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Apple, Starbucks Sued Over Music Gift Cards

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the you-can-brick-but-you-better-not-click dept.

Patents 151

Trintech writes "A Utah couple acting as their own attorneys have filed a lawsuit against Apple and Starbucks over the retailers' recent Song of the Day promotion, which offers Starbucks customers an iTunes gift card for a complimentary, pre-selected song download. In a seven-page formal complaint, James and Marguerite Driessen of Lindon, Utah say they developed in 2000, and were granted a patent in February 2006 for, an Internet merchandising utility dubbed RPOS (retail point of sale). The concept, which forms the heart of the infringement lawsuit, would allow gift cards for pre-defined items that can be sold at a brick-and-mortar store but used online; customers could redeem a card for a dining room set or a DVD, for example."

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Its a new invention because its online (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22543888)

Same old rubbish. Companies have been giving away free gifts and vouchers for free gifts for years, tacking on "on the internet" doesn't make it a new invention in anyway shape or form.

Re:Its a new invention because its online (4, Interesting)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544032)

If they had patented the original idea of a "gift card" that would let you buy vouchers with purchasing power, and big players picked up their idea and started making millions then I'd be a little more sympathetic. But come on, this is obviously an example of prior art, and you're right- why tack on "...on the internet" other than just to dodge the prior art bullet a bit.

I must rush out (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544222)

And patent it with "using wireless communications" added.

Re:I must rush out (1)

dattaway (3088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544360)

And patent it with "using wireless communications" added.

Too bad you left out "encryption" in your wireless communication patent. It would be a shame if everyone redeemed their valuable gifts without encryption at Starbucks...

Re:I must rush out (1, Funny)

tomatensaft (661701) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544812)

Why would an honest man use encryption anyway? To hide something illegal, no?

Re:I must rush out (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22545142)

Why would an honest man use encryption anyway? To hide something illegal, no?
To hide their passwords so bad people like you can't steal the rewards they're redeeming. Why do you lock your house?

Re:I must rush out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22545840)

Your mom locks her house

Re:Its a new invention because its online (1)

metalcoat (918779) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544294)

Exactly, and why isn't Microsoft named? Xbox Live Subscription cards and points cards?

Re:Its a new invention because its online (2, Informative)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544558)

Because it's speficially for "Point of Sale" (POS) items. Which specifically refers the the items within reach of the checkout lane, like the candy at the grocery store, they keychains and tire pressure gauges at the auto parts store, or the cds/gift cards at starbucks.

XBL subscription and point cards aren't sold at the "point of sale"

Re:Its a new invention because its online (4, Insightful)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544622)

XBL subscription and point cards aren't sold at the "point of sale"

No, but top up cards for pay as you go cellular plans have been sold at POS since the mid 90s.

Yet more free prior art consulting...

There are lawyers who have tried to convince me that I can do more for the industry by helping them sink bogus patents than by actually like inventing stuff or writing books on how to stop Internet crime. Unlike some folk here I do accept that software can be patentable, but thats not the problem, the problem is the junk patents that should never have been applied for or granted.

Junk patents devalue genuine ones. They also mean that every few weeks we have another slashdot story where IBM or Microsoft have patented the wheel or such like, almost certainly as a defensive move, but once the patent is granted it can be used for anything.

Re:Its a new invention because its online (1)

iainl (136759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544638)

They're by the till in some games stores, because they're so small that they could be easily pickpocketed from anywhere else.

Also, are you seriously suggesting that a new patent should be valid because I slap "where the item on sale is in position X in the store" on the end?

Re:Its a new invention because its online (1)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544704)

I'm not condoning the patent at all, I'm simply explaining why MS wasn't named in the lawsuit. It could also be because with the subscription and points card you're not actually redeeming them for a physical item, similarly phone cards are selling a service as opposed to a item, the patent uses physical items as an example.

Re:Its a new invention because its online (2, Insightful)

iainl (136759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545312)

Which is doubly confusing, though - I don't regard a downloaded iTunes Store song as a physical item, and I certainly don't see how it materially differs from the (excellent) copy of N+ I downloaded at the weekend from the XBox Live Arcade.

No, it's because Microsoft Points cards.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22545604)

are like money, which you can use to buy anything available at the (online) store. The patent, and the Apple/Starbucks cards are for a specific item, one specific song in this instance.

Overzealous grammar Nazis (0, Offtopic)

ronocdh (906309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544258)

True. You know what else bugs me? This story being tagged "complementary" when the spelling "complimentary" in the summary is completely correct [reference.com] .

Re:Overzealous grammar Nazis (0, Offtopic)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544408)

True indeed. But you know what bugs me even more? When a semantics nazi can't distinguish between grammar and semantics.

(Subject line.)

Of course there is this law that says that on the Internet every correction must contain an error...

