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E-Bay Patents Thumbnail Galleries 192

Posted by timothy
from the trivial-trivial dept.
goaliemn writes: "In yet another stupid patent filed department, E-bay has filed to patent their thumbnail gallery section of e-bay. I know of afew sites that may have existing work well before ebay." Surely someone who works at Ebay can tell us this is a late (or early) April Fool's joke, right?
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E-Bay Patents Thumbnail Galleries

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  • Maybe they mean being able to click on a thumbnail and allow you to purchase or bid on it. I don't know. There has got to be more to this patent than just thumbnails because there is prior art of this on private homepages for God's sake.

    I can almost bet that the additional "innovation" of this "invention" has to do with the ability to use/take your money in some way.

    A link to the patent or something substantiating this news would be very appreciated.

    Woz
  • Anyone else get the feeling that these patent stories are being posted simply to piss us off? I mean, by now, we all know that the patent office has no clue. Let's move on, and drop the patent stories please.
  • Funny. I only goto them to jack off.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I wish this post could be moderated higher than 5, more deep than insightful. What this poster says goes to the core of many problems today.

    There are people who sue at the drop of the hat, and practically make a living off of it as it's been their majority income for the last couple of years. I'm thinking of starting a business, but every step includes watching out for who can sue you. Worse yet, as the poster says, people with deep pockets will ultimately win (O.J. anyone?).

    This problem goes for personal issues too. Try to set up a community play area for kids? Noone wants to unless you're a city government due to the threat of someone suing you (insurance notwithstanding). Our condo pool may be shut down due to those circumstances. Someone will do something incredibly stupid in the pool, and then sue the owners, becuase boy they just aren't responsible for their own actions, those poor dears.

    If it isn't happening already, soon everyone but the ultrarich and laywers will be afraid to say or do anything out of fear by being sued by someone with deeper pockets or nothing to lose. We will evolve into a class system of lawyers, those who can afford lawyers, people who serve the first two classes, and those with nothing to lose. Those who serve will meekly go to work for some asshole, go straight home and huddle around the TV, and spend remaining hours buying things that the TV told you to buy.
  • I'm tired of this tirade against corporations. Corporations in themselves are not evil entities. They are run by people. It's those people that decide what does or does not get done.

    It was the people that comprise the board at EBay (or whatever functionary who did it) that decided to file a patent for this. This could have been an individual running this website or it could have been a corporation - given the right circumstances they are both equally likely to do the same dumbass thing.

    Stop blaming corporations for all the problems of this world and stop listening to Ralph Nader so goddamn much. Corporations in themselves are not evil or good - it's the people that run them that are. It's convenient to blame corporations because they are this nebulous faceless entity that's easy to hate. Too convenient. It's about time the blame started getting put where it belongs.
  • by ColdGrits (204506) on Friday December 29, 2000 @03:14PM (#1424304)
    Uh-hu.

    How about you go and read up about the patent eBay has applied for THEN come back - you see, the patent is SPECIFIC to online auctions (in fact, not even THAT general!), so your pr0n galleries are irrelevant to the patent.

    I just LOVE the way so many people round here these days post without acquainting thenselves with the basic facts on the subject first :(

    --
  • This is the same situation I have. I'm holding the patent on breathing, but I'm not enforcing it.

    Anything that can go wrong will. - Murphy's Law
  • Someone has to protect us against this shit. I hear the pay over at the Patent Office really isn't too bad, and that they *are* hard up for good people.
  • I have already contacted them. They are investigating to see if the program is covered by the patent and if it is actually prior art. It looks like it may be, but it is hard to say without a patent lawyer looking it over first.

  • I can't blame eBay for doing this. I have been contemplating applying for patents on yet unpatented trivial technologies so that I can ensure that another bozo won't come along later and sue me for using their "technology". Various Slashdot articles have been posted on various attempts at organizing a "defensive patent" initiative.

    I blame the PTO for allowing these stupid patent tricks. When one company can successfully patent hyperlinks, another can patent "pushing a button to place an order" on the Web, and others can patent genetic sequences without even knowing what they do, you've gotta expect that more crazy patents will be coming next.

    Companies, who are just trying to do honest business using new technology, now have to continuously look over their shoulders to make sure nobody's going to pull the rug from under their feet, or pay "protection" to the companies who have already secured patents and are willing to negotiate a "licensing deal".
  • Gee, that kind of sounds like what Yahoo has been doing for some time... do a search, you get a list of items, thumbnails, pertaining to the results of the search. Yup, that's real original.
  • I'm gonna patent sex. Then I'll just sit back, relax and live off all you perverted bastards.

    Dave
    ~""~
  • by DaneelGiskard (222145) on Friday December 29, 2000 @03:19PM (#1424311) Homepage
    Even more Ebay patents...

    1 6,167,386 Method for conducting an on-line bidding session with bid pooling
    2 6,073,117 Mutual credit server apparatus and a distributed mutual credit system
    3 6,058,417 Information presentation and management in an online trading environment
    4 6,058,379 Real-time network exchange with seller specified exchange parameters and interactive seller participation
    5 6,044,363 Automatic auction method
    6 6,012,045 Computer-based electronic bid, auction and sale system, and a system to teach new/non-registered customers how bidding, auction purchasing works

    You can find them here [164.195.100.11].

    Got this from the United States Patent and Trademark Office [uspto.gov]

    cheers
    mike
  • I see, so no one has any responsibility unless they are legally bound to it? What a crock! The law is only good for deciding who was wronged when an argument is brought before the court -- not for defining responsibility to others. We should hold corporations accountable for their actions, whether the law does or not, and that means taking whatever action is necessary to let them know that they are stepping over the line.

    Corporations respond to the bottom line -- if you want to stop being a victim of corporations, quit buying their products, write them explaining how you feel and the course of action you are taking, and encourage everyone you know to do the same.

    You don't sit back and wait for the police to come when there's a maniac with a gun in your house; you take him out, or you get out yourself -- you take action! You don't sue your neighbor when his music is too loud -- you tell him yourself! Can we all take a little responsibility?

