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Netflix Suing Blockbuster for Patent Infringement

samzenpus posted more than 8 years ago | from the there-can-be-only-one dept.

410

grouchomarxist writes "Netflix is suing Blockbuster for Patent Infringement. From the article: 'Netflix holds two U.S. patents for its business methodology, which calls for subscribers to pay a monthly fee to select and rent DVDs from the company's Web site and to maintain a list of titles telling Netflix in which order to ship the films, according to the patents, which were included as exhibits in the lawsuit. The first patent, granted in 2003, covers the method by which Netflix customers select and receive a certain number of movies at a time, and return them for more titles. The second patent, issued on Tuesday, "covers a method for subscription-based online rental that allows subscribers to keep the DVDs they rent for as long as they wish without incurring any late fees, to obtain new DVDs without incurring additional charges and to prioritize and reprioritize their own personal dynamic queue -- of DVDs to be rented," the lawsuit said.'"

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410 comments

Worried! (4, Funny)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065090)

Does this also cover my shopping list at Asda (Walmart)?

I am really worried. Any minute now, someone will patent going to work by bus. (Including SCSI and VME)

Re:Worried! (0, Redundant)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065152)

I'm in the process of patenting my invention, I call it "money".

Everyone is screwed now.

Re:Worried! (5, Funny)

Eccles (932) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065306)

I'm in the process of patenting my invention, I call it "money".

*Looks in wallet*

Well, I'm not infringing...

Re:Worried! (1)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065425)

Thanks!

Now I'm going to go and patent using your wallet to hold air. Its a win/win baby!

Re:Worried! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065309)

I would say that I have prior art, but I'm flat broke.

Re:Worried! (0, Redundant)

Anisty (966223) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065170)

Just so you know, i have a patent pending for the motion of lowering your index finger over the left mouse button whilst hovering a cursor over a clickable object in a web browser... Rebind your mice now!

Re:Worried! (1)

Casca1 (656425) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065257)

No this doesn't cover your shopping at Wally-World. However... I do hold the patent on Bagging your groceries, with 14 different methodogloies, in either plastic, Paper, or cloth sacks. I strongly recommend you pay me 30 cents a bag to avoid suit. Can't these morons get a grip?

Re:Worried! (2, Funny)

dodobh (65811) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065258)

Nah, we will patent going to work over the Internet.

Re:Worried! (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065274)

yeah, who is going to actually put a sane limit on what a patent can hold? Why should there be a difference between renting online and renting from a store/by phone/text message/WAP (as opposed to the 'normal' internet). You cant patent renting things presumably, it's just such a fundamental concept, which I'd assume has been around for thousands of years.. not least renting out yourself for work and other such things >.>

Patents on business methods are stupid. (5, Insightful)

tpgp (48001) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065091)

TFA:
"Blockbuster has been willfully and deliberately copying Netflix's business methods," Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey said.
So what if they're copying your business methods - thats called competition.

Re:Patents on business methods are stupid. (5, Insightful)

Mecdemort (930017) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065184)

It has long been said that: Imitation is the highest form of flattery.

In the past copying products in a different form was alowd. You couldn't patten chicken noodle soup, but you could pattent a specific formula. This form of patenting ideas is going to strangle us as a civilization, and lead to a few companies that control everything.

Just wait until someone patents a pure idea, and if anyone gets caught thinking about it you have to pay them.

Re:Patents on business methods are stupid. (1)

Professor_UNIX (867045) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065298)

Just wait until someone patents a pure idea, and if anyone gets caught thinking about it you have to pay them.

I have a patent pending on that so stop stealing my idea or I'm going to sick my lawyer on you.

Re:Patents on business methods are stupid. (4, Informative)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065225)

So what if they're copying your business methods - thats called competition.

Nobody that uses patents as their business model wants competition. Just ask Tom Woolston.

Hint. He's a patent attorney, who loves to be his own customer.

Blockbuster: sue the USPTO (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065284)

Blockbuster, if you're listening, you need to lay hard into the US Patent Office and sue them for incompetently issuing bogus patents that will cost you huge penalties in legal fees and possible settlement costs.

The advantage of vigorously pursuing full-scale litigation against the patent office is that most of the research for your legal team will be done free of charge. There is a huge community who are already aware of the problem with the USPTO and can point to at least hundreds of similar bogus patents that have or may in the future cause significant financial loss to other companies.