Re:Overzealous grammar Nazis (1)

pintpusher (854001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545720)

Of course there is this law that says that on the Internet every correction must contain an error...
Ellipses at the end of a sentence should contain four dots indicating that although the thought continues, the sentence has ended.

I say that in full confidence that I'm somehow wrong.

Re:Its a new invention because its online (1)

Bombula (670389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544700)

Does that mean my patent for using a gift certificate while ordering products over the phone is no good? Damn...

Re:Its a new invention because its online (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544734)

Same old rubbish. Companies have been giving away free gifts and vouchers for free gifts for years, tacking on "on the internet" doesn't make it a new invention in anyway shape or form.

Thank you for saving me the effort of posting that exact comment. ;) Seriously though, what part of doing business as usual but adding "on the internet" passes the "nonobvious" threshold required? And shouldn't "business method" patents require a far higher standard of "nonobvious" than actual implementations and technologies?

Re:Its a new invention because its online (3, Interesting)

monxrtr (1105563) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545824)

Somebody should look into suing the Managers and Examiner's of the USPO. There's a pattern of massive abuse and fraud that should be shut down completely by court order. Let's start listing names of individuals who examined and certified these patents, freeze their bank accounts, and take them to court for negligence, RICO violations, and Sarbanes-Oxley violations. Perhaps a Patent Examiner whistleblower can receive 50% of all profits netted by any bogus patents. If legiltors can be sanctioned and punished for bribery, why can't they be sanctioned and punished for conspiracy to violate the Constitution?

Re:Its a new invention because its online (2, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545092)

Well shit, there goes all my work on my pending "A card that can be exchanged for gifts" patent.

Re:Its a new invention because its online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22545168)

Not that this does not sound like it resembles a lot of things already in existence prior to 2000, but an B&M store that had gift cards for sale in-store which could also be used to make remote purchases via an associated mail-order catalog would have been doing precisely the same thing (based on the write-up description) as this 6-year-(slow!)-to-be-granted patent seems to cover.

Extortion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22545256)

It's about time that someone prosecute the patent applicants for the most obviously obvious "inventions", along with the USPTO, for violating the RICO act.

Re:Its a new invention because its online (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545372)

As bogus as most people think this is, patient law exists in in a world without common sense, where vague and bogus patients out number the brilliant ones and are protected just the same. This will not be decided by what is right or wrong but by who's lawyers are better.

Die, business process patents, die!!! (3, Insightful)

yog (19073) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545904)

We have got to put an end to the practice of patenting "business process" before it chokes the economy to death. I think the vast 90% majority of the populace agrees that it's idiotic to grant patents for simple, stupid things like this. So let's write our congress critters and demand a change to the law.

It's not just that patent trolls can now extort exorbitant amounts of money from innocent companies going about what used to be called "doing things" and now is called "violating patents". It has also put a damper on innovation, and we are seeing American industrialists becoming timid and reluctant to market incrementally improved products, just as our Asian competitors are becoming predominant in nearly every sector through incremental improvement to design and function.

At this rate, we're going to become like the Europeans, muddling along and watching the world pass them by technologically while they debate the latest politically correct labor laws such as whether to go to a 34 hour work week.

If this sounds overly negative, try coming up with an original invention and trying to sift through the existing process patents. It's next to impossible to avoid violating some process patent or other, usually something stupid like "A method for pushing a button that causes a light bulb to flash..." To compound the problem we now have companies practicing defensive patenting (I wonder how long it will be before someone patents defensive patenting) simply to keep these trolls off their back.

I wonder that none of the presidential candidates have addressed this issue. Obama's website pays some lip service:

Reform the Patent System: A system that produces timely, high-quality patents is essential for global competitiveness in the 21st century. By improving predictability and clarity in our patent system, we will help foster an environment that encourages innovation. Giving the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) the resources to improve patent quality and opening up the patent process to citizen review will reduce the uncertainty and wasteful litigation that is currently a significant drag on innovation. With better informational resources, the Patent and Trademark Office could offer patent applicants who know they have significant inventions the option of a rigorous and public peer review that would produce a "gold-plated" patent much less vulnerable to court challenge. Where dubious patents are being asserted, the PTO could conduct low-cost, timely administrative proceedings to determine patent validity. As president, Barack Obama will ensure that our patent laws protect legitimate rights while not stifling innovation and collaboration.
Unfortunately, Obama does not address the real problem, which is that business process and methods have been made too easily patentable. Hillary's website does not even mention patents as far as I can tell, though to her credit she does talk a lot about increasing basic science research. The word "patent" is not found on John McCain's website. As for Ron Paul, apparently he doesn't know about the issue [slashdot.org] .

First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22543890)

First?

Anything goes .. (5, Funny)

hebertrich (472331) | more than 6 years ago | (#22543898)

Yet another patent we can all live without.
The patent office is really more of a nuisance than anything nowadays.