  • I'm sure they are paying for using patented hyperlinking technology on those galleries.
  • Where the hell am I supposed to buy random shit that obviously nobody wants but those 3 other guys who consistently outbid me?
  • by Black Art (3335) on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:19PM (#1424315)
    I don't know the date of their "invention", but there was a web site I worked on MANY years ago. (1996 or so) that used thumbnails in just this manner. The site no longer exists, but the company I wrote it for still does. Incredibly obvious idea. Anyone who has used an image viewing program in the last 10 years could think of a web version.
  • by Sanity (1431) on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:19PM (#1424316) Homepage Journal
    You can never count on corporations to do "the right" thing, their sole responsibility is to their shareholders and to increase shareholder value. If the law creates a way, immoral or not, for corporations to increase shareholder value, it is in their nature to exploit it. It is the responsibility of lawmakers to prevent this from happening, however lawmakers depend upon corporations to get them elected.

    So what happens? The strong get stronger, and the weak get weaker, we may as well be kids on a remote island being seduced by the Lord of the Flies. We have two ways out, either people start using their vote (unlikely), or technology will come to our rescue just as it did when the printing press helped society break free from the church's control.

    --

  • by reh187 (182368)
    Lets UNDERMIND their patent by patenting this:

    <img src="INSERT YOUR PICTURE NAME HERE">

    Lets see how their gallery works without that!!!
  • by jetpack (22743) on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:21PM (#1424318) Homepage
    ... you do realize EBay is only patenting this so they can put the patent rights up for auction, right? You don't suppose the winner of said auction would be a porn site, do you? hmm? ;)
  • >A link to the patent or something substantiating this news would be very appreciated

    Well, their website does say 'Patent Pending'
  • Why are they trying to do this, and why is the patent office letting them?

    This is very easy to understand. First they are doing it because they can and thye hope to be able to sue/license/harass anyone else who even thinks of using something similar. Second the Patent office lets them because by default the patent office will grant a patent and then let all the players fight it out in court.

    The main problem is NOT the companies seeking to patent the fork, breathing, sex... The problem is the patent office granting all these silly patents. Many (most, all) of the people at the patent office (and everywhere else) see computers as a big magic box. Therefore if it has to do with computers, it must be new and original and therefore patentable. Until the folks at the patent office get some people who know what they are ding with regards to computers, this disturbing trend will continue.

    If none of this made sense, sorry. Im on hold with our ISP right now.

    Hooptie

  • by Skald (140034) on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:26PM (#1424321)
    This cannot stand; Genset [gensetoligos.com] holds a prior patent... on thumbnails [slashdot.org].
  • Oooh...that one didn't go anywhere.
    br Get an account! If you had posted the same message with an account, some magic might've happened.
  • Well, if Al Gore invented the internet, I guess anything is possible...... :)
  • Corporations are soul-less immortal beings. They are summoned by elite priests which know arcane knowledge and incantations. By performing a ritual using these incantations these priests summon into existance a being which serves them and which they in turn serve. This being once summoned can only be banished by incantations of priests which are more powerful or clever then the beings who serve it. A corporation of course can not be killed in any other way.

    A corporation having no soul is not bound by any religious, philosophical or more-related ethical system. No god nor mortal can inflict judgement upon it. The corporation has great power to grant riches and rewards to the people who summon it and serve it. This way the corporation is easaliy able to corrupt even the most stalvart souled being. The corporation also is extremely powerful and routinely exerts influence and power over all beings weather or not they serve it, even those beings which are supposed to watch over it. For example a corporation may kill hundreds or thousands of human beings without being subject to criminal prosecution.

    In short. A corporation most closely resembles demons as described by most of the religions of the world. For a true understanding of these soul-less immortal beings I suggest you pick up a bible, koran, vedic literature, or a book of ancient demons and pay special attention to the denizens of hell.
  • or technology will come to our rescue just as it did when the printing press helped society break free from the church's control.

    It did. We called it the internet. Everyone had an equal voice. Then some idiot allowed some other idiot to patent voices.

    When the printing press was invented, the world didn't have lawyers to quite the same degree. Maybe that's what we need technology to produce - a virus that selectively kills off people with a faulty ethic gene [lawyers]. Oh, only some lawyer's already organised patenting of genes, so they're protected from that too.

  • Too bad they didn't patient the thumbnails that take you to a place other than the enlarged version of the thumbnail. Those are such a drag.
  • Why don't they try to patent the GIF or JPG while they're at it?
    Maybe even "eeeelectronic auction"

    Rader

  • This really shows how out of touch the patent office is...
    E-Bay of all companys should know better than to seek such a patent let alone enforce it.

    E-Bay might have some problems suing everyone who did this as some of them went out of busness before E-Bay went into busness...

    A simple sample of prior art.. an obsolete Dos program generating thumbnails for websites...

    I'm not 100% sure thumbnail porn is prior art but I am pritty sure I've seen junkyard sales home pages displaying thumbnails of the junk being sold before E-Bay showed up...
  • by stubob (204064)
    damn, I want to use the first two paragraphs as my new sig. Can I get a waiver on the 120 character sig limit if I agree to use that?

    Although, taking issue with your third paragraph, "When it becomes intolerable enough...," I think the US government, although to lesser extents all other governments, has built up enough of a bureaucratic buffer that any attempt at revolution will meet with failure simply because the current system of government is so entrenched that it will be impossible to overthrow. What I mean is: because local governments are based on the organization of the national ones, the entire system must simultaneously be overthrown. This is an enormous undertaking, requiring huge amounts of manpower, planning and resources. Moreover, because of the general apathy of the average citizen, I would be quite surprised to see a bloddy rebellion in an industrialized, "civilized" country. The only way to affect a fundamental change of government is to affect a fundamental change of society and force the government to adapt.