Re:Blockbuster: sue the USPTO (1)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065371)

Sorry, but I've already got a patent for suing the USPTO for issuing bogus patents.

Two hands (-1, Offtopic)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065098)

On the one hand, I am ambivalent about both Netflix and Blockbuster.

On the other hand, I can't find anything remotely interesting about this article.

The solution, I think, is to either avoid posting or post about how much I am disinterested.

If you are reading this, you are aware of my choice.

What a disappointing post, BadAnalogyGuy (2, Funny)

hunterx11 (778171) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065121)

One hand washes the other, but your post is more like both hands waving apprehensively in the air because you weren't sure which one to wave but now you realize that waving both looks stupid but you've already committed to your decision and don't want to look like you did it on accident.

a sad time (5, Funny)

tont0r (868535) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065105)

next 7-11 will sue circle K because they both run the same business.

Re:a sad time (5, Funny)

QuantumPion (805098) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065328)

1) Patent "the process of exchanging goods or services for finiancial reimbursement"

2) Sue the entire world, muahahahaha

3) Profit!

Re:a sad time (2, Funny)

chrismcdirty (677039) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065404)

You can sue the entire country. You can only threaten to sue the entire world. The rest of the world will laugh at you because they don't have such retarded patent systems as the US.

Broken beyond repair (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065106)

The first patent, granted in 2003, covers the method by which Netflix customers select and receive a certain number of movies at a time, and return them for more titles.

So a common-sense business method is patentable? The U.S. patent system really is broken, I'd encourage all to read Jaffe & Lerner's Innovation and Its Discontents [amazon.com] to see just how broken it is. Personally, I think there's no hope of repair, and innovation would progress better were the entire system thrown out. But patents are seen as such a triumph of early American government, with founding fathers like Jefferson in favor of them. Plus, our legislature is currently enslaved to monetary interests. So, we're stuck in quite a pickle where nothing can really be done.

Re:Broken beyond repair (4, Funny)

mtenhagen (450608) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065117)

Just wait until someone tries to change the patent system. I bet all patent systems are patented already.

Re:Broken beyond repair (4, Insightful)

Cheap Imitation (575717) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065253)

How's that for ironic? A comment protesting the patent of common-sense business methods, and a request to read about it by giving us a referral link to Amazon, of all places... Now that's funny stuff!

Re:Broken beyond repair (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065324)

So you basically suggest that we buy a book from Amazon, which patented the "One Click Shopping", to get some awareness about the patent system being broken?

Do I smell some irony here?

Re:Broken beyond repair (1)

Transdimentia (840912) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065344)

Interesting. You suggest I succumb to a patent abuser (Amazon) to read about patent abuse?

Re:Broken beyond repair (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065417)

The FSF boycott of them ended years ago; while they continue to file patents, they're not using them aggressively (presumably, like many other companies, they're filing them for defensive purposes.) If they start up again trying to enforce the patents against companies that aren't trying similar tactics against them, then yeah, we should treat them as scum, but right now I'd see it as buying a book on security from a bookshop owned by a former thief.

MOD PARENT DOWN - Link referral whore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065370)

Take a close look at the URL in the link for the book that is mentioned above. The poster apparently decided that not only was he going to recommend a book to the Slashdot crowd, but he also thinks that he should profit from it as well. The link clearly has a referral ID to it so that he gets a commission on any book sold by that link.

Unless the "unwritten rules" of Slashdot have changed, that kind of activity is generally considered to be verboten by the Slashdot crowd.

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN - Link referral whore (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065384)

Unless the "unwritten rules" of Slashdot have changed, that kind of activity is generally considered to be verboten by the Slashdot crowd.

Not verboten at all. Look at the postings for book reviews here, the links there all have referral links to Amazon and B & N and have for several years now.

Re:Broken beyond repair (1)

brouski (827510) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065393)

The patent system worked fine when all that would be patented was physical objects.

Aside from patentability (3, Insightful)

PornMaster (749461) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065114)

Aside from whether or not business methods should be patentable... since they were granted the patent, it's pretty obvious that they had come up with a novel process which was straight-up copied. On the legal merits, they should certainly win.

