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Amazon 1-Click Lawyers Make USPTO Work Xmas Eve 117

Posted by timothy
from the hey-those-guys-are-there-by-choice dept.
theodp writes "In a move that would do pre-makeover Ebenezer proud, Amazon.com's 1-Click lawyers put the USPTO to work on Christmas Eve. On Dec. 24th, the USPTO acknowledged receipt of yet another round of paperwork submitted by Amazon's high-priced legal muscle, the latest salvo in Amazon's 3-year battle to fend off a patent reexamination triggered by the do-it-yourself legal effort of actor Peter Calveley. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' 1-Click patent is also under attack on another front — on Dec. 23rd, the USPTO received $810 from Amazon's attorneys together with a request that the agency invalidate Patent Examiner Mark A. Fadok's final rejection of 1-Click patent claims on the grounds of obviousness. On the bright side, patent clerks — unlike Bob Cratchit — get the day after Christmas off!"
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Amazon 1-Click Lawyers Make USPTO Work Xmas Eve

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  • by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:24PM (#26232185) Journal

    Pushing this absurd patent is costing Amazon more in negative PR than the patent could possibly be worth.

    -jcr

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:34PM (#26232251)

      Negative PR? Only with the tiny audience that reads slashdot or sites like it. That's not a slam of slashdot, but you have to admit this is not anything like a mainstream news site.

      • by agy (169514)

        Yeah, maybe a YouTube video with a Johnny Cash lookalike singing
        "Take 1 click and shove it; I ain't a-shoppin' here no more..."
        would help.

    • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:40PM (#26232287)
      Is it a lousy business decision?

      Pushing this absurd patent is costing Amazon more in negative PR than the patent could possibly be worth.

      Negative PR with who? The people that already feel questionably about Amazon? Because the truth is no one outside the Web world (that's us) cares, and we represent a very tiny part of Amazon's customer base, and most of us will keep on buying things from Amazon anyway (though I try to buy from Powells [slashdot.org] when I can).

      My point is that hoping Amazon gets "embarrassed" about this isn't going to happen, and your statement simply isn't true.

      • by cpghost (719344) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @10:16PM (#26232829) Homepage

        Because the truth is no one outside the Web world (that's us) cares, and we represent a very tiny part of Amazon's customer base

        There are NO Amazon customers outside the Web world...

        But, point well taken: you're quite right. This is a non-issue for nearly all Amazon customers anyway. We software patent opponents do care a lot (though not all of us would avoid using Amazon because of this silly patent), but we're an insignificant minority of their customer base.

    • by r7 (409657)

      Negative PR it may be for some, but for others it is a reminder not to do business with Amazon. Many of us avoid Amazon for refusing to stop sending unsolicited advertising via email, for not affording us a choice in how our purchases are tracked, and for not giving us a choice in their retention of our data (credit card and other).

  • I'm atheist you insensitive clod.

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by Cyberax (705495)

      Also, Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, because they still use old Julian calendar and not the new-fangled Gregorian Calendar.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by _Sprocket_ (42527)

      What's religion got to do with it? OK, sure. There are still those who maintain religious traditions around this time of year. And that's fine. But much of what we celebrate as Christmas is secular.

      Looking around my household, I only find one religious trapping; a figurine of an angel reaching for a star. It is far outnumbered by the reindier, wreaths, nutcrackers, canycanes, snowmen, santas, christmas trees, and other assorted decorations. I haven't attented church in years. We didn't even say grace

  • by denzacar (181829)

    Who ever said that practicing "law" or anything to do with it is a gentleman's game?

    On contrary... You got a way to put that extra pound of pressure on your opponent, you use it.
    As long as it is legal and/or you don't get caught.

    Heck... If duels were legal you can bet your ass that lawyers would start hiring people as proxies to challenge the members of opposing legal team prior to trial.

    • Who ever said that practicing "law" or anything to do with it is a gentleman's game?

      On contrary... You got a way to put that extra pound of pressure on your opponent, you use it. As long as it is legal and/or you don't get caught.

      Heck... If duels were legal you can bet your ass that lawyers would start hiring people as proxies to challenge the members of opposing legal team prior to trial.