    Wow, get me: John Locke meets Sam Adams (the beer, not the actual guy)
  • Actually, SUN are no longer the "dot" in .com.
    Have a look [slashdot.org]
  • You really think he thought it was serious? C'mon man... shouldn't you be somewhere else [kuro5hin.org]?

    um.. I done, you can stop reading...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Big deal. Who wants to see pictures of thumbnails anyway?
  • by strredwolf (532) on Friday December 29, 2000 @03:34PM (#1424333) Homepage Journal
    http://furrybid.transform.to has existed for the past six months or so, so this patent's dead on arrival shoud a lawyer want to take up the challenge (but then, IANAL).

    --
    WolfSkunks for a better Linux Kernel
    $Stalag99{"URL"}="http://stalag99.keenspace.com";
  • by austad (22163) on Friday December 29, 2000 @03:42PM (#1424334) Homepage
    Go to Yahoo! Shopping, do a search for something. It gives a listing of merchandise and thumbnails by pulling images from "a plurality of sites". And since you trade money for merchandise, it can be considered "an online trading environment". Been around forever. Screw Ebay.
  • However, until the patent system is seriously overhauled, a company is at risk of frivolous but potentially winnable lawsuits over bad patents, and applying for the patent yourself is nearly the only way to defend against it.

    Should eBay be granted the patent, and then turn around and sue someone else over it, then we should put them in the same category as Amazon. Until then, I say they're innocent until proven guilty.

    --

  • GIF's compression (LZW) is already patented actually. Unisys had even been trying to enforce it.
  • I am getting tired of seeing this crap happen. If this patent goes through many sneaky lawyers will manage to propogate a new wave of suits against this site or that for having a shopping cart or catalog system that has an image and some information about a product etc. The thing that really sucks about this wave of PatentMania is not just the obvious first round of suits but the second round: the design firms and designers/programmers who build sites that unknowingly violate the plethora of patents being awarded or applied for daily. How the hell are we supposed to keep up on the ever expanding list of stupid patents that we have to be wary of? Is there a central repository or some type of advocacy site (yeah i know there are i'm just spouting ?'s hear me out) that should be mentioned whenever the latest greatest dumb patent application goes in? Can we find some inexpensive form of recourse to stop patents like this from going through? Should we be writing our Congresmen or Representatives enmasse about this just this time or every time this occurs? How come with all this discussion we never really cover this aspect of the dumb patent thing and what to do about it? Who should we write at the USPTO when we disagree with one of these applications? Timothy (or anyone on team /. for that matter) could you please pull together some links for this stuff and put them up on slashdot so that we may easily get to them everytime this kind of idiocy happens(link them to the articles)? I realize that its a bit of extra work (only the first time you set it up) but I really think we as an online community could benefit from an easy way to contact the right people. Letter writing works and I am pretty sure there is enough outrage to get people involved and doing things on thier own if its easy for them to do. Maybe a list of do's and dont's on effective letter writing so that we don't come off as hysterical zealots etc.It just seems to me that an article like this gets posted and after that the ball gets dropped (for the most part) with the exception of a follow up or update to revisit the topic. I'm not saying slashdot should go patent crazy and do this for every patent nor should you guys be obligated to but if it is enough to merit posting as a story on the main page then linking up a pertinent 'to do list' or faq would be a positive way for us to proceed.

  • by DESADE (104626) <slashdot@NOSPaM.bobwardrop.com> on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:06PM (#1424338)
    I'd love to be the laywer challenging this in court. I'd have a field day showing "prior art" by demonstrating porn galleries.
  • Can I patent using the word "here" inside hyperlinks?

    Five dollar royalty for everyone who uses the word "here" inside a hyperlink!
  • If you hadn't read some of the other patent threads before, the truth came straight from the horse's mouth (ass? anyways, the dude in charge of the patent office -- "we're there to help our 'customers' [his word] get patents"):

    The only "research" into prior art the patent office does is to look at existing patents already granted and the applications that exist that pre-date the application being considered.

    No web searches, no common sense, no "gee, didn't I see something else that did that?", and certainly no asking someone with real, relevant experience in the field covered by the application ("hey, do you think this is too obvious a concept?" is a question that pretty much hasn't entered their minds in years). nada, zip, zilch.

    If a patent doesn't already exist, there's no "prior art". The current view of the patent office is exactly that. Their attitude is "You want to prove prior art or obviousness, do it in court, and not on MY time..."

  • Well, yesterday was Day of the Innocents [I should know :-(] here in Guatemala, so that could be it.
  • I thought (depending on your religion) that God held the patent on Thumbnails and all fingernails and body parts for that matter....
  • discovery of gravity?

    as if we just found it, on a remote island somewhere? before that everyone was just drifting off into space...

    [I agree with your point about computers, but I wouldn't call "gravity" a discovery either. The way in which gravity works and the mathematical relationship between mass, distance and gravity, that was discovered. Gravity itself wasn't discovered any more than the ground was.]
  • That's why I'm applying for "antipop: I put the dot in i."

    -antipop
  • by localroger (258128) on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:31PM (#1424345) Homepage
    (Thanks to the person above who quoted the patent abstract, which makes this clear, and to the NOLO press and author David Pressman for publishing Patent It Yourself which also makes this clear.)

    Ebay is not patenting thumbnails nor claiming to have invented them. They are trying to patent the use of thumbnails in a new context, as a sales tool for online auctions. There is some precedent for this.

    For example, Post-It (tm) notes are protected by a utility patent. Neither the note nor the adhesive was invented (by 3M IIRC), but the use of the adhesive for the temporary sticking of notes to odd surfaces was a new use for existing technology. And that can be patented.

    This is really no less stupid than Amazon's one-click patent, which of course still doesn't mean it isn't stupid. But don't assume just because every pr0n site in existence has been using thumbnails since the days of Turing and von Neumann that Ebay can't get this through or enforce it.

    (For the curious, the other type of patent is called a design patent and is the kind you would apply for if you had actually developed a new and previously unknown technology.)

  • The quote is:

    "The kid who swallows too many marbles doesn't grow up to have kids of his own"

    ;)
  • I just LOVE the way so many people round here these days post without acquainting thenselves with the basic facts on the subject first :(

    That my dear friend is the American Way.

    If it was SO important to you, then why didn't you provide the necessary info to allow us to read more about it.