Re:Aside from patentability (5, Insightful)

Pofy (471469) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065136)

>Aside from whether or not business methods should be patentable... since
>they were granted the patent, it's pretty obvious that they had come up with
>a novel process which was straight-up copied.

Please tell what part of it that is novel and non obvious (to people in THAT area)? In addition, it should be something that no one has done before 2003 (or even later since that was the first patent).

Re:Aside from patentability (2, Insightful)

smelroy (40796) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065345)

Sure it is obvious now... thanks to Netflix pioneering it seven years ago (getting a patent takes a while). Although I don't have much respect for the US patent system, I have to wonder how else would Netflix protect their novel business model from a competitor like Blockbuster? BB has several major advantages already: a huge, existing inventory of movies and actual stores. How can Netflix compete with that without protecting their novel business model?

I subscribe to Blockbuster now because of the fact that I get 2 free rentals every month from a store in addition to the all I can watch by mail. That allows me to go rent something on a whim. Those 2 free rentals in the store would cost me almost over half as much as the monthly subscription does already. Netflix can not compete on that level without partnering with some other competing retail rental chain. What Netflix does have going for it is they came up with this new idea for unlimited online rentals for a set monthly fee. Shouldn't they be able to protect that in some way?

Re:Aside from patentability (2, Informative)

SamuraiMike (768946) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065199)

That is certainly a reasonable expectation.

The problem is that the patent office has pretty much stated that they don't really spend much time these days researching whether a given idea is patentable, and instead let the courts sort it all out. In that context, this is really about challenging the validity of the patent.

Re:Aside from patentability (1)

Zak3056 (69287) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065319)

The problem is that the patent office has pretty much stated that they don't really spend much time these days researching whether a given idea is patentable, and instead let the courts sort it all out.

An even bigger problem is that the courts have said that the patent office must know what it's talking about, and consider patents to be valid until proven otherwise.

Utter, utter BS (5, Insightful)

stunt_penguin (906223) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065115)

OK so what if I go out and patent queueing at a shop checkout to pay for goods, or paying for magazines to be delivered to your home on a monthly basis, or, or........

This shit has to stop, I mean netflix are just being totally petty about the whole damn thing. I mean, what *other* way is there to organise online DVD rental? Are they going to enforce patents on their *whole* business model.

This has to stop. Gah!

For what it's worth (1)

BeardsmoreA (951706) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065189)

Those examples (queueing, subscription payments) wouldn't / shouldn't be patentable, as there is clear prior art. So don't try and use them as some kind of reductio ad absurdum proof that the system is broken. The system may be broken, but that's not my point...

Re:For what it's worth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065238)

You're a fucking idiot.

Netflix has patents on on those two ideas, thats what TFA is about.

Look at me, I said reductio ad absurdum, aren't I smart? Maybe if it applied here. Welcome to the thunderdome bitch.

Re:For what it's worth (0, Flamebait)

BeardsmoreA (951706) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065312)

I never understood why people browse with AC posts hidden until now. Netflix does not have patents on either of the concepts in the GP.

Quote: "OK so what if I go out and patent queueing at a shop checkout to pay for goods, or paying for magazines to be delivered to your home on a monthly basis, or, or........"

That was what I replied to. Retard.

Re:For what it's worth (1)

stunt_penguin (906223) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065256)

Mmmmmmmmm okay, prior art on those things has long since escaped, but if the first publisher to offer subscription methods had tried to patent such an obvious idea, and if the first muti-checkout supermarket chain had tried to patent their 'multi-tierd customer service prioritisation system' then they should never have been granted those patents.

Netflix should never have been granted patents on something so obvious- online DVD rental is such a simple business model, and the queueing system is such a logical system for getting your DVDs sent out to you in the order you want that no-one should be able to just own such a simple idea.

Imagine if wal-mart 'owned' queueing, or the NY Times owned the subscription idea. That's the same thing as netflix trying owning the online rental idea and is utterly rediculous.

Re:For what it's worth (1)

BeardsmoreA (951706) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065343)

I see what you're saying, but I'm still not sure I agree. I'd say the problem (as in most debates on dodgy patents) is that there isn't a rigorous enough prior art check being performed. I'd say it's a fair bet that 'multiple customer queues' have been around longer than any concept of patent law - but if not, who's to say it wouldn't have been fair enough to give the very first vendor with the idea some limited protection for a limited period on it, which is what patents are *supposed* to be all about... That would have course have lapsed hundreds of years ago, so Wal-mart wouldn't have a chance to apply for protection on the same thing. In theory.

