. That's what we are trying to figure out. Here is an invention. Is it worthy of a no-competition protection for the inventor for a while to reward them for their work that they've done but haven't made any money off of yet? Or is it something new, but not really worthy of a patent?

If many people could come up with the same invention, then patenting the invention is unnecessary in the public's interest, because there is no real risk of the invention being lost should the inventor pass away and his records are hidden on his hard drive undiscovered when the machine is wiped. I expect half a dozen other companies are able to come along and compete based on quality, cost and customer service. I don't care if I get my copy of the invention from engineer A or X. They are both good engineers, but since the thing they are selling is something that half a dozen different guys could have come up with, I'd rather them compete than having to buy from A because he was the first to file with the patent office. So lets say we're talking the self-driving car that is being worked on by dozens of different groups. Different groups are working on various designs, with different software, but probably using off the shelf sensors and computers to make everything work. I don't think this is going to be something that is really patentable, because every group is working on the same thing that I don't know that it will be worthy of a patent if group 3 is a couple of months ahead of group 6 on filing an application. This is pretty much a case of everybody waiting for all of the necessary component technologies being advanced enough to make the solution easy, but nobody doubts that the problem is a mix of inputting a location, the computer determining current and desired locations, calculating a path (all done), then talking control of the vehicle and safely navigating the selected route.

On the other hand, if the invention is something really unusual, say a worm hole device that will allow a space ship to travel from Earth orbit to any star in our galaxy in a few minutes. Sure somebody a hundred years from now would be able to give the detail on how the machine works, and it would be common knowledge. But the guy who invents it next year? He probably would have found something unique in space time, and be deserving of a patent. So when the device is submitted to the patent office, the patent office releases info that a patent has been filed for a worm hole device. Odds are it gets a full 10 year protection because it's not currently obvious how to make a worm hole. Buy the time the device is removed from patent protection, the science and device are well known and several groups could then compete on producing the best worm hole drive.

Re:Bogus summary (3, Interesting)

pruss (246395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275229)

Something I've wondered about, as a non-lawyer, is how exactly the obviousness test works. Some solutions are obvious once you formulate the problem with sufficient specificity. Here the problem is something like: "How to make dynamic annotations by multiple authors, with different preferences about the distribution range for their annotations, usefully available to the user of an electronic work?" Given this formulation of the problem, the solution in this patent is pretty obvious.

But the problem itself isn't obvious. And there is an art to formulating a problem in such a way as makes a solution obvious. One could, after all, formulate the problem in a way that doesn't make this solution obvious: "How to do something really useful with an electronic work?" or even more specifically: "How to make an annotation system more sophisticated?"

And I know that when I implemented initial annotation support in the Plucker e-text reader for PalmOS in March, 2004 [plkr.org], nothing as sophisticated as this patent occurred to me.

So, is the obviousness test a test of the obviousness of a solution or of the problem or both?

Re:Bogus summary (1)

skiflyer (716312) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275759)

Also curious - but on patents like this one I'm always struck by the fact that there's nothing interesting except for the "put it on a computer" part. Yes, there was a time when digitizing was non-obvious, but now it seems to me that adding "on a computer" would fit with just about everything. Certainly everything media related.

Margin notes have worked this way for hundreds of years, though they've fallen out of favor recently. Authorization to receive the annotations seems like a pretty weak addition, but I guess you could cite a library card if you wanted to take my analogy too far.

Re:Bogus summary (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275971)

Margin notes have worked this way for hundreds of years, though they've fallen out of favor recently. Authorization to receive the annotations seems like a pretty weak addition, but I guess you could cite a library card if you wanted to take my analogy too far.

Not really... Say you pick up a book - do you get to see only abbreviated margin notes until you show the book your library card, at which point you can then see the full margin notes?

Re:Bogus summary (1)

Kielistic (1273232) | more than 2 years ago | (#39280577)

But we already have many methods of implementing credentials and privileges. They are trivial to make and very obvious as soon as "over the internet" is added to anything. Patents are not supposed to be a permutation game.

Re:Bogus summary (3, Informative)

Epimer (1337967) | more than 2 years ago | (#39279997)

I have to start with a disclaimer: it depends from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and I'm much more familiar with European and UK standards of obviousness.

The brief answer is that there has been precedent to suggest that identifying a technical problem to solved can itself be inventive. Put very broadly, something like "I want to make product X be better" isn't an objective technical problem to be solved, it's a desired outcome. But identifying a way in which to make product X better, followed by a means to implement it, may be non-obvious. The larger contribution in that case might well have been the identification of the problem, but that itself could have been inventive ("inventive" and "non-obvious" are used more or less interchangeably).