Eh .. i got an idea .. lest get a patent in for an office that
would examine and grant patents .. see if it passes .. seeing how dumb
they are .. we got a shot at it .. 8)

Re:Anything goes .. (1, Funny)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544048)

Better idea: Not if I first get a patent for applying for patents covering patent offices!

To keep this from spiraling out of control I also offer a metapatent. A patent covering the patenting of patents. Related to patents. You can still patent patenting other things.

Re:Anything goes .. (2, Insightful)

Solra Bizna (716281) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544534)

In the true spirit of Gödel, I hereby patent patenting patenting patents.

-:sigma.SB

Re:Anything goes .. (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544716)

Oh good call, I didn't patent the act of patenting.. grr

Re:Anything goes .. (-1, Offtopic)

Manchot (847225) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544708)

No offense to the parent specifically, but why are these kinds of posts continually modded funny? I see at least five of the "patent patents" joke in every patent-related thread, and they got old extremely quickly.

Re:Anything goes .. (-1, Offtopic)

nekokoneko (904809) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544850)

Moddders must be new here...

Re:Anything goes .. (3, Funny)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545132)

No, no, no. That would never fly. Now stick an "online" at the end, make the wording a bit more vague as to what you really mean, and you've got yourself a million dollar patent idea!

Re:Anything goes .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22545784)

you mean a patent for an office that would examine and grant patents on the internet.

Internet starter kits (4, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#22543906)

Around 1995 it was possible to buy starter kits for internet service providers. The kit came with a month or so of access and software which would configure your system to dial the ISP. I gave one to my dad for his birthday. For me, this qualifies as prior art.

And what about AOL CD's. You might have been given it with a magazine. Sounds pretty obvious to me.

Re:Internet starter kits (1)

Nullav (1053766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544088)

Around 1995 it was possible to buy starter kits for internet service providers. The kit came with a month or so of access and software which would configure your system to dial the ISP.
I also recall about five minutes of ads per hour pointing out similar offers from Cox and (then) SBC. Though, a better example would probably be a restaurant gift certificate for a free meal, since a lot of those seem to be limited to specific items on the menu. (Though the USPTO seems to be in a magical fairy wonderland where anything involving the Internet or a computer is on an entirely different level, so I may be wrong.)

Offtopic, but I really, really feel like saying it.

And what about AOL CD's. You might have been given it with a magazine. Sounds pretty obvious to me.
'Might have'? I half-felt as if the magazine was a free extra after a year or two.

Re:Internet starter kits (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544200)

a better example would probably be a restaurant gift certificate for a free meal

Sorry, IBM has already a patent on that.

Re:Internet starter kits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22544728)

Stacks of AOL CD's were available at the checkout counter as free giveaways prior to 2000. Some stores would even place the free CD's with its free offer of service (a billion hours free for a month of some such) in a patrons bag with their purchased goods without asking.

Funny to think this patent might be busted by an Apple spinoff.

LMAO (1, Interesting)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 6 years ago | (#22543908)

Patents suck, but it is slightly amusing to note that Apple is being stung here. The article states that Apple had been asked to licence, they then pulled the item from the USA, and then a year later came back with something similar. Obviously the lawyers thought at the time that the "Utah couple" first offered to licence, that the patent was the real deal, otherwise they would have just ignored them.

Anyway I hope Apple get done, it does appear (if the article is correct) that they knew that the card system infringed on a patent, and yet went used it anyway.

(It isn't that I hate Apple or support patents, it is just that I hate capitalism. Can't you see the connection?)

Re:LMAO (5, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#22543994)

(It isn't that I hate Apple or support patents, it is just that I hate capitalism. Can't you see the connection?)
--
DISCLAIMER: Use of this advanced computing technology does not imply an endorsement of Western industrial civilization.

But apparently you're willing to use this advanced technology even though it is the product of something that goes against your principles. How pragmatic of you. How... dare I say it... capitalist? After all, your actions seem to imply that you value your short term personal gain over your principles, and that furthermore you can absolve your conscience with a disclaimer that says the opposite. If that behavior isn't typical of the large Western corporations you claim to despise, I don't know what is...

Re:LMAO (-1, Troll)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544218)

We live in a capitalist system with governments and states all around. I cannot leave this system, I am forced to live in it.

What you are saying is that by even working I must support capitalism, even though I would starve otherwise.

I suggest that you head on over to my "homepage", sign up and then post there what you just posted here. It will quickly be explained to you in much greater depth then I can be bothered just now, why you are wrong.

Re:LMAO (-1, Offtopic)

darthflo (1095225) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544418)

Your "Homepage" link contains a referral id granting you privileges whenever someone signs up using it. How very, very non-capitalist. (Sarcasm, can you tell it?)