      I'm surprised they haven't challenged Calveley to a duel.

    • Just because the players play to win doesn't mean it's not a gentleman's game. Lawyering is more of a gentleman's game than, say, baseball.
  • Don't see it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:28PM (#26232215)

    Is there an assumption that USPTO has to somehow reply to this latest submission by midnight on same day?

    The story seems silly. There is no life or death situation. I would expect no action from USPTO for 3 month or more.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:29PM (#26232217)

    It just shows how little some people know about the patent system. A request for continued examination can be filed with the electronic system on Dec 23rd, and very few humans would see it, if any, until the docket clerk looks at it. The examiner won't be looking at it for quite some time, so they aren't working overtime for Bezos. Further, they aren't asking for an invalidation of the final rejection, they are asking for reconsideration on the merits, and a withdrawal of the rejection (very different things). If you know about the system, the summary the submitter put forward was good for a laugh, but nothing else.

    • Indeed. Most of the /. verbiage on patents is amusingly uninformed.

      Not understanding the difference between a patent application and a granted patent is a common feature of articles and commentary here. Given that level of ignorance, it is inevitible that most denizens of /. fail to comprehend the procedures in prosecuting an application, and the associated dialog between applicant's attorneys and the examiner.

      Hint: I hold 12 granted US patents, and have a few applications being examined. I have some f

      • by arotenbe (1203922)

        Not understanding the difference between a patent application and a granted patent is a common feature of articles and commentary here.

        Most people on Slashdot believe that an alarmingly large percentage of patent applications are granted. The number of outright stupid patents that are granted is often exaggerated into the "application == patent" phenomenon you mention. Sadly, some of the time, they're right.

      • Other problems with /. evaluation of patents and applications include looking at the abstract, disclosure, or drawings and ignoring the claims; reading the first part of a claim but ignoring the rest, thereby missing the novel limitation; and declaring something obvious without providing evidence to support their argument.

  • by sir_eccles (1235902) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:29PM (#26232219)
    Loosely translated means they filed the paperwork online and the whole thing was accepted automatically. So if anything, it was Amazon being Ebenezer making its lawyers work Xmas eve, the USPTO didn't have to do anything.
    • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:41PM (#26232293)

      Loosely translated means they filed the paperwork online and the whole thing was accepted automatically. So if anything, it was Amazon being Ebenezer making its lawyers work Xmas eve, the USPTO didn't have to do anything.

      Yeah, no kidding. I mean, we're talking government employees here.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Yeah, no kidding. I mean, we're talking government employees here.

        I wish.
        All my life I heard what lazy people government worker where and didn't have to do anything.

        3 years ago I got a government job, and it's been nothing but work, work, work. I work with the most dedicated people I have ever worked with.
        I'm thinking of suing for false advertising~

    • Now if the USPTO could return it back to Amazon on New Years Eve and require a 24 hour response - that would be hilarious. Nothing like reading over patent blah blah blah with a hangover.
  • Way back in the day, nobody could even figure out how to do credit card processing, much less buy anything online. I have a vague recollection of one of the backbone providers in the Northeast or Midwest trying to prohibit commerical traffic over their network.

    One-click buying was pretty radical. Even buying stuff online was pretty unbelievable. I mean, think about this: some company you never heard of would store your credit card number and other information so you could buy stuff without entering in all t

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:37PM (#26232267)

      one click buying was as obvious as n[anything], it starts off with a bunch of steps and slowly gets optimized to the minimum, which is a very logical progression.

      see 'one click recording', 'one button printers' and so on. Eventually all technology gets optimized to the minimum number of interfaces required to make it work.

      Not only is this an obvious patent, it is part of a special class of obvious patents, the ones that are destined to happen anyway, no matter who patents them.

    • I think it was obvious to a lot of people. After all storing data on a computer is a pretty standard thought. I don't know why the fact that it's credit card information for a purchase is that novel.

      In the real world, bars have done this for a long time. It's called a tab.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:52PM (#26232357)

      I have a vague recollection of one of the backbone providers in the Northeast or Midwest trying to prohibit commerical traffic over their network.