  • You can never count on corporations to do "the right" thing, their sole responsibility is to their shareholders and to increase shareholder value. If the law creates a way, immoral or not, for corporations to increase shareholder value, it is in their nature to exploit it. It is the responsibility of lawmakers to prevent this from happening, however lawmakers depend upon corporations to get them elected.

    BULLSHIT!"It's not me, it's the system!" Ok, here's how it goes, corporations are made up of people, and in the end it's the people in the corporation who make decisions who are responcible for the corporations acts. "It's just business" is the biggest load of shit...it's just a way for people to justify thier immorallity. If i can kill a hundred people and it's profitable doesn't mean it's morally right and if it's legal doesn't mean i should do it. I don't blame the system, i blame Ebay, and more specifically, the decision makers within the comapny

    You see, corporations aren't just big faceless entities, they are run by people. We often forget that and thus decided that it's "thier nature" to seek profits no matter what. This is total bullshit, just as there are people running businesses who would kill thier mother if it made a buck, there are people running businesses who have a backbone and some morals and refuse to give into the "get the money" mentallity. You know of 'em, the news stations always run puff pieces 'round christmas about the business who gave it's employees a unheard of bonus or something to that effect.

    voting and technology aren't gonnna solve the problem. How the hell is technology gonna stop money grubbing bastards....no, if there's gonna be a change it's gonna be from the ground up. It's gonna be a total change in our culture. I can already see it starting....there's a growing resentment towards corporations and profittering. You can see it in on slashdot, you can see it in our mass media with with movies like fight club (yes, fight club, it's a critique of materialism and wage slavery to corporations) , You can see it with the growing protests (WTO, IMF, ect) It's just a matter of time before the movement gains critical mass but when it does, it's gonna be unstoppable.

    sorry about the horrible spelling and "The only bad F-word is FCC" -Tom Morrello

  • As far as I remember, thumbnails started to appear in computer world since icons came up as a way to improve user's interface.

    Now that's nearly 10 years if not more. and I'm speaking on PC world only... So what's e-Bay up to?

    Frankly it seems that this patenting and trade-marking fever has beaten all possible limits. You know the latest? Have you heard of those small chocolades called "Kinder-surprise". Well the owner trademarked the name. Not the whole name but the "Kinder". I heard that "Kinder" means child or childhood in German. So it seems that our dear Germans should start to use it as "Kinder (TM)"

    In face of these things I have a proposal. People, and mainly women, you may hate these small little beings with four legs, a little tail and usually having grey or white fur. I'm speaking about mice. I think these guys have made a lot of good and bad things to Mankind. But we shall all agree that we are utterly bound with each other. "Mouse", I believe, is a cute name for these little creatures and I think it should stay so for many reasons. So let's patent/trademark this name into the correct owners before someone comes up and states that mice have a ball to move, two or more buttons, a long cable, and trademarks this as Mouse.
  • Given they've only applied for the patent and haven't got it yet, wouldn't there be a way to intervene in the approval process somehow ? Collect prior art and send it to the PTO, showing them that ebay is trying to patent something that's been invented eons ago ?
  • ...you see, the patent is SPECIFIC to online auctions (in fact, not even THAT general!)...

    OK, here's a specific example [earlytech.com] from an on-line auction system I wrote in 1996. This is, to my knowledge, the thirteenth US software patent where I personally have written prior art. Having said that, of course, it was scarcely a novel idea when I used it.

  • by SurfsUp (11523) on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:32PM (#1424360)
    So, it sounds like it's specific to online auctions, so although this isn't any less stupid than it originally sounds, I wouldn't start to worry about your online gallery of cat photos too quickly.

    No, not until somebody patents online galleries of cat photos.
    --

  • Calling their "gallery" patent pending is just E-Bay PR bullshit. It tells nothing about what the patent application is really about, except that it relates in some way to their gallery. Wait to see what the claims look like before you get all pissed off. If this thing issues, the claims aren't gonna be directed to a thumbnail gallery in general; no matter how stupid the Patent Office may be at times, they would never let that issue. Apparently, E-Bay is doing something different with this gallery, which may be bogus too, but it's not worth getting all bent out of shape until the patent actually issues (if it does at all). If and when that happens, you can pick apart the claims and see what they really have. Sometimes a company will get a patent with really narrow claims directed to a tiny aspect of their "innovation". This ensures that they get the patent issued. The patent is virtually worthless from the point of view of enforcement, because it's so narrow that it's easy to avoid infringing the claims. However, they get to blab to the world that their "gallery" or whatever is "patented", which gets them advertising points with dumbasses. I suspect this is the case with E-Bay.
  • That is really remarkable! You mean to say that they don't check to see if a patent is valid at all? This seems to be different from other patent offices. AFAIK (which isn't much at all) the British Patent Office has fairly strenuous standards that must be passed. Why are they so biased towards the commercial model? Surely they should be independant of their 'customers' desires? That would seem a sensible approach, anyway.

    But then, I don't know, maybe in the end it makes sense. Many things in America seem to rely on the courts, I have noticed since I've been here, and the Law seems to be the way that disputes such as these are decided. It does seem a little odd though, all the same, hehe.

  • Can you post a URL to any other site which uses galleries to show the ACTUAL objects for which you are bidding in an online auction in the manner which EBay does, then, please?

    Note, the site must use galleries of the ACTUAL objects up for auction, not pictures of "similar" or "representative" objects, but the ACTUAL object (which can be very important for collectible items, for example, enabling you to see the actual condition).

    After all, you say this is in wide use over the internet, so you won't have any difficulty, right?

    No, a URL to just any old site with a gallery will not suffice. It must be a site which already implements the SEPCIFICS of the patent applied for (and no, you can't point to ebay 'cos that's cheating ;-) ).

    I strongly suspect you can not come up with such a URL, and that the patent application is not "in wide use over the internet", therefore your point (b) is incorrect, afaict.

    As for your point (a), that is NOT a relevant criteria for any patent - just 'cos it is obvious doesn't mean you can't patent it - hell, almost everything is "obvious" once someone has done it for the first time!