In other news: While Russia isn't all that communisty today, Cuba [wikipedia.org] and China [wikipedia.org] still are. Other common things are extreme government control, censorship, poverty, corruption and so on. To get to the point: Ask an immigration official of either country to grant you citizenship over there while handing over a year worth of your earnings back here and you won't be forced to live in this evil system. You may want to say goodbye to the internet and computers in general first. And your car. And eating warm food twice a day. And to your own room, let alone apartment. And freedom of speech. You'll still be able to publicly criticize your government, just like you can today. Once, for a few minutes.

Since you're not going to emigrate anyways, I have another request: Move your lower back back to MySpace and don't come back 'till out of puberty. Thanks.

Re:LMAO (1)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545566)

>Your "Homepage" link contains a referral id granting you privileges whenever someone signs up using it. How very, very non-capitalist. (Sarcasm, can you tell it?)

Actually, as far as I know that referral doesn't grant anything. I put it up purely out of interest for myself to see how many people I attracted to RevLeft.

As for China, considering how capitalistic they are, I wouldn't be calling them any sort of communist. (And considering that communism is meant to be a class-less state-less system, I don't call any country communist.)

Not only that, I'm not even a communist (I call myself "anarchist"). (Nor do I have a MySpace account, they don't like my combination of browsing with FireFox, NoScript and no cookies. Or something anyway.)

But thanks for assuming so many things about me, and I hope you have fun in your life.

Thanks for playing.

Re:LMAO (4, Insightful)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544248)

But apparently you're willing to use this advanced technology even though it is the product of something that goes against your principles. How pragmatic of you. How... dare I say it... capitalist? After all, your actions seem to imply that you value your short term personal gain over your principles, and that furthermore you can absolve your conscience with a disclaimer that says the opposite. If that behavior isn't typical of the large Western corporations you claim to despise, I don't know what is...

I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Just because somebody doesn't approve of a political or economic system, it doesn't make them a hypocrite for using something that was created under (although not necessarily as a consequence of) that system. I might disagree with the current patent system, but that shouldn't stop me using something that was developed using it.

Regarding the second part of your comment, I don't think capitalists have the monopoly on being selfish, shortsighted or even pragmatic.

Re:LMAO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22544504)

Way to go retard, computing isn't a consequence of western industrial civilization (I guess it was god that sent them to us? Or maybe they were created as a consequence of the crusades..no wait, it was xenu!) and you get modded insightful! You can actually hear the slashdot mods getting dumber and dumber by the minute.

Re:LMAO (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545552)

pragmatic

Pragmatism isn't a bad thing. It usually means you compromise rather than being an ideologist who won't budge on the issue. Being open to compromising on your ideals to reach midway points with your opposing viewpoint is sometimes the best way to deal with a situation where both sides disagree.

Simply beating people over the head with your version of what is right until they give in is probaly worse than pragmatism.

Re:LMAO (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545774)

I agree entirely. My post was badly worded, I only meant to say that equating pragmatism with capitalism was silly. I count myself as a pragmatist, and I'm suspicious of idealists of any political flavour.

Re:LMAO (4, Insightful)

orzetto (545509) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544374)

But apparently you're willing to use this advanced technology even though it is the product of something that goes against your principles.

The modern rocket was a product of the Nazi regime and was applied for terror bombing. The first man into space was a Soviet. That did not stop Kennedy from starting the Apollo program (headed, by the way, by the same guy who was working for the Nazis and built his rockets with Jewish slaves).

There are lots of useful technologies developed by assholes. For instance, there is a great deal of knowledge about how to deal with modern chemical weapons in Iran, because someone sold their enemies lots of chemical weapons. Going back in time, the Interstate system in the US is inspired by Hitler's Autobahn system that Eisenhower saw during the war; the Fischer-Tropsch process (coal to petrol) was used to drive Germany in its last year of war; and I could go on.

Technologies are things, and as such they cannot have an opinion on politics.

Re:LMAO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22544462)

If you are because of what you have used doesnt take the right of choosing what you use in the future.

People simply cant visualize self proving theorems having a tinge of recursion these days. hmm

Re:LMAO (2, Interesting)

cenonce (597067) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544162)

I think it is more likely that Apple's lawyers pitched some offers to this couple to "make them go away" and couldn't work anything out. Then they just went about their business of setting up the service (this service through Starbucks was probably already well in the works - doubtful the "delay" was some tactic against this couple, though they might perceive it that way and allege it in the complaint). This patent seems silly - and in my mind, the longer it goes the worse the deal gets for the Plaintiff. Apple can counterclaim that it is an obvious "invention" and then not only does the couple have to prove infringement, but defend a valid patent - they might not even get in front of a jury on that one.

I don't know what I hate about capitalism more: patent trolls trying to make a buck off of big companies and raising the cost of products for everyone, or insensitive corporate clods who try to stomp on the little guy to keep the price of their products inflated. Either way, the consumer loses.