Let me fix it for you (1)

NigelJohnstone (242811) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065331)

"as there is clear prior art. "

Let me fix it for you:

"OK so what if I go out and patent queueing at a shop WEARING A HAT & or CAP checkout to pay for goods WEARING A HAT &/OR CAP, or paying for magazines to be delivered to your home on a monthly basis WEARING A HAT &/OR CAP, or, or........"

Find me prior art for that in a form the US patent office considers acceptable prior art proof. If you manage it, I'll simply tweak the condition to make it unique.

The core problem here is the US patent office grants obvious and non novel patents for non-technical things, in clear violation of its remit.

Re:Let me fix it for you (1)

BeardsmoreA (951706) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065352)

Yep - pretty much agreed. The problem isn't neccessarily in the ideas behind the system, but in how they're applied. And out of interest - anyone any idea how my response to the trolling AC became 'flamebait'? :)

Prior Art isn't worth the paper it's printed on. (1)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065394)

Those examples (queueing, subscription payments) wouldn't / shouldn't be patentable, as there is clear prior art.

Well, you'd think that, but while I'm sure that people have been playing with cats with flashlights since flashlights were invented, the USPTO issued a famous patent for Method of Exercising a Cat. [uspto.gov]

How about a side-to-side Method of swinging on a swing? [uspto.gov] I don't know about you, but I claim prior art from my childhood.

Personally, if I were Blockbuster, I'd take advantage of the way the patent office considers an invention thats just slightly different from an original claim as a new invention and patent a few variants on Netflix's original patent that try to anticipate where Netflix might take their business model and then countersue them to insist on patent cross-licensing.

Score another one... (0, Redundant)

bbroerman (715822) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065126)

Score another one for a broken system that will let you patent everything... Can I patent breathing?

Re:Score another one... (3, Funny)

varmittang (849469) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065279)

Nope, I got that patent already. And if you want to make a bowel movement, I got that one too. So pay up.

Re:Score another one... (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065322)

I did wonder that myself.. though everyone else breathes so it doesnt work. The thing here is that apparently nobody else had allowed you to rent films online before. I remember subscription services like this to get movies through normal mail, it really is pathetic that since it involves the internet that it should be patentable. Someone should get in there and patent distribution via holographic disc (or better yet, those funky holocommunicator things in Star Wars).

I actually wondered if people will develop cameras that can capture a scene in 3D, like with ultrasound/sonar/radar type stuff, but that leaves it open to far too much abuse for pervs using it to see through people's clothes and stuff :S maybe if they just restrict it to the porn industry it would work

Library patents (5, Insightful)

doddi (881823) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065127)

The first patent, granted in 2003, covers the method by which Netflix customers select and receive a certain number of movies at a time, and return them for more titles.

Isn't this exactly how libraries have worked since ...um, long before 2003?

Re:Library patents (3, Informative)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065158)

No, because this is ONLINE. Throw "on the internet" in there and you can patent pretty much any existing business practice. Other magic phrases are "on a handheld device" or "on a games console".

Re:Library patents (1)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065376)

Hey, thats not a bad idea. A few others we should capitalize on:
  • On the Moon
  • Underwater
  • with your feet
  • psionically
  • with Ranch
  • with vim and vigor

Although, I think there may be some trouble defending "with Ranch".

Simple solution. (4, Interesting)

RandoX (828285) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065128)

Blockbuster should charge $.01 per year late fees. No longer the same as the patent.

Re:Simple solution. (2, Interesting)

stunt_penguin (906223) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065141)

Actually, that's a really good idea, and gets around part of the problem. Maybe they can then introduce a customer bonus system that means they get their late fees back if they rent more than 5 movies in a year, thereby making the whole thing null and void for all customers.

Re:Simple solution. (2, Interesting)

Aneurysm9 (723000) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065307)

Then you run into the doctrine of equivalents. Even if one device or method does not correspond 1:1 to the claims in the patent, infringement may be found if the device or method is sufficiently equivalent.

Re:Simple solution. (1)

TRS80NT (695421) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065359)

Good idea!
Quick. Patent it.