My favourite example is the Anywayup Cup (Google it - also a great example of how patents can be enormously beneficial to the little guy). Anyone who's had a child (I'm told!) knows that kids spilling juice is a problem. The Anywayup Cup is a sippy-cup which, essentially, has a valve flush with the sipping portion. If you framed that problem as "I want a way to stop liquid from leaking out of the apperture in a sippy-cup" then that's an obvious solution. But that wasn't the objective technical problem to be solved; the problem to be solved was "I want a way to stop kids making a mess when drinking juice", and identifying the technical means to do so was the lion's part of the inventive step there.

(there was more to this particular case than that - for example, there's the "long-felt want" argument here, because kids making an unholy mess with juice isn't exactly a new problem, so why hadn't a solution been presented before? This is not enough to demonstrate inventiveness, but it may contribute depending on the circumstances.)

Both the UK and the European Patent Offices have pseudo-objective tests for assessing obviousness - the Pozzoli/Windsurfing test and the Problem and Solution approach, respectively. Common to both is ensuring that the problem to be solved is identified, the relevant skilled person is identified, and - arguably most importantly of all - the avoidance of hindsight. Nearly everything's obvious in hindsight.

Re:Bogus summary (4, Interesting)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275251)

Sure but it should have failed the "obvious to someone skilled in the art" test.

That's not the test, that's the conclusion. The test - whether something is obvious - is whether one or more prior art documents, publications, or products, alone or in combination, teach or suggest each and every element of the claimed invention. So, for example, if the claim recites "A+B+C+D" and you have one piece of prior art that teaches A+B, another that teaches C, and another that teaches D, then in combination, they teach everything in the claim, so the claim is obvious. If, on the other hand, no piece of prior art teaches D, then the claim is not obvious.

This is necessary because it creates an objective test, limited to what was known to those of skill in the art at the time the patent application was filed, which is required for due process. A purely subjective test of an Examiner saying, "without any evidence, I have a gut feeling this is obvious" would be almost certainly be improperly based on hindsight.

Re:Bogus summary (2)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275359)

The problem, as I see it is that if A+B+C exists, you are still allowed to patent A+B+C', where C' is an extremely small incremental advancement over C.

Pretty much everything we do is built on the shoulders of previous works at this point. And some ideas are definitely innovative and novel. The problem is actually qualifying what the difference between C and C' needs to be for it to be a non-obvious solution and non-trivial advancement.

Re:Bogus summary (1)

click2005 (921437) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275855)

Yeah, its like adding the words "on the internet" to something people have done for decades makes something a new invention.

Re:Bogus summary (2)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275915)

Yeah, its like adding the words "on the internet" to something people have done for decades makes something a new invention.

No - go back and read my earlier comment. If [something people have done for decades] is known and [the internet] is known, then the combination of [something people have done for decades] + [on the internet] is, by definition, obvious. And no patent has ever been granted on such a claim. People may describe a patent as "X, but on the internet," but you have to go to the claims, not the title, the abstract, the summary, or a Slashdot article about it. Only the claims have any legal weight.

Re:Bogus summary (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275877)

The problem, as I see it is that if A+B+C exists, you are still allowed to patent A+B+C', where C' is an extremely small incremental advancement over C.

Pretty much everything we do is built on the shoulders of previous works at this point. And some ideas are definitely innovative and novel. The problem is actually qualifying what the difference between C and C' needs to be for it to be a non-obvious solution and non-trivial advancement.

The benefit to the objective test I mentioned above is that it removes the subjective question of whether the change is C' or D. If it's really a minor incremental advancement that legitimately has never been done before, then maybe it's not obvious. Particularly if it's commercially valuable - say moving from C to C' gets you an additional 1% efficiency. If that were obvious, then people would have already done it - the fact that they haven't means it isn't obvious.

Re:Bogus summary (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39276123)

Hmmm.. I see your point, but. I don't know how many times schedule has prevented developers from making the obvious improvements to get something working and out the door.

Re:Bogus summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39276517)

If that were obvious, then people would have already done it
Or it means that people considered it but decided they couldn't implement it with the time/labor/equipment resources they had.

Re:Bogus summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39276867)

Then this is obvious. As someone else mentioned, Wikipedia* already existed, annotations in various word processors already existed, and syncing up versions on a server already existed. The only way this thing gets through the patent office is through incompetence in the patent office combined with Amazon's skills at manipulating the patent office into thinking something is not obvious.
 