Re:LMAO (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22544282)

The article states that Apple had been asked to licence, they then pulled the item from the USA, and then a year later came back with something similar.
And that's the thing about patents - they are what they are. You can't patent a specific "method to compress music data, or something similar". The more specific you are, the great chance of landing the patent. The more fundamental the patent, the greater chance of profit. There is a blanace, and a good patent lawyer will finely balance the two ideas.

And that's the weakness with patents. As you disclose your invention, you are providing everyone with what your invention does. Believe me you, every decent engineer in the field can then work to circumvent the patent by avoiding some specifics within your patent. In other words, patent law ENCOURAGES new invention by circumventing existing inventions.

Sony patented the Trinitron, but just about everyone else worked on circumventing the patent. A few years later there were excellent Trinitron-like TV tht didn't violate Sony's patents.

Re:LMAO (2, Insightful)

alexgieg (948359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544518)

(It isn't that I hate Apple or support patents, it is just that I hate capitalism. Can't you see the connection?)
No, you don't hate capitalism. You hate government interfering on free market, such as through its "patents" system, which wouldn't exist in a system of purely voluntary exchange of goods and services, i.e., in a capitalistic system. Once government dictates and enforces arbitrary rules of exchange, it's not capitalism anymore, it's something else.

Re:LMAO (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544814)

You're right. How dare everyone else in the world use the term "Capitalism" to mean something counter to your invented definition.

Here's a clue:

Capitalism is *not* an economic system with zero government intervention.
Communism is *not* an economic system where the government owns the means of production.
Socialism is *not* an economic system where the workers own the factories.

Those are all just arbitrary definitions which were invented, after the fact, to try to divvy up economic systems into neat little baskets. It would be more accurate to state that:

Capitalism is an economic system which focuses on the free market.
Communism is an economic system which focuses on central government control.
Socialism is an economic system which focuses on the welfare of the people.

If you go by the Econ 101 textbook definitions (of which you cited the Capitalism definition), you'll find you end up with a completely worthless definition, as there has never been an ideologically pure example of *any* of those systems, and there never will be. All those definitions do is circumvent any actual ability to assess the economies of the real world, fostering ideologies which are logically internally consistent, but which, lacking any basis in the real world, lead to absurd policies which harm the very economies they are meant to promote.

When someone says they hate Capitalism, they aren't saying they hate the econ 101 definition, they are usually saying they hate a system which promotes antisocial activities which offend their sense of justice, often having some specific example in mind.

Re:LMAO (2, Insightful)

alexgieg (948359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544954)

Capitalism is an economic system which focuses on the free market.
Communism is an economic system which focuses on central government control.
Socialism is an economic system which focuses on the welfare of the people.
If you prefer it that way, okay with me. After all, according to these categories, the USA has a mix of communism and socialism. My point stands intact. ;)

When someone says they hate Capitalism, they aren't saying they hate the econ 101 definition, they are usually saying they hate a system which promotes antisocial activities which offend their sense of justice, often having some specific example in mind.
Then it's better to attack these specific things rather than do an improper generalization. What is the system that promotes antisocial activities? I'd say it's the patents system. So, attack it, not the other aspects of the equation that have no relation with and neither are guilty of whatever ills caused by the patent system.

Re:LMAO (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544832)

Once government dictates and enforces arbitrary rules of exchange, it's not capitalism anymore, it's something else.
It's called Mercantilism.

Re:LMAO (1)

donscarletti (569232) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544584)

it does appear...that they knew that the card system infringed on a patent, and yet went used it anyway.
Now the problem is that patents in some countries are just approved without proper review and then expected to be examined properly in court, there should not be any penalty for a company like Apple waiting it out before they have any idea whether the patent is valid because they haven't been sued.

You don't hate capitalism (1)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545422)

"it is just that I hate capitalism."

No you don't. You probably don't care for a plutocracy, but capitalism is pretty inherent in human beings.

What more is needed? (2, Interesting)

Serious Lemur (1236978) | more than 6 years ago | (#22543920)

If more than this story is needed to explain the problems with U.S. patent law in particular and the concept of a patent in general, I'd love to see it.

What about S&H Green Stamps as prior art? (4, Insightful)

ad454 (325846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22543950)

How on Earth did this get awarded a patent? Would not S&H Green Stamps qualify as prior art?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S&H_Green_Stamps [wikipedia.org]

S&H Green Stamps (also called Green Shield Stamps) were a form of trading stamps popular in the United States between the 1930s and early 1980s. They were a rewards program operated by the Sperry and Hutchinson company (S&H), founded in 1896 by Thomas Sperry and Shelly Hutchinson. During the 1960s, the rewards catalog printed by the company was the largest publication in the United States and the company issued three times as many stamps as the U.S. Postal Service. Customers would receive stamps at the checkout counter of supermarkets, department stores, and gas stations among other retailers, which could be redeemed for products in the catalog.