Netflix sues Blockbuster, Users Sue Netflix (2, Insightful)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065133)

First of all, Blockbuster sucks, they 'settled' their class action lawsuit for overcharging for late fees by offering about 3-4 free rentals as payment. That is unfair. They made millions from these late fees and then when they were found to be scamming, they just offered some free rentals, big deal...we never saw that late-fee money again.

Netflix needs to stop staggering movies for frequent-renters. Just because someone can take full advantage of their 'all-you-can-rent' policy, doesn't mean they should be penalized for it. Netflix already gains from those who don't return their movies regularly, so why should they care if some rent and watch a new movie every day? Just charge more per month or get rid of the policy.

Re:Netflix sues Blockbuster, Users Sue Netflix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065335)

they (Blockbuster) 'settled' their class action lawsuit for overcharging for late fees by offering about 3-4 free rentals as payment. That is unfair.
It's not Blockbuster's fault that the plaintiff's attorneys accepted this settlement.

Re:Netflix sues Blockbuster, Users Sue Netflix (1)

ryanvm (247662) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065347)

Blockbuster sucks, they 'settled' their class action lawsuit for overcharging for late fees by offering about 3-4 free rentals as payment.

I'll bet the law firm that represented the plaintiffs wasn't paid in free rentals...

Seriously... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065142)

It's really time I patent that revolutionary idea I had.

-Patent the idea of "Exchanging money for goods or services"
-To be on the safe side, patent "working in exchange of money"
-Launch lawsuit against every business and everyone out there
-Profit!!!

See, my idea is so good, it doesn't even need an ???? step!!!!

Anyone wanting to discuss this intelligently ... (5, Informative)

Throtex (708974) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065144)

... should probably take the time to read the patents in controversy assigned to Netflix first.

They are:
US Patent No. 6,966,484 to Calonje, et al.; and
US Patent No. 7,024,381 to Hastings, et al.

As you do so, look at the claim language, not the specification, to find out what the invention actually covers. Discuss.

Re:Anyone wanting to discuss this intelligently .. (1)

Throtex (708974) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065167)

I forgot to point out that, in case you don't notice it, the following patent (of which the most recently issued is a continuation) is also included:

U.S. Patent No. 6,584,450 to Hastings, et al.

Re:Anyone wanting to discuss this intelligently .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065232)

Oh, and before everyone goes all apeshit on people who patent things in order to protect their business interests, please go here here [uspto.gov] and run the following search:

in/torvalds

Re:Anyone wanting to discuss this intelligently .. (4, Interesting)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065300)

There's a difference between patenting inventions (i.e. what the system was designed for) and patenting commercial actions and methods of organization, which is what business model patents are. Business model patents do NOT promote the Sciences and Arts. They merely ensure a monopoly without encouraging innovation.

Re:Anyone wanting to discuss this intelligently .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065369)

What you say with regards to business method patents may or may not be the case, but at least you have an appreciation for the patent system. My post was directed to the people on this board who cannot visualize any use for a patent system.

Re:Anyone wanting to discuss this intelligently .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065244)

And if you want to discuss how bloated OOo is you have to analyze the source code...

good point (1)

Ender Ryan (79406) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065326)

The AC has a good point. Any user of OOo can certainly see that the app is rather bloated. How? The end result. In the case of OOo, that is a very slow to start app that consumes awful amounts of memory. In the case of these patents, the end result is a ridiculous lawsuit against Blockbuster. You do not need every last detail to make a reasonable judgement of something. That is what expensive lawsuits are for. People like the OP, who demand everyone pay attention to the fucking minutiae of everything, are part of the reason we have such a litigious society.

oh please (0, Offtopic)

Ender Ryan (79406) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065280)

We all know what Netflix's business model is. We all know what Blockbuster started doing. We all know that Netflix is sueing Blockbuster for patent infringement. That's more than enough to call bullshit on the current patent regime.

Some asshole like you chimes in every discussion saying the same thing. They always get modded up, despite adding nothing real to the discussion. The facts remain. The facts being: ridiculous lawsuits, ridiculous constraints on freedom caused by the PTO.

Re:oh please (0, Flamebait)

Throtex (708974) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065301)

And you've added exactly what?