    Please note that I make no comments as to whether or not the patent ought to be granted. I am just trying to point out that ebay are not trying to patent as wide a claim as many kneejerkers round here would have us believe.

    --
  • It's actually the exact opposite. In capitalism, you assume a free market, which means everybody is competing on their own merit, and not on legal battles.

    What happens is that it's easier for large corporations to compete in the courts than in the market.
    It is rather hard to put together a civil court system which will discourage malicious lawsuits (and corruption) whilst still allowing the genuinly wronged to seek redress.
  • Inventors have expended capital (their time and materiel), and a good capitalist free market economy would compensate them and reward the efficient ones.

    However a good free market does not guarentee any kind of return (let alone a profit). Therefore it only rewards the good (or lucky) ones.
    The idea that people (and companies) should automatically be rewarded for their expended time, money and materials isn't free market capitalism.
  • Yes, but for people like myself who run auction sites with 10,000 members instead of 10,000,000 -- this is still not a good thing.
    ---
    seumas.com
  • by Rader (40041) on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:38PM (#1424384) Homepage
    Maybe it's defensive patenting.
    Patent something important so that others won't be able to sue you when they beat you to it.
  • by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:57PM (#1424385) Homepage Journal
    Paint Shop Pro has had the thumbnail gallery(called the "browser") for years.
  • If a patent may be given for thumbnail galleries, then whoever enabled html to have pictures act as hyperlinks should get the credit. Displaying pictures is part of HTML, and so is clicking them to get to another page. The notion of having an image act as a hyperlink to a description of that image, and perhaps a higher-res picture, is nothing more than a magazine with contents on the cover (e.g. Reader's Digest). And good style web development teaches us that all hyperlinks should be orgranized in a logical way- so click a picture and learn more about it... Wow, whoever thought of that is a genius!
  • by fishbowl (7759) on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:42PM (#1424387)
    > The problem is the patent office granting all
    >these silly patents.

    Perhaps part of the problem is the court system,
    for not really being available as a venue to those who need it. If it is truly such a disaster to "be sued" even if one is in the right, that defending oneself against being sued
    may put one out of business, then the court system has long ago ceased to serve it's primary purpose -- to protect the people it serves, equally, consistently, fairly, and without prejudice.

    The fact that people and businesses must walk on eggs and comply with extralegal demands, because they fear being sued by someone with more resources than they have, is really an intolerable situation. If we tolerate it, we get the government we deserve -- ruled by the
    corporate entity with the most money, and which suffers the people to consider themselves "free" so long as its own interests are served.

    Guess we need to let this situation go ahead and get worse. When it becomes intolerable enough that people become sufficiently outraged to make the sacrifices needed to bring change, they will,
    just like they have done throughout history.
    In our lifetimes? One wonders. As a society, our lives are just too cozy and pleasant for us
    to really have the stomach for revolution. That might mean people like you and be getting killed at the hands of other people like you and me, or even (gasp!) giving up cable tv or the welfarre check!

    Obviously, things aren't bad enough to drive real change. Yet.

  • by Gruneun (261463) on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:42PM (#1424389)
    Maybe E-Bay does realize just how ridiculous the whole patent idea is.

    With the great number of companies trying to patent the most ridculously obvious technologies, perhaps it's emerged as a self-defense mechanism. Sure, patenting something like a hyperlink or a thumbnail gallery is stupid. Everyone who has used the Internet for even a short period of time knows that these are commonly used. Ask yourself though, as a large company (with available money to burn on lawyers), if you're willing to take the risk that some other schmuck will try to patent it first... and possibly... just maybe... win. Losing the right to a patent also decreases the options for someone else to try.

    If E-Bay were to win that sort of patent (and they won't) they could prove they aren't also a bunch of schmucks by announcing that they have no intention of ever enforcing such a patent, but explain they were doing so to protect themselves from just that sort of abuse.

    Or... it could just be my wishful thinking that a large company genuinely has the interest of the common web guy at heart.
  • by Nagash (6945) on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:43PM (#1424390) Homepage
    I checked the link out - I don't see a way to look at anything but the abstract, so let's analyze it a bit, shall we?

    A method and apparatus for information presentation and management in an online trading environment are provided.

    Note the bold (my emphasis). This shouldn't affect the cat photos James_G mentioned.

    According to one aspect of the present invention, person-to-person commerce over the Internet is facilitated by providing prospective buyers the ability to quickly preview items for sale.

    Again, this is related to commerce. This basically says that the site is going to be allowing two parties to buy/sell items with some sort of preview system. Duh, right? Right.

    Images are harvested from a plurality of sites based upon user-supplied information. The user-supplied information includes descriptions of items for sale and locations from which images that are to be associated with the items can be retrieved. Thumbnail images are created corresponding to the harvested images and are aggregated onto a web page for presentation at a remote site.

    This basically says, "people give us info and we show it". What innovation. The only thing of interest will be the aggregation of the images on to a web site (we don't really know what that means yet) and the harvesting of images. I'm sure those are defined somewhere. I doubt it's anything special.

    At face value, it sounds like they are given a link to an image, they go get this image and display it with the description. Extraordinary. Edison would be proud.

    According to another aspect of the present invention, a user may submit a query to preview items for sale. After receiving the query, thumbnail images corresponding to items that satisfy the user query are displayed, each of the thumbnail images previously having been created based upon a user-specified image.

    It's called cataloging. Yahoo! has done this for ages. The "query" probably amounts just clicking along some links that are grouped by similairity. Hell, it may even be a search. Again, I can hardly contain my admiration of such forward thinking.

    The abstract makes it out to be absolutely nothing special. It's all be done before, but since it relates to "online trading environments", it's different. My ass.

    Woz

  • Patents are easier to have overturned in the first year after being issued. "We, the Open Source Community," should have some sort of watchdog effort pointed at the USPTO to keep track of new stuff being issued, that really isn't new. Then we could go after it.

    We can all be Stupid Patent Police, every one.
  • But e-bay hasn't even come up with an original idea, here.