Re:What about S&H Green Stamps as prior art? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544128)

I'm sure we can all think of a thousand things that qualify as prior art. Stores have been doing this for ages. Go to Shopper's Drug Mart, and spend $50 on seniors day, and get a free Swiss Chalet Dinner (only valid to seniors). I don't think the patent office does any real research into whether or not these patents have prior art. They probably just pass them, knowing full well that it will be decided in court.

Re:What about S&H Green Stamps as prior art? (4, Funny)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544174)

Clearly, you have failed to research the method used by the USPTO in evaluating patents. It involves converting the patent to electronic form then scanning the text for the phrase "perpetual motion". If the phrase is not found, the patent is awarded.

No, I'm not sure that I'm kidding.

Re:What about S&H Green Stamps as prior art? (0)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544372)

How on Earth did this get awarded a patent?
Because, USPTO employees get their salaries based on how many patents they approve and not on how many they reject.

Its like the medical insurance companies, where claim officers earn their salary as a percentage of the claims they reject.

Unless USPTO officers are awarded salary based on patents they reject this will be the condition.

Expect fireworks as Apple and Nintendo lobby the congress to overhaul patent law. They never thought that unbermenschen like us would sue them.

Re:What about S&H Green Stamps as prior art? (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545282)

Because, USPTO employees get their salaries based on how many patents they approve and not on how many they reject.


Do you have a source for this? It seems very unlikely to me.

Re:What about S&H Green Stamps as prior art? (3, Interesting)

carleton (97218) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545670)

Seriousily... I had a former coworker who had previousily worked at the Patent Office and he strongly implied the exact opposite of your claim; they're expected to be able to either accept or reject a quota of N (for some reasonable value of N I've forgotten) patents per week and that his boss _heavily_ leaned on him to reject as many patents as possible. One of his favorite rejections was where someone had tried to patent some Windows technique (and had stolen the description of how to do it directly from a book my coworker had read and just done find-replace). Coworker also mentioned that good patent workers frequently build up a queue of rejected patents (i.e. week 1 they find a way to reject 3N patents; they then release just enough rejections each week to meet their quota and spend the rest of their time getting a patent law degree or similar or browsing the web depending on their ambition level. Also, patent office is one of the few parts of the gov't that makes a profit.

Utah, eh? (1)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22543954)

Let me guess: Darl and his wife found their next big frivolous lawsuit.

Re:Utah, eh? (1)

laejoh (648921) | more than 6 years ago | (#22543992)

Utah, no, ...

Lindon, Utah, yes, coincidence? I don't think sco.

DotCom Is Biting Back (0, Offtopic)

zIRtrON (48344) | more than 6 years ago | (#22543978)

and then a million voices were silent.

This seems reasonable enough to believe - prior art anyone? I bet there is plenty. Maybe it's the new money system. The Internet. Wow!!

[Repeat 3 times]
So let me develop it, sell it to your mates and make a bit of money from it - or maybe you just don't like my type. I probably don't like your type either, so what do you want me to do? Crush you? Nah - that's a negative thing to do. I could probably learn something from you - So...let me dev ...let me devell - ell-ell it -

There was a brilliant post in the AMD dying piece. Some money decisions are best not left to geeks. But the ones that can string a few decent hits together - could probably top it in any kind of way.

[could someone regular express this]
in any kind of way
on any kind of day

Cheers

Quote from the bottom of the page (1)

zIRtrON (48344) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544054)

William Pitt


  On the 31st March, 1783, Pitt resigned and declared that he was "unconnected with any party whatever". Now out of power, Pitt turned his attention once more to parliamentary reform. On 7th May he proposed a plan that included: (1) checking bribery at elections; (2) disfranchising corrupt constituencies; (3) adding to the number of members for London. His proposals were defeated by 293 to 149. Another bill that he introduced on 2nd June for restricting abuses in public office was passed by the House of Commons but rejected by the House of Lords.


After I googled for it. Lucky /. puts the year of the quote in too. There are a lot of William Pitt's in history :)

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRpitt.htm [schoolnet.co.uk]

US Patent 7003500 (4, Informative)

Derling Whirvish (636322) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544064)

Re:US Patent 7003500 (3, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544152)

After reading that (the abstract at least), I would say they patented the entire iTunes and Nintendo virtual console. At least the part where you buy the card at a retail store, in order to make a purchase at the online store.

Re:US Patent 7003500 (1)

IAmGarethAdams (990037) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544416)

Even from TFS I can see that the patent in question relates to cards redeemable against a specific item, rather than against credit which can be used to purchase various items.

Re:US Patent 7003500 (2, Insightful)

Heian-794 (834234) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544568)

Re: US Patent 7003500

Not the point of the article, but... seven million patents in the USA. Seems like just a little while ago they were in the four-millions, but then the "...on the Internet" patent revolution got going.