Before you jump on the "Patents are bad" bandwagon (4, Insightful)

defwu (688771) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065169)

Yes, "common-sense" business models are patentable. Why? Because "common-sense" is not as common as you would think.
As for the "patents are bad for innovation" argument : if you come up with a way to manufacture widgets that no one else has before, and that innovation has cost you a certain amount in development costs, should you not have the right to protect that investment? If your competition can just steal your methods, then you would have no incentive to innovate.
I am not saying that there isn't a line here, or that the the line hasn't been jumped over by the US. patent office, but by and large patents do in fact encourge business investment into research that would otherwise not happen.

Re:Before you jump on the "Patents are bad" bandwa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065278)

This begs the question, why are inventions, ideas and industrial processes that are supposed to benefit the public being developed and used privately? In my opinion, technology, pharmaceuticals and anything else where Copyright law is too "weak" should be developed by universities and publicly-funded institutions. These things are just too important to be owned.

Re:Before you jump on the "Patents are bad" bandwa (2, Insightful)

Mostly Monkey (454505) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065292)

One problem is that often someone will patent an idea without further developing it. They will sit on it until another company does all the footwork to make the idea feasible and then sue them. Unless the other company takes the risk the patent won't benefit anyone.

Re:Before you jump on the "Patents are bad" bandwa (1)

erbmjw (903229) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065305)

Yes but here's the kicker - the idea in itself has to be novel!

And it's not. It merely uses a little bit more technology to do what was priorly done by pen, paper and lists, or in-store/etc computers oh and lists.

Corporations are flooding the patent office and the office is unfortunately failing at their task. DO I blame the poor staffers that must examine the patents - not really. Do I find fault with a system that allow the mis-use of patents ... well where would you place the blame?

common sense (2, Insightful)

backwardMechanic (959818) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065315)

Yes but common sense refers to the time the patent application is filed. I agree that lots of ideas are obvious after someone has had them. That is why you file the patent, and then tell the world about it. But if your idea was obvious before you suggested it, that's common sense and isn't (and shouldn't be) protected. If all obvious ideas could be patented, it becomes a race to file patents, and innovation naver gets a look in. Which appears to be how the US patent office functions.

Mod parent up (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065333)

This is the first comment I've seen that isn't screaming bloody murder. It's also the first comment that makes sense.

And I'd like to ask the naysayers this "How is the Netflix business not unique?"

#1 I do not remember any other company offerning rental by mail DVDs (and no late fees on returns)
#2 I believe Netflix was the first company to offer the monthly fee/get as many DVDs as you can watch in a month business model.

To me, these are innovative business strategies. I'm not going to argue the validity of the patent, but to say there is nothing new with what they've done is absurd.

Patents *are* bad (2, Insightful)

chaves (824310) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065339)

"If your competition can just steal your methods, then you would have no incentive to innovate"

We don't need incentive to innovate, innovation is in the inner essence of the human race. Problems need to be solved, and someone will solve them first. There are many benefits of being an inventor or pioneer. And innovation is good for business as well, as it gives you a lead over the competition (no need to tie people down). There are ways you can prevent others from just stealing your work, such as copyrights, and trade secrets. That does not apply to business methods (you can still take credit for creating it, which can be good marketing). Here what matters is that you need to execute well and provide the better value for your customers.

Reduce term for business method patents (2, Insightful)

ewg (158266) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065406)

Business method patents would be more palatable if the term of protection weren't so long, especially when the web is involved. Seventeen-year legal monopolies just don't fit a twelve-year-old medium.

The Double Click (and other stupid patents) (2, Interesting)

BoredWolf (965951) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065177)

Last time I checked, patenting was only for "new and innovative" methodologies and products. What I read in the article is neither. It is common sense to give people the products they want in the order they want them, and to give repeat customers a flat-rate on rentals. I suppose Netflix should look elsewhere for their innovations. They could try pantenting their screw over your customers [msn.com] business methodology...

hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065180)

hate business patents, hate blockbuster more... hmmm...

My beer shopping patent (3, Funny)

ip_freely_2000 (577249) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065202)

A method in which I look in the fridge on a regular basis and realize it is empty. I then get in the car and drive to the beer store to replenish my supply of beer.

You all owe me.

Re:My beer shopping patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065313)

Where should I send the money?

Re:My beer shopping patent (1)

phaxkolumbo (572192) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065362)

A method in which I look in the fridge on a regular basis and realize it is empty. I then get in the car and drive to the beer store to replenish my supply of beer.