    If you write the application in technical language and make it difficult to understand then the USPO will probably believe it's an original idea. Which IMHO is the actual problem.
  • It really doesn't matter (as has been pointed out everytime something like this happens) a quick appeal and it will be wiped out.

    Is there actually such a thing. e.g. send a letter to the USPO saying "patent XYZ is invalid, because...". Then if the original claiment attempts court action simply forward a copy and the plaintiff winds up fined for contempt....
    Or does it mean that someone still needs to go to the time and expense of hiring lawyers (and paying those lawyers to understand why the patent is invalid in the first place)?
  • How about expanding that to patenting "A photon emitting device." Leave it vague enough and you just might get it through.

    Then get rid of all of the current system once it got passed by insisting on high royalties for any "photon emitting device" associated with the USPO. Though how you'd cool the entire thing down to absolute zero if they didn't comply is an interesting engineering problem.
  • If Ebay tries to enforce this, they will be laughed out of any court in the land.

    But it first has to get to court, even if it did and was "laughted out" then the plaintiff (Ebay) whould not be forced to pay the defendant's costs.

    BT tried a similar stunt recenlty in the UK saying it had a patent on hyperlinking.

    Again this case involves the US patent and court system. No doubt BT has far deeper pockets than any of those it is going after.

    Do they really think they have a cats chance in hell of having this upheld in a court?

    They tell people "It would cost you X to defend this in court, we want Y". Where YX though both in the 10's-10's of thousands of USD.
  • Ok so the patent is there to protect your ideas fine it is only right that someone who spent time and effort developing the idea.

    The original idea of patents is to encourate innovative ideas to be applied as technology. With the original criteria being that something was original and non-obvious (to someone familiar with that type of technology). i.e. nothing to do with how much time/effort/money/etc was spent on it.
    If someone or some company spend vast amounts of money "inventing" something obvious then it used to be the case that they'd be though of as foolish, deserving of nothing but sympathy.
  • Why not simply run all software patents across a Slash based we site where we geeks can surf on over and provide prior art to the latest 15 ill-conceived patents...

    Let this be part of the 'fact finding' process of the existing system. Its so simple.. and frankly I think the collective interest of anti-IP geeks could probably crush 99.999999% of software patents - easily.
  • by MathJMendl (144298) on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:46PM (#1424413) Homepage
    "E-Bay Patents Thumbnail Galleries" implies that they have won the patent. They have simply filed for a patent, however.
  • Does anyone have the patent number for this one? I'd love to see what the actual claims are.

    I keep telling myself it can't be the act of merely displaying a thumbnail...there must be something more to it...

  • >Unfortunetly, this is one of the many negatives
    >of capitalism. And even more unfortunetly,
    >capitalism is the best we have.

    Well, the fall of currency can, has, and does happen. This could change a whole lot of things
    if it happened in the USA. Can't happen? Maybe it can't, here in the jewel of the world.

    Perhaps there are readers of slashdot who have lived through the experience of having their money be "money" one day and used it for toilet paper the next day.

    Can't happen to the dollar, the pound, the yen, or the euro? Why can't it? The law of good taste? Inertia?

    Tell it to someone who left Cambodia in 1969, or a Albanian refugee in Italy.

  • > Wonder if I can get a patent on first posting at slashdot.

    Naw, do mankind a favor: patent the blink tag. Or the marquee tag. That'll clean up the Internet in a way to surprise everyone.

    Geoff
  • by Keighvin (166133) on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:08PM (#1424426)
    Why is there such a rush to patent what should be natural innovation?

    There are many good ideas that are evolved from other good ideas and occur to many making the point of intellectual property moot - this is one of those things (along with hyperlinking).

    Most sectors of business realize this and only patent something that came about through their hard work and research, not just anything that hasn't yet been patented in the field (especially if it's common practice!). Why are they trying to do this, and why is the patent office letting them?

  • slashNET older stuff rob's page preferences submit story advertising supporters past polls topics about jobs hof Sections 12/15 apache 12/30 (10) askslashdot 1/27 awards 12/26 books 12/25 bsd 12/28 features 12/29 interviews 11/17 radio 12/29 (4) science 12/29 (2) yro OSDN Freshmeat Linux.com SourceForge ThinkGeek Question Exchange I've done that to a cat with a 'visible' laser pointer.

    It's only invisible until it hits "an opaque surface". They're just talking about your average LED style laser.
    `ø,,ø!

  • the claims. You can find the claims of this patent here [164.195.100.11].

    The only independent claim states:
    1. A method performed by a marketplace computer for facilitating electronic commerce over a network between a plurality of seller and buyer computers, the method comprising the steps of:
    presenting a registration web page to a remote first seller computer over the network;
    receiving a first registration for a first product from the first seller computer over the network, the first registration including a first product description and a first Universal Resource Locator (URL) indicating a first location of a first image of the first product, the first location referencing the first seller computer or a third computer on the network, and the first image being in one of a plurality of predetermined source image formats;
    presenting a registration web page to a remote second seller computer over the network;
    receiving a second registration for a second product from the second seller computer over the network the second registration including a second product description and a second URL indicating a second location of a second image of the second product, the second location referencing the second seller computer or a fourth computer on the network, and the second image being in one of a plurality of predetermined source image formats;
    retrieving the first image based on the received first URL;
    manipulating the first image to produce a first thumbnail image of a first predetermined size and format;
    retrieving the second image based on the received second URL;
    manipulating the second image to produce a second thumbnail image of a second predetermined size and format;
    creating a customized web page including the first and second thumbnail images; and
    presenting the customized web page to a buyer computer.

    Nowthen, in order to infringe this patent (i.e. potentially be sued by EBay) there has to be at least 2 seller computers and a buyer computer involved, in an ecommerce situation. The images must be referenced from a third location.

    This claim (although not particularly deep) certainly overcomes most of the "prior art" that has been tossed around. For example, all individual photo galleries, like the one shown here [photo.net] reference larger images on the same site. Furthermore, they are not in the context of ecommerce. Most sites generally have thumbnails of other images on the same site. This is not the case that is protected by EBay.