And for fuck's sake, how does patenting this crap which any of the skilled engineer's on slashdot could implement in our sleep, manage to advance the useful arts or sciences by getting approved?

Re:Bogus summary (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#39277147)

[H]ow does patenting this crap which any of the skilled engineer's [sic] on slashdot [sic] could implement in our sleep, manage to advance the useful arts or sciences by getting approved?

Simple: Since the engineers cannot duplicate this method of annotation because of the patent, they're forced to sit down and think of something new. Creating new methods, rather than copying someone else's existing method, is known as advancing the state of the art. Or inventing.

Re:Bogus summary (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275571)

Sure but it should have failed the "obvious to someone skilled in the art" test.

Care to explain why? You might be right, but you can't just say that something is obvious and leave it at that.

To show that something is obvious, you must:

  • Examine the scope and content of the prior art - what does your base reference teach
  • Examine the level of ordinary skill in the art - what could one of ordinary skill in the art have done at the time of invention in 2005
  • Examine the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art - Find one or more references to combine or modify your base reference, and show how one of ordinary skill in the art would have found the difference between the application and the prior art to have been obvious without the benefit of hindsight of the already constructed invention (that is - that they would have been incentivized and motivated to construct the obvious invention)

And then after you've read that, go read Graham v. John Deere [google.com], 383 U.S. 1 (1966) and KSR v. Teleflex [google.com], 550 U.S. 398 (2005).

Re:Bogus summary (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39277781)

It's fscking software... and it shouldn't be fscking patentable in the fscking first place...

Jesus H fscking Christ...

When will you fscking Yanks just fscking get it fscking together...

I don't give a flying fsck about the "Obviousness Test" when it shouldn't be patentable subject matter in the first place...

Kill fscking software patents NOW... and stop putzing about trying to defeat individual patents... just kill them ALL now... ONCE AND FOR ALL... for the benefit of ALL humanity...

Re:Bogus summary (3, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275185)

Can we become better educated on patents -- maybe just a little

OK, let's start here:

http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/documents/2100_2106_02.htm [uspto.gov]

Then here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_re_Bilski [wikipedia.org]

Then here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church-turing_thesis [wikipedia.org]

Then, if we are all still paying attention, we can ask how any software patent is valid.

Re:Bogus summary (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275203)

Can we become better educated on patents -- maybe just a little -- so that we can not panic every time somebody patents something?

On the one hand, you're correct, people make this mistake in understanding just about 100% here at Slashdot.

On the other hand, it's still just a series of very vaguely described but fairly obvious actions â" sort of like describing how to skip across the street.

Now, if they had a truly unique programming method. But then we get into the ratâ(TM)s nest that is software patents...

Re:Bogus summary (3, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275245)

It strikes me that the available prior art might hinge on whether you think that the distinction between the 'annotations' and the 'work' is terribly relevant(from the perspective of the patent, obviously the distinction between text and margin notes is relevant to the user).

If it is relevant, the only real possibilities are the document markup features in some of the PDF/publishing related stuff, or Office and similar.

If the distinction isn't materially relevant, practically any revision control system going back to the dark ages provides a superset of the features described:

Support for multiple users and multiple devices, with authentication and permissions? Check.

Stores 'annotations' in association with the digital work? Storing revision information in relation to the digital work being revised is only the entire point of revision control systems...(the revision control use case assumes that most changes checked in will be changes rather than comments; but, architecturally, comments and annotations are a proper subset of the sorts of revisions one can check in, and programmers certainly do check in code comments as well as changes to the 'work'

Provides abbreviated versions? Any of the 'friendly-display' mechanisms for a revision controlled repository will provide for some sort of 'here be diff by user Foo. click to expand?' function.

Access control? Yup, revision control systems do that as well, some only to file level of granularity, some more.

Provide full version of one or more annotations? Check out SVN checkout...

For my information(since I'm honestly not too much up on patents), does the expected use case of a tool count as a suitably weighty factor in determining validity? In this case, it is certainly fair to say that the expected use cases of Amazon's "digital margin notes" patent places it firmly in the same camp as other text annotation systems from Adobe, MS, and some more specialty vendors. Architecturally, though, the 'invention' is essentially 'partial re-implementation of a revision control system under the assumption that the base file(s) will always be treated as canonical, and the diffs as merely incidental'. Their implementation is likely to be a better fit than a straight revision control mechanism if you are, in fact, highlighting your way around an etext; but the underlying architecture will be equivalent to, or a mere subset of, revision control...