And kudos to the US for using a simple sequentially-numbered system for the patents instead of an indecipherable code involving numbers, letters, and probably hyphens in between every few of those other symbols.

Let's hope human ingenuity doesn't slacken in the coming years, and that patent number ten million is coming soon.

Re:US Patent 7003500 (2, Funny)

ozbird (127571) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544620)

And kudos to the US for using a simple sequentially-numbered system for the patents instead of an indecipherable code involving numbers, letters, and probably hyphens in between every few of those other symbols.

Maybe if they had used an indecipherable code, there wouldn't be so many bogus US patents.

Patent Troll 1: I wonder if anyone has patented "watching grass grow on the Internet" yet?
Patent Troll 2: Let's see: Patent No. 1337-RTFM-OMGWTFBBQ discusses growing plants ...
Patent Troll 1: Whoa, too much for me. How about we sell penis-enlargement pills instead?

Re:US Patent 7003500 (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544680)

Even from TFS I can see that the patent in question relates to cards redeemable against a specific item, rather than against credit which can be used to purchase various items.

When I was a kid, I would get McDonald's gift certificate books fairly regularly for my birthday (yeah, yeah, I'm still burning off that fat). Sold at the McDonald's register, rather than being valued at a particular dollar amount and good for anything, each page was good for, say, a free ice cream cone. http://www.x-entertainment.com/halloween/2005/september13/ [x-entertainment.com] (scroll down to the vibrating bunny girl, I'm not the only person with this particular delusion)

This patent is made of fail and "on the Internet!"

Re:US Patent 7003500 (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545032)

Well, it does say a specific item, but in the case of the Wii Virtual console, you could argue that the specific item they are buying is Wii Points. What they do with those points later is irrelevant. iTunes ties the card you buy directly to a real monetary value, so that would probable be a harder argument. Although, it does sound a lot like Sony's recent idea of how to sell music online [slashdot.org] .

Re:US Patent 7003500 (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544982)

And Amazon.com

I can buy around here amazon.com cards to buy items on amazon.com after i buy the car locally. Technically that also violates that "patent".

I just wonder when the patent office is going to pull their heads out of their asses and stip awarding patents on business processes and require it to be a real innovation.

Re:US Patent 7003500 (1)

Trekologer (86619) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545636)

Prior art in one word: Cybermoola.

Cybermoola was this stored value card that you could buy at a retail store and use to make online purchases at retailers that accepted the card. It was an alternative to using a credit card and could be given to kids as gifts, etc. I worked for the supermarket chain that was the principal partner for the launch and distributed the traning materials to the employees. The idea, while novel, was a horrible failure. I don't think it lasted three months before it was pulled.

And here it is: a news article dated the day before the patent application was filed: http://www.ecommerce-guide.com/resources/product_reviews/article.php/426631 [ecommerce-guide.com]

MMORPGs (3, Informative)

sankyuu (847178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544164)

MMORPGs have been selling online services via prepaid cards from brick & mortar stores for a long time, e.g. World of Warcraft [blizzard.com] , Ragnarok and Priston Tale, to name a few. Another numbskull patent (examiner).
Well technically, it isn't exactly media or merchandise that the MMORPGs were selling (as claimed by the patent), but in terms of prior art, uniqueness and obviousness, the patent shouldn't be valid. Heck, USPTO should employ teens as patent examiners.

Gift Vouchers? (2, Interesting)

Schiphol (1168667) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544192)

How is this different from gift vouchers in general? Is it because the internet is involved? So, can I patent gift vouchers if they are to be redeemed only in Polinesian straw huts? I find it truly incredible that someone thinks she has invented the buy-here-redeem-there scheme; even if the "there" in question is the internet. Of course, it's even more incredible that a patent has been granted upon this.

Re:Gift Vouchers? (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544358)

To whom it may concern:
It has come to our attention that you are infringing on our patent of redeeming gift vouchers in Polynesian straw huts. We demand that you immediately cease and desist all operations involving this infringing technology. Thank you for your cooperation.

They should sue SONY, too (1)

F-3582 (996772) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544214)

...while they're at it. Just take a look at their idea of selling music [techcrunch.com] .

tags (2, Informative)

Zatchmort (1091857) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544394)

to whomever tagged this "complementary," that's incorrect-- it's "complimentary," as in the phrase "with our compliments."

The logic of the patent system doesn't work anymor (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544540)

The most frequent argument I see for patents is that they protect the little guy from the big guy. Most of us know that this is not true, and is typical of the sort of academic, only-on-paper models that are so common to professors and think tank policy wonks. In practice, the little guy can easily get wiped away by the patent system.

Let's say that I make a system that does the same thing as one of its many features. I'm a little guy, they're a little guy too. They sue me into oblivion over something that is not a unique idea.

Re:The logic of the patent system doesn't work any (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544648)

I think it's a bad measure to look on the patent system as the big guy versus the little guy. I know that the underdog is popular here but that doesn't mean that it's the original spirit of the law.