    Seriously, read the claim FIRST, then bitch about the scope of the patent.

    Thalia

  • by citizenc (60589) <cary@glidRABBITe ... minus herbivore> on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:11PM (#1424433) Journal
    From what I understand, porn sites have been doing this for years and years. I can vouch for this fact, being an exp-- err, I only go to those websites for the articles. Really.

    REALLY!

    ------------
    CitizenC
  • The Delphion link [delphion.com] includes a good bit of information including a pointer to images of the original paper patent application [delphion.com]
    `ø,,ø!
  • Your scenario is hardly even plausible. The only IP laws that protect the inventions themselves are patents, and these expire after 20 years.

    Yeah, sure, and copyrights used to expire after seventeen years, too. But now that big business interests have stolen the Presidency (look at GWB's cabinet!), and they, not voters any more, control this nuthouse of a country, any reasonable person can foresee that new legislature will spring up, increasing the period for patents to thirty, forty, fifty years...forever.

    Just like the duration of copyrights, which, for the benefit of the loathsome Disney Corporation and its ilk, apparently is going to be extended out to eternity.

    Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:11PM (#1424437)
    nice try for an FP, but as we all know around here, gifs use LZW compression patented a million years ago by unisys. compuserv got screwed by this. ever heard of burn all gifs day? slashdot was all about posting articles of that. slashdot supports the cause 100%. you can tell. just look at the top of the page. oh wait, title.gif. well, np, look at the story pictures. wait, those are gif too. at least the banner ads are png, oh wait, gif too. good work slashdot. we know you are the most hypocritical site on the web currently.
  • There is a finger, and then there is a nose, none of this is my invention, but I'll patent the use of finger to pick the nose!
  • by Firedog (230345) on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:51PM (#1424451)
    A thousand years from now, students will learn (but not in schools) about the Decline and Fall of the American Empire...


    ...One of the factors that led to the fall of the United States of America and the coming of the Second Dark Age was a stifling of intellectual progress by the transnational corporations of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

    One of the central tenets of the Rational Age, arguably the peak of pre-nuclear civilization, was that scientific and technological progress superseded individual ownership of ideas and concepts. But during the "Greed Years" near the turn of the third millennium, a fundamental shift in values occurred. In a mad rush, the large corporations grabbed every piece of "intellectual property" they could get their hands on, stamping ideas, scientific advances, life forms, and even single words with their brands. Processes that had been used for hundreds of years by indigenous peoples all over the globe were suddenly the exclusive "property" of large corporations.

    Initially, this shift in attitude had little effect on progress, as there was healthy competition between transnational corporations. In addition, certain semi-enlightened governments intervened in order to keep progress moving along, although this intervention was typically incompetently applied. Too little, too late, it only slowed things down.

    There were subtle effects that few noticed at first. The dizzying pace of inventions slowed dramatically as more and more building blocks for new technologies became the exclusive domain of the transnationals. Smaller companies became unable to innovate due to the excessive licensing fees imposed by those who owned the tools and technologies that the innovations built on. Technology began to stagnate.

    It became illegal for curious engineers and inventors to even analyze an existing technology. Consequently, more and more of society was based on technology that was not rigorously tested. Breakdowns of everything from financial markets to air traffic control systems became increasingly more common, until they were eventually accepted as a way of life.

    Discouraged, young people began to turn away from science and technology even more. Fewer and fewer fresh minds were available to create new inventions, and they were poorly trained compared to previous generations due to the ever-degrading state of education. Those who did enter these fields were generally occupied with maintaining, patching, and in some cases, dismantling the technological infrastructure.

    The process was insidiously cumulative; as more corporations merged into single entities, with operations on all the continents, they became too difficult for governments to handle. They continued to merge, and they formed alliances that kept a lid on all technological advances that threatened the status quo.

    Of course, it could not continue forever. The planet's population was beyond its carrying capacity at the time, and the economic production of the planet was based on ever-increasing use of dwindling nonrenewable fuels. Technologies to harness the power of the sun and nuclear fusion had been suppressed by the huge oil and gas conglomerates; they owned these technologies, but sat on them.

    Increasing pollution, the instabilities in cost and availability of energy, and changing climate patterns all took their toll, introducing greater social instability in turn. There was not enough time for society to retool itself to become dependent on newer energy technologies, and the greatest empire the world had ever seen began to unravel.


    ...taken from the Decline and Fall of the American Empire, published 3026 A.D.

  • I don't see how this is sufficiently different from what IBM delivered quite a number of years ago as DB2 Image Extenders [ibm.com].

    Essentially, they're a means of querying a database (potentially, distributed among a plurality of sites in the case of parallel DB's) for image content, presenting the results as thumbnails and permitting links back to the original images. They also provided the capability to query by drawing/doodle and by color distribution in the image.

    Be sure to send e-Bay feedback about any other prior art that would definitely turn their application into an organizational embarrassment. Stuff like Oracle interMedia [oracle.com] or any given imaging product library from Xerox PARC.

    It's only fair, I should think...I mean, they probably have no clue how open they are to a world-class stomping by the largest organizations in the industry...

  • Of course, they [Unisys] did spend their precious time and hard-earned money on developing GIFs.

    Unisys did not develop GIFs. Compuserve did. In 1984.

    Compuserve unknowingly infringed in Unisys' LZW patent by specifying that type of compression in the GIF format.

    Years later, after GIF was a widely used standard, Unisys suddenly realizes their patent is infringed. At first, they seemed real nice about it. Then as they saw lots of $$ on the WWW, they decided to be nasty about it. They could. Because GIF is the easiest, simplest, least common denominator animated format. Nevermind that Unisys has nothing to do with that innovation.

    Finally, Unisys bought the LZW patent. It's not something that they [a corporation] could possibly be creative enough to create themselves.
  • xv has been doing thumbnails of all the pictures in a directory for several years. Depending on what exactly eBay thinks they've patented, there may be a number of example of prior art.
  • And that's what it looks like to me.
    Can't show investors a profit, let's see if they fall for the "innovative" things we do. Next keyword: revolutionize.
    Emperor's clothes and all that.