Re:Bogus summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275433)

I note in passing that the Patent Examiner reviewed (approximately; I counted by hand) 184 US patents and patent applications, 6 foreign patent documents, and 80 other references, looking for art, and that the examination process took more than seven years to complete. Whatever else one may say about this patent, it wasn't rubber-stamped.

That of course is the dirty little secret. Patent examiners -- and primary examiners especially -- do not have time to thoroughly review all of those references. The examiner personally cited 8 references throughout prosecution that were not provided by the applicant (these are indicated by asterisks in the printed patent, or you can flip through the PTO-892 forms in the docket) (the examiner also reviewed other references during prosecution that he likely did not cite because they did not teach relevant features). The other 262 references were cited by the applicant, and most of them were cited after the application was originally allowed by the examiner (in fact, the applicant withdrew from issue in order to cite additional references). While the examiner certainly leafed through some of those 262 references, by no means can you presume that all were read cover to cover. You cannot presume that the patent received more scrutiny simply because the applicant dumped a bunch of references on the examiner.

However I agree with parent's overall thrust. To anticipate a claim, the prior art must teach each and every limitation of the broadest reasonable interpretation of the claim. If you leave any limitation out -- no matter how minor -- you have not anticipated the claim.

Re:Bogus summary (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275477)

--under control of instructions that are executed by one or more computing devices:
                    --receiving multiple annotations from different authors for particular content in a digital work;
                    --storing the annotations in association with the digital work;
                    --providing a list of abbreviated versions of the annotations to a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations, wherein the list presents the annotations in an order determined by reference to a criterion;
                    --receiving an authorization credential from a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations; and if the authorization credential is valid,
                    --providing a full version of one or more of the annotations of the digital work to the user in context with regard to the digital work.

Seems to me that this very web page does these things. As does SVN.

Re:Bogus summary (1)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 2 years ago | (#39276421)

--receiving an authorization credential from a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations; and if the authorization credential is valid

You have attempted to access LUVD4TA55's annotations for the work "Advanced Python in Web Development Back End Environments" by Catheryn Smalls entitled "XXX I FOIUND PIX OF THE AUTHOR SHOWIUNG HER "BACK END" LULZ"

The author of these annotations has set a price of $69.69 to view these annotations. Please enter your credit card info below if you.......

Re:Bogus summary (1)

readin (838620) | more than 2 years ago | (#39276841)

Did the patent say anything about "selling" the annotations? My friend I believe you have the makings of another patent!

Re:Bogus summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39276627)

Does slashdot itself count as prior art for that claim?

There's a digital work (the subject), receives multiple annotations (user comments), which are stored, abbreviated versions of annotations are listed (comment subjects) (and you can give criteria for how many abbreviations to list), users have IDs (except for anonymous cowards), and you can read full annotations (not just titles) if you want to.

Slashdot doesn't let comments hang off of specific words in the digital work as you look at slashdot's display of it, but I'm not sure the claim requires that.

Re:Bogus summary (1)

readin (838620) | more than 2 years ago | (#39276801)

A computer-implemented method for providing an annotation of a digital work, comprising:
--under control of instructions that are executed by one or more computing devices:
--receiving multiple annotations from different authors for particular content in a digital work;
--storing the annotations in association with the digital work;
--providing a list of abbreviated versions of the annotations to a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations, wherein the list presents the annotations in an order determined by reference to a criterion;
--receiving an authorization credential from a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations; and if the authorization credential is valid,
--providing a full version of one or more of the annotations of the digital work to the user in context with regard to the digital work.

Time for me to apply for my newest patent:

A computer-implemented method for providing an annotation of a digital work or set of multiple digital works, comprising:
--under control of instructions that are executed by one or more computing devices:
--receiving multiple annotations from different authors for particular content in a digital work or set of multiple digital works;
--storing the annotations in association with the digital work or set of multiple digital works;
--providing a list of abbreviated versions of the annotations to a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations, wherein the list presents the annotations in an order determined by reference to a criterion;
--receiving an authorization credential from a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations; and if the authorization credential is valid,
--providing a full version of one or more of the annotations of the digital work or set of multiple digital works to the user in context with regard to the digital work or set of multiple digital works.