IMHO the patent system is in place to ensure that those who take the initiative and the gamble with creating something new are given an opportunity to profit from their works. I don't care if it's Joe Sixpack in his garage or if it's IBM... if you're taking the time and money to create something new you have the right to profit from it or to distribute it as you see fit, even if it's only for a short time.

My Prior Art for the NBA (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544616)

In 1995, I invented a magstrip card sold at all 700 Shoppers Drug Mart convenience stores in Canada. The card was good for a pair of tickets to either a Toronto Raptors or Vancouver Grizzlies game, the 2 new NBA teams we were hired to help launch. In the SDM store was a kiosk that was a Mac with Netscape on a a private TCP/IP network identical to the Internet, but not connected to it, just to its own hosts around Canada. Some of these hosts had the webservers and DBs running the ticket dealing app. Swiping the card unlocked the kiosk, navigating the websites sold the tickets, which when printed deleted credit from the cards.

That app and those cards were precisely the same as these music gift cards, for a product that happened not to be music, but otherwise identical - a trivial difference. So this post constitutes my notification of prior art. Apple and Starbucks can pay me now to use it invalidate these Utahrds' entire patent.

Re:My Prior Art for the NBA (1)

Jim in Buffalo (939861) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545014)

And I've been using a similar product for years at the supermarket. They're called coupons. These people basically patented coupons, then?

Re:My Prior Art for the NBA (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545190)

I also created online coupons for Nabisco in 1999.

If I'm so smart, why didn't I patent these "inventions"?

Because I'm not a jackass.

It probably won't stand... (4, Informative)

portwojc (201398) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544744)

Though superficially different, this is just an infringement of the patent under a new name, the lawyers argue.

It's been a while since I had to deal with patent law but what I remember is this.

You just have to be different; even in the smallest way. Get past one of the primary claims, not the dependent ones as they don't count, and the patent doesn't hold.

Also, if this were to hold or if it doesn't and/or the previous product infringes, it shouldn't matter if company XYZ simply pulled a product from the shelves that was infringing.

They really should consult an attorney in patent law. If they are one then well you know what they say about representing yourself.

Re:It probably won't stand... (1)

sjwest (948274) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545238)

Oh dear its those Utah folk again. Im sure nothing productive ever gets done in Utah.

hmmm.. (1)

SuperDre (982372) | more than 6 years ago | (#22544784)

When I read the title I thought, 'finally someone suing because of the lockedin iTunes crap', but I actually read the whole article, and thought, 'stupid people for getting such a generic patent again'.. grrr..

Debris from SCO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22544942)

Isn't Lindon, Utah home of SCO? Could this couple be somehow related or connected with the debacle that is SCO?

captcha -- annoyed

Who deserves the beating here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22544986)

Not sure who should be beaten until they are blue this time.
The patent clerk who granted the patent or the pieces of human scum who applied for it ...... ahh firing squad for both!

Webkinz? (1)

psbrogna (611644) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545144)

Isn't this similar to the Webkinz business model as well (www.webkinz.com)? You buy the little animals or cards in a retail store and its get you stuff in their online world?

Utah! Home of the litigious bastards. (0, Troll)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545298)

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm from Utah.

So SCO, now these guys? Another couple years of "A Utah [something's] legal crusade..." in the news.

When these guys are done, I got dibs on suing the Jehovah's Witnesses over "methods for recruiting members by sending missionaries in ties door-to-door".

Re:Utah! Home of the litigious bastards. (1)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545664)

I think Paul [wikipedia.org] would be prior art.

Isn't this good news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22545310)

Patent trolls trying their luck against a major corporation in the long term is good news IMHO. Doesn't this increase the likelihood of the corps. bribing - err, sorry, "lobbying" - for a change in the patent law?

Kill the underdog (2, Funny)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545510)

Somehow, it just feels wrong to hope that a big, faceless, corporation crushes a couple of small inventors into dust with the power of their legal department. But in this case, I have to say "GO GOLIATH! CRUSH THOSE PIPSQUEAKS! WATCH OUT FOR THAT SLING!"

Trade obvious patents... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545808)

I got an idea. Apple can trade their "pinch gesture" obvious patent for this "store coupon" obvious patent.

Maybe I should (1)

LecheryJesus (1245812) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545822)

Patent Christmas....

Then the royalties I get every year will allow me to actually afford it for a change...

On a serious note, I can hardly believe that such obvious stuff actually gets awarded a patent; it must happen all the time - in all fields of creative endeavour.

That gives me another idea...

If I patent masturbation, will I get a tax rebate from the government?

The part I find most interesting... (1)

segoy (641704) | more than 6 years ago | (#22545916)

Is that they went on this expedition without an attorney. They are either a) criminal incompetent themselves, or b) unable to find an attorney who was incompetent.

Either way, it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside....
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