    Oh well. Happy new year, everybody!
  • There *could* be an element of 'uniqueness' to their approach. I don't know of too many commerce sites that let you see a thumbnail gallery of the actual items you're able to buy - usually only professionally done photographs of stock items.

    And how many auction sites do this? Again, it's not a case of 'I've seen thumbnail galleries before, so ebay can't do it cause it's prior art' - they're not saying they invented thumbnail galleries. What they'd be claiming is that they've invented a unique business process of some sort. If the scope is narrowed some, they might be the first auction site to do this, making it unique and perhaps patentable.

  • Hmmm, a lot of these sound overly broad.

    1 6,167,386 Method for conducting an on-line bidding session with bid pooling
    OK, I can believe that, sounds moderately reasonable at least.
    2 6,073,117 Mutual credit server apparatus and a distributed mutual credit system
    Zuh?! I guess it's time slashdot paid eBay the royalties for their karma system.
    3 6,058,417 Information presentation and management in an online trading environment
    Yeah, this is practically the definition of an overly broad patent.
    4 6,058,379 Real-time network exchange with seller specified exchange parameters and interactive seller participation
    Makes sense, but I don't think it's enough of a "new idea" to be patentable.
    5 6,044,363 Automatic auction method
    Huh? Are they talking about incrementing the bid until it's above everyone but one person's highest bid? Yeah, that sounds like an incredibly complicated and new idea.
    6 6,012,045 Computer-based electronic bid, auction and sale system, and a system to teach new/non-registered customers how bidding, auction purchasing works
    The teaching part makes some sense, but I don't really think either one of those are particularly patentable ideas.

    Ya know, I don't think we would all mind if these numnutz patented genuinly new and unique concepts instead of trying to patent everything and the kitchen sink just because they were in the market early and have tons of cash.

  • by hobbesx (259250) on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:13PM (#1424470)
    Friggin' thubmnailed articles, I hate reading those things ;)
  • here is a patent I found a while ago on "Method of exercising a cat" with a handheld laser. It is patent number US05443036, and info on it can be found at http://www.delphion.com/details?pn=US05443036__ [delphion.com]

    Besides, I'm sure there are *many* sites that can claim prior art for thumbnailed images...

    -mdek.net [mdek.net]
  • everyone is patenting everything. It really doesn't matter (as has been pointed out everytime something like this happens) a quick appeal and it will be wiped out.

    no, the patent people do not know what they are doing, and no, no one cares. just let it go.

    as for EBay being stupid, that is another story.. :)
  • And in a move that would probably burn the FSF and RMS's butt if they and he knew about it, Borland maintains a link to the FSF web site using a GIF of the GNU mascot . . .

    Look for it at this URL, at the bottom left of the page: http://www.borland.com/kylix/ [borland.com]
    --

  • BT tried a similar stunt recenlty in the UK saying it had a patent on hyperlinking.
    why Ebay would even try to patent something that clearly already existed before

    Here's why...

    You patent it. Even if it's stupid.

    Then you go after the infringer who is most likely to settle. In BT's case, they are going after Prodigy.

    How many times have you ever seen a press release about some lawsuit that was settled, but the terms of the settlement were kept private?

    So Prodigy settles with BT, and agrees to pay BT some absurdly small amount of money for BT's extremely innovative hyperlink technology. Now what happens? Why did they do this?

    Well, they both got soemthing out of it. Prodigy got out of a lawsuit. Prodigy got a license to the innovative hyperlink technology. Prodigy now gets to watch as BT goes after Prodigy's competitors. What did BT get? BT got a little bit of money. BT got some precedent that their patent is valuable because others have already licensed it. Prodigy gets to watch their competitors pay absurd amounts of money that Prodigy got for free.

    Of course, only the first few licensees get such favorable treatment. After the first few, the licensing fee suddenly goes way up and becomes an actual source of money to BT.

    Need an example: rambus. How much are they asking for these days?

    Why are the terms of these settlements kept secret? There must be something worth hiding. Something too embarrasing to make public. I think it the absurdly small amount of money they got. If everyone knew this, and both people thought of what I just explained, then both sides true motives would be exposed. Bad PR.
  • by DaneelGiskard (222145) on Friday December 29, 2000 @03:13PM (#1424485) Homepage
    Here are some more I found...

    Integrated Auction for remote online bidders and live participants at an auction site [espacenet.com]
    Information presentation and management in an online trading environment [espacenet.com]

    I got this from the website of the European Patent Office [european-p...office.org]

    cheers
    mike
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:15PM (#1424487)
    Instead of patenting GIF, since we can't, how about patenting the idea of using a GIF to "display an object or image, real or imagined, thru the use of any electronic means including but not limited to monitors, televisions, LCD panels, holographic projectors, neural implants, or any other image display device."

    We can also patent the transfer of GIF files thru electronic means, the printing of GIF files, as I doubt any of those are covered in the patent for the GIF format it's self. Is Ebay, Amazon, and everyone sure they can't go back and patent TCP/IP, or electricity while they are at it?

  • by James_G (71902) <james@global m e g a c orp.org> on Friday December 29, 2000 @01:16PM (#1424489)
    Look here [uspto.gov].

    Abstract: A method and apparatus for information presentation and management in an online trading environment are provided. According to one aspect of the present invention, person-to-person commerce over the Internet is facilitated by providing prospective buyers the ability to quickly preview items for sale. Images are harvested from a plurality of sites based upon user-supplied information. The user-supplied information includes descriptions of items for sale and locations from which images that are to be associated with the items can be retrieved. Thumbnail images are created corresponding to the harvested images and are aggregated onto a web page for presentation at a remote site. According to another aspect of the present invention, a user may submit a query to preview items for sale. After receiving the query, thumbnail images corresponding to items that satisfy the user query are displayed, each of the thumbnail images previously having been created based upon a user-specified image.

    So, it sounds like it's specific to online auctions, so although this isn't any less stupid than it originally sounds, I wouldn't start to worry about your online gallery of cat photos too quickly.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein

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