Re:Bogus summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39279335)

Can we become better educated on patents -- maybe just a little -- so that we can not panic every time somebody patents something? By that I mean, can we start quoting Claim 1 in the summary, instead of the abstract?

There is no topic, and I mean none, on which the average Slashdot poster is both more thoroughly ignorant of the bare basics of the matter and oblivious to the fact of his own ignorance, than patents.

It's like going to a creationist board for a discussion on evolution. Everybody hates it, nobody understands it, and nobody knows nobody understands it.

So in conclusion, OP, good luck!

Digital Handwriting? (3, Informative)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39274985)

My newton did this decades ago.

If you want a more current example of handwritten annotation on existing PDF documents, look at the now defunct 'entourage' tablet products.

Re:Digital Handwriting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275173)

Read the fucking patent, ok? Despite Unknown Lamer's hatchet job, the patent actually covers a seemingly novel method, and has almost nothing whatever to do with any of the commonly used document annotation systems everyone keeps mentioning.

Re:Digital Handwriting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275413)

You mad, bro? How's things in South Lake Union this morning? Hear it's a nice day in Seattle...

Re:Digital Handwriting? (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275341)

No it did not.
Unless there was some centralized global distribution system for annotation on a newton that I was unaware of.

Question here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275041)

Is this a patent on an invention they created or is it a patent on an idea?
I really don't want to read what's on USPTO and try to understand it. But, I don't like the idea of patenting ideas. It's one thing to patent some code, but it's another idea to patent the idea of something.

We did this in 2001 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275169)

I worked on project to provide annotation capabilities on legal documents for Canadian Judges. and would be very happy to share this info with anyone who would be sued by Amazon.

I'm taking out a patent on the letter "Q". (1, Funny)

srobert (4099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275191)

I'm getting a patent on the letter "Q". I see some of you here have been using it. You'll be hearing from my attorney.

Re:I'm taking out a patent on the letter "Q". (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275353)

"A method for representing words beginning with the sound 'kuh-yoo' or ending with the sound 'kuh' in electronic or printed media..."

Re:I'm taking out a patent on the letter "Q". (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275687)

Too late, not only did Paramount [wikipedia.org] patent that, the patent ran out in 2007. However, they still hold copyright to Q. I'm sure you'll be hearing from their lawyers.

Re:I'm taking out a patent on the letter "Q". (1)

flatulus (260854) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275797)

Don't be so uick to try that stunt, you ueer! I won't go down uietly!

??? Hey! Who did that?

1984 anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275211)

Patenting a way to falsify history electronically?

Retro concept: NCSA Mosaic circa 1994 (1)

hAckz0r (989977) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275385)

The concept of annotation on digital works has been around for a while.
http://gramlich.net/projects/public_annotations/authoring.html [gramlich.net]

While this specific patent is fairly particular about the method of doing and storing it, sooner or later someone is going to sue sombody else with an overly broad accusation, and want billions of dollars in damages, simply to shut them down and put them out of business.

CritLink? (1)

liquiddark (719647) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275391)

Didn't Eric Drexler and a bunch of other people use Crit Link [zesty.ca] or something similar to do this on a website my memory says it was edge.org in the late 90s/early '00s?

How about Projwect Xanadu -- certainly earlier (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275553)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Xanadu

Acrobat PDf did this a LONG time ago. (1)

dthanna (1294016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275667)

For as much as this crowd wants to bash Adobe on occasion for 'proprietary' formats, closed source products, etc. PDF is ISO'd* along with information on how to create/modify/remove the annotation COS objects in the file. Annotations were added in the PDF specification in 1.2 (circa 1996) and into the Acrobat / Reader product lines in the 3.15 update which came out, roughly, 1999.

http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/product.jsp?product=1&platform=Windows [adobe.com]

* You can get the current PDF spec free of charge from Adobe's web site by downloading the Acrobat SDK.

I know that Annotations (along with forms objects) became first-class tools in the product with the release of 4.0 and were a major selling point (including annotation import/export). Adobe has since added and has continued to expand annotation capabilities and synching options in Acrobat 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Starting with regular file systems, through WebDav and other web based technologies (e.g. Acrobat.com) and onto Lotus Notes and Sharepoint.

I'm surprised that the USPTO even entertained this patent as, for them to even process the patent they would have had to use the exact same technology in the patent with Acrobat as apart of the regular USPTO workflow. It would be akin to Bell calling the USPTO, on the phone, to patent the phone that both of them were talking on.

Going to get a bucket of popcorn and watch the show on this one.