Man... If I'd ever done that I couldn't count the number of DUI's I would've ended up with...

OH JUST FUCK OFF!!!!! (1)

Paul Bristow (118584) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065205)

This is so fucking stupid. This is a business model called "renting" - it's happened for a very very long time.

I suppose we will have to watch the US Economy collapse as they tie themselves in self-imposed legal knots. What an unbelieveable situation.

How much more will it take before the US lawmakers realise that the Intellectual Property balance in the US has hit the end-scale stop.

Re:OH JUST FUCK OFF!!!!! (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065273)

It is impossible to achieve realization when one's head is so far up one's own ass.
Truly they are so busy profiteering on this exquisitely fucked situation from their view they'd be crazy to change

You guys are so screwed.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065208)

When my patent on the process of vacuum-induced gaseous elements being diffused into a liquid circulation system for the operational maintenance of bodies in motion, and, in turn, said vacuum-induced gaseous elements are exchanged passively in the system for different gaseous waste elements which are then expelled via compression. It's 100% enforceable and anyone found to be using my patented process without paying royalty fees to me will have their illegal process shut down or removed. You have been warned, start amassing your capital now. My lawyers will be in touch.

Re:You guys are so screwed.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065341)

Pretty sure there's prior art for the internal combustion engine.

Re:You guys are so screwed.. (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065415)

Nope, he's got a liquid medium into which the gas is being absorbed. Thing is, I'm using it for private use. I'm guessing he'll have to sue God over this one. (Either that, or my mother. I'm not saying you can't sue an old jewish woman, but you're eventually going to spand any settlement you get on the counseling you need aftewards)

That's it. I'm not going to sign up with Netflix (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15065213)

No point in rewarding them with my business.

patent throttling (3, Insightful)

maryjanecapri (597594) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065215)

Do you think Netflix is going to also patent their wonderful method of throttling their better customers? I just signed up for Blockbuster after watching my netflix shipping come to a slow grinding halt. I am actually LUCKY if I get my three movies at a time in a single week now. So I wanted to check out Blockbuster to see how they fared. Now they are getting sued by Netflix. Boy is that irony? Of course this will never go through - if it does, imagine the precident it will set. KMart will go after Walmart (for their methodology of having consumers in lines to pay for goods). Converse will go after Adidas (for their methodology of creating goods to go on someone's feet). I just hope like hell Blockbuster isn't also sued for slowing down the shipping of movies. I do believe Netflix has the corner on that market!

Government sanctioned monopoly (1)

freedumb2000 (966222) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065224)

What else is this but a Government sanctioned monopoly ? Patents seem to mainly not be used anymore to give an incentive for beeing innovate but to effectivly stifle competition. What better way to get rid of any potential compettitor is there than to patent a business model? Too bad it's too late to patent "filling a hot, brown liquid (coffe, hot chocolate) in a paper cup" (starbucks would never exist, what a shame) or "sticking a fat dripping piece of pretend-meat between two buns". Otherwise I wouldn't have to waste my time posting on /. and could just chill on some nice sunny island sipping a caiphi right now.

Re:Government sanctioned monopoly (1)

nagora (177841) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065288)

What else is this but a Government sanctioned monopoly ?

Err... That's what a patent is, and is supposed to be.

TWW

Stupid Blockbuster (1, Troll)

Spackler (223562) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065233)

Blockbuster was stupid. If they had done a land grab, and patented simply renting videos, they could have knocked off NetFlix with a suit. And if "Corner Video" in Framingham had done it, they could have knocked off Blockbuster. And if the TV repair shop in Westboro (the first place I rented a video) had patented it, the entire industry could have been stopped. So, if the MPAA had thought of it, one patent could have prevented home theatre. Ok, I got the way it works now. Patents are cool.

And yes, that TV repair shop in Westboro had both VHS and Betamax. Those were the days!

Re:Stupid Blockbuster (1)

dingosatemybaby (826261) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065242)

scary - I grew up in Westboro and remember when the TV shop started renting videos. my dad had a store right across the street and we'd go over on our lunch break and marvel a the shiny new technology...he he

screenselect (1, Redundant)

wirah (707347) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065240)

http://www.screenselect.co.uk/ [screenselect.co.uk] in the uk does the same thing.