      You're thinking of NSFNET [wikipedia.org], which was more-or-less the bridge between the original ARPANET and the commercial Internet we know today. The non-commercial limitations were inherited from ARPANET, and had to do with government funding of the backbone.

    • Buying stuff online wasn't common, but people had been buying stuff over the phone for years. Sometimes they even had an open account, so they could call up, identify themselves, place an order, and have it billed later.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      Um no it was not. People had been buying via Mail order for 200 years previous. Sears Roebuck were accepting checks and money by mail for over a century by then. and they were acceptng credit cards cince they existed.

      Online buying was no different no innovative in any way. You're making the silly assumption that doing something normal "on the internet" is innovative.

      It's not.

    • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @08:24PM (#26232465) Homepage

      so should TV commercials have been patented because before TV was invented "advertising on TV" was a very radical concept?

      Amazon didn't invent e-commerce. they only popularized it. and even if they had been the first to implement one-click check out, it's still not a patentable non-trivial/obvious invention.

      if businesses are allowed to patent trivial features like saving a customer's credit card information, then you risk destroying the software development industry. within a few years any software development firm would have to license 99% of all of their products' features because everything from autosave to file menus would have been "pretty unbelievable" at some point in time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by g2devi (898503)

      If it's not obvious, why do children reinvent it every day?

      Don't believe me? Go into a toy store and watch spoiled children. They'd point to a toy and say "I want that" and then say "I want that" and then say "I want that", etc, before their parents gather up their requests and go to the cashier.

      The 1-click patent is not not only obvious, it has prior art in spoiled children. The key reason few people did online shopping before amazon is that http standards, and in particular encryption, wasn't common enoug

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by johanatan (1159309)
      I think you need a history lesson. Amazon's one-click was submitted in Fall of 1997--hardly the primitive networking days you describe.
    • by asackett (161377) on Friday December 26, 2008 @12:11AM (#26233215) Homepage

      Sorry, youngster, you are not giving those of us who were building e-commerce web sites "way back in the day" before there was an Amazon.com nearly enough credit. One-click was obvious even before they did it; the reason no one else offered it is because it's stupid.

      All e-commerce sites I built before Amazon.com existed (and before "e-commerce" was the widely accepted term for them) stored account details that were pre-populated in the checkout forms after successful authentication. It was common as dirt, and even those customers who were beyond the reach of 56k dial-up expected it to work that way.

      Yes, indeed, it was obvious even "way back in the day".

    • It was not radical at the time of the original patent application. This patent is circa 1998-1999 and there were tons of online retailers pre-1998. The difference was they were small. In fact, Netscape created cookies for the purposes of e-commerce. Lastly, just look at the 1997 RFC. There was gobs, and gobs, and gobs of prior art on this patent. That's why everyone went so bonkers about the patent being awarded.

      This context might be used to create, for example, a "shopping cart", in which user select

    • I was buying things online via Compuserve in the 1980s. It wasn't "pretty unbelievable" even then.
  • by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:42PM (#26232309) Homepage

    What's REALLY needed is a law which prohibits the storing of people's credit card numbers. The only people who need access to your credit card info are you and your bank.

    That would moot this stupid patent, but who cares.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScrewMaster (602015) *

      What's REALLY needed is a law which prohibits the storing of people's credit card numbers. The only people who need access to your credit card info are you and your bank.

      That would moot this stupid patent, but who cares.

      Well, that won't happen as long as credit card issuers are responsible for any fraud. The thing is, sometimes they screw you over anyway.

      • by |Cozmo| (20603)

        Shows what you know. The MERCHANTS are the ones that pay for fraud, NOT the credit card companies.
        If I'm an online merchant and I ship a product to someone and it turns out to be a fraudulent transaction, once the real customer complains the money gets charged back and sucked out of my bank account, along with a hefty fee for letting the transaction go through in the first place. If I actually shipped a product out then I esentially gave it away for free.