Does Prior Art Still Matter? (3, Insightful)

flatulus (260854) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275763)

With the recent change to U.S. patent law (i.e. first to file now, vs. first to invent previously), is there still such a concept as prior art? If "first to file" rules, then doesn't that mean that one could patent an invention which had been around for decades, in common use, but for which nobody ever thought to file a patent?

Re:Does Prior Art Still Matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275799)

This.

Yes, the recent change to the US patent system returned it to the crazy first-to-file method, removing the one piece of sanity that existed in the system.

Re:Does Prior Art Still Matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39276087)

No, dumbshit, stop panicking and breathe deeply...

Novelty is still required, and any patent will still be thrown out if you show a non-crooked judge an instance of prior art teaching all claims, just like before.

The only difference occurs, if two companits file patent applications covering the same invention at nearly the same time, with both claiming to have developed it in their own lab, and neither having been published yet (so neither of them is prior art, since they're not art). In this case, the old system made everyone go through legal headaches trying to prove their researchers invented it first. and handed the patent to whoever won. The new system just hands it to whoever files first, but IT STILL GETS REJECTED IF IT'S OBVIOUS OR NOT NOVEL. An ideal system would reject both applications, since it's clearly non-obvious if everyone and his brother are inventing it. ;)

Re:Does Prior Art Still Matter? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39277103)

The change from "first-to-invent" to "first-to-file" basically affects 35 USC 102(a). All the other provisions of 35 USC 102 will still be in effect, as will 35 USC 103 and the disclosure requirements of 35 USC 112. So prior art will still be alive and kicking.

See US Patent Laws [uspto.gov]

Re:Does Prior Art Still Matter? (3, Informative)

Epimer (1337967) | more than 2 years ago | (#39280237)

NO!

This is another of those hugely common misconceptions on Slashdot around how patents work (right up there with what the term "prior art" actually means).

The only difference between a "first to file" and "first to invent" system is what happens when two (or more) parties come up with the same invention (near-)simultaneously. Under "first to invent", you would enter into costly interference proceedings and the rights would be awarded to the person who demonstrated that they were the first to conceive of an invention and reduce it to practice. This is not straightforward to do, and can be complicated by issues of due dilligence in reducing the idea to conception.

Under "first to file", you ignore that question and simply refer to who was the first person to file an application. Interference proceedings are gone.

It has ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT on prior art; an invention must be new, involve an inventive step, not be excluded subject matter (although this is narrow in the US) and be capable of industrial applicability (very low threshold test, but mentioned for completeness' sake) to be patentable.

There is prior art that is decades old (1)

JThaddeus (531998) | more than 2 years ago | (#39275809)

There is nothing new about annotating electronic documents. This has been a part of document management systems for decades. I've been at this company (http://www.mindwrap.com/ [mindwrap.com]) for over 15 years. It's been part and parcel of our product since before I arrived. Before that, in 1993, I worked on a FileNet document management system installation. FileNet already had an annotation capability for Windows clients. I wrote a Macintosh implementation for the project.

Forest for the treest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39275963)

Instead of pretending I know about patent law, I'm just going to read plain old books. You tech-obsessed consumers can fight about who has the patent on what.

Microsoft Word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39276165)

I hate to say that but isn't it possible to annotate digital works in Microsoft Word?

Sorry Big Business... (1)

MitchDev (2526834) | more than 2 years ago | (#39276223)

...you abused the patent system for WAY too long. We the public need to take your toy away from you...

1992 - NASA wrote Hyperman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39276275)

1992 - NASA wrote a program like this called Hyperman as part of EDP. In 1996, the project won runner up in the NASA software of the year contest. Most of the project pages are gone from the internet now. http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19960022643_1996044857.pdf [nasa.gov]

Annotations were shared between multiple users and were very cross platform. Document authors were able to force annotations onto all readers of their documents.

OTOH, I could be misreading the new aspects to Amazon's patent.

I recall when Adobe came to visit our lab ... they were already pushing PDF, but hadn't added javascript or searching yet. ;) I'm sorry to say that the way Adobe implemented search was less than ideal and may have been done, in part, due to our very specific requirements to search across hundreds of documents.

Tons of prior art - typical BS software patent (1)

IQGQNAU (643228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39276443)

There are many digital annotation systems with distribution means prior to 2005. Just for a example is the very general-purpose Annotea RDF vocabulary and support implemented in the W3C Amaya web browser. 2001 http://www.w3.org/2001/Annotea/ [w3.org]
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