Great Business Idea (1)

erbmjw (903229) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065247)

I've decided to file US patents on human sexual reproduction and gestation! Now any time the Ameican people have children I get to decide how much the parents have to pay to be allowed to keep these patent violations! Next China, then Luxemboug, after that the world! Oh Damn; just remembered, I think patenting business ideas and software is stupid.

I hold the Uber-Patent! (2, Funny)

Dekortage (697532) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065264)

I hereby announce that I hold a patent on suing others for infringing on dubious patents. If you hold a patent of dubious nature, and you sue someone else over it, you owe me royalties.

And if you sue me over my patent, you still owe me royalties.

Intelliflix (4, Interesting)

szembek (948327) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065295)

I use these guys: http://www.intelliflix.com/ [intelliflix.com] . It's cheap. Anyways, they too are copying Netflix, must be that they're not big enough to get sued for it yet. Estupido.

Re:Intelliflix (1)

verbatim (18390) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065336)

Well yeah. Why spend money suing someone who doesn't have any? I thought the whole point of the patent system was to visciously extort money from anyone who might have had the same idea as you.

But I could be wrong.

No. I don't think so.

My friend at Netflix (5, Interesting)

leather_helmet (887398) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065318)

My good friend who has been working at netflix for approximately 5 years says that most of the employees think the lawsuit issue with blockbuster is a waste of time

Blockbuster has been getting their asses kicked in regards to marketshare vs. netflix for about the last year or so
When blockbuster initially tried to compete with Nflix, the Nflix folks were a bit scared, including my buddy who was worried about the future of the company he helped develop - however, after Nflix's somewhat recent resurgence & increased user subscription, which in turn boosted the stock prices from all time lows, blockbuster has become a non-issue to Nflix (well at least to my buddy and most of the staff)
--

I hereby claim the patent! (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065349)

I hereby claim the patent for pants where you hold the pants with your hands, then raise one leg, put your foot (the choice which it is is up to the user) into one of the trouser leg, pull that trouser leg up on your leg, shift the weight on the leg that you just put into the pants, lift the other leg, put your other foot into the second trouser leg and pull it up over your leg. then you pull it further past your butt and by some means of fastening you close them at the front.

EVERYONE building pants that can be used this way have to pay royalties to me!

Stupid? Yes. Why? Because there IS NO WAY to create pants that can NOT be used this way. And it is exactly the same with the patent in question. A system that allows to patent obvious techniques which are simple no-brainers because there simply is no other way to accomplish a certain task is simply broken.

Patents came into existance to give an incentive to publish your developments, so others would benefit from it and to further innovation. Now, they're exactly the opposite. It's a tool abused by some companies to crush competition, create monopolies and stop innovation.

There's little that's a bigger threat to free enterprize than patents nowadays.

Users sue netflix?? (1)

helix_r (134185) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065391)


This reminds me of when "all you can eat" salad bars where waitresses complain about the few annoying slobs that try to push things to the limit.

Netflix has a good business model. The people who are complaining are the ones who get three DVD's, watch them or rip them, and send them back first thing in the morning only to repeat the cycle over and over again.

Those people should get a life and stop watching so much television. How many DVD's can a normal household watch in a week, anyway?

Just add internet (2, Insightful)

bhalter80 (916317) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065400)

It seems that as soon as you add the words internet or software people just lose any sence they had. If you asked someone if you could patent having cash registers at the front of the store instead of having someone follow you around charging you as you take things off the shelf they would tell you there is no way you could patent that. But now if you have some software in a virtual store that computes your bill once you've finished selecting which items you want that's patentable. This country really needs to come to terms with the technology it has invented and realize how few differences there are between this new tech and the business methodology from the brick and mortar establishments it is based on.

Old saying (1)

hpcanswers (960441) | more than 8 years ago | (#15065418)

There's an old saying that ideas are worthless because they have no risk. Economically, one of the elements of profit is risk. Merely having an idea, rather than acting upon it, has no risk and thus offers no reward. Hence why patents have traditionally protected only tangible items and copyrights have traditionally protected art in a fixed form; neither one of these designations used to protect mere ideas.

The patentability of business plans and software sets a dangerous precedent. What's to stop a film studio executive from patenting a story to prevent other producers from making movies that are similar?
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