        I wouldn't be surprised if the credit card companies

        • Okay, let me rephrase that: so long as consumers are only responsible for the first $50 of any fraudulent transaction, nothing is likely to change. We don't care so long as we don't get stuck with the bill, and merchants simply roll their losses into their pricing structure. We all pay in the end, in higher prices.
    • by Dhalka226 (559740) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @08:19PM (#26232439)

      There are certainly risks involved with letting people store your credit card number, but I don't think the government needs to babysit us quite that much. That said, there are some similar measures I would support:

      1. Minimum standards for the secure storage of those numbers. The most obvious requirement, if one doesn't yet exist, being that they can't be stored clear-text. There should probably be requirements about where it can be stored (eg, not on laptops), who can access them, etc as well.

      2. A law requiring that the storage of your CC number be optional, and even default off. Too many services simply don't let you tell them not to store the number if you want to use that service, and even those that do tend to store it until you remove it. I don't think the government should be making our decisions for us--it certainly is more convenient to check out if the number is stored--but they should do what they can to let us make those decisions for ourselves if we believe the rewards outweigh the risks.

      ...and probably more, though that's what comes immediately to mind.

      • The CC companies took it upon themselves to make up their own rules. They are pretty stringent. CISP [merchant-a...rvices.org] requires a yearly audit.

        When I last looked in depth at this there was a per card theft fine of 10,000. Obviously the huge credit card thefts from some of the big merchants have never paid anywhere near that per card. But as a small business it was a deciding factor on changing our rebilling process.

      • Actually, PCI [pcisecuritystandards.org] is fairly stringent. But a lot of merchants aren't there yet.

        • by gmack (197796)

          PCI is too stringent and the result is that most merchants take one look and then don't even try.

    • by Fëanáro (130986)

      Here is an idea:

      Storing of credit card number is prohibited, the only way in wich credit cards may be stored or transmitted is like this

      ($card_info + $merchant_name + $date) encrypted with the public key of $card_issuer

      That would eliminate a large part of possible fraud. companies could still offer to reuse old credentials, but it would be transparent when they do this.

    • You should patent "a system and method for storing people's credit card numbers as part of an E-commerce system" and then demand insane license fees. Please do.

      Actually, Microsoft is to be applauded in that regard: they patent many stupid, customer-hostile ideas and thereby save the world from other companies actually implementing that trash. If only Microsoft enforced its patents (and copyrights) more vigorously.

    • by DavidD_CA (750156)

      Um, no thank you. If you don't want a company storing your card, then don't use them.

      I buy from Amazon on a weekly basis, sometimes twice a week, and I would be incredibly frustrated if I had to type in my billing information every time, even if I only had to type in the CVN.

      The convinience is precisely why I shop so much at Amazon, and why I always look there first when I want something. On the rare time that I have to shop somewhere else online, I always find myself frustrated by their annoying checkout

      • by r7 (409657)

        Um, no thank you. If you don't want a company storing your card, then don't use them.

        Isn't this the same excuse some of the same companies use for spamming their own customers?

        To clarify: it's not a matter of whether Amazon stores your credit card or not, the issue here is whether you, the consumer, have the right to prohibit vendors from storing your credit card data. Good consumer protection law should require the vendor to ask the consumer for permission, just as the same law should require explicit/double opt-in if the vendor wants to send unsolicited advertising email in the future.

        • by DavidD_CA (750156)

          I think that would be a fine law -- to require opt-in to store billing information.

          But I believe the person I replied to was suggesting that they make it outright illegal.

  • Bilski, anyone ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dshadowwolf (1132457) <dshadowwolf&gmail,com> on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:47PM (#26232337)

    As far as I can tell this patent fails the Bilski test. It is neither tied to a particular apparatus or machine, nor does perform a unique transformation.

    IANAL, but the test outlined in Bilski seems to make this patent NULL. Anyone can implement a one-click system on any machine connected to the internet.

    The obviousness test is also valid in this case - at the time Amazon was pushing this through the USPTO... Well, my boss was handing me work from different clients that wanted a sign-in and one-click ordering system for their commerce sites. I had to tell him it was legally impossible each time.

    So failing the "obviousness" test - it was a clearly obvious step to take. To both the people writing the code for commerce sites and to the people paying to have them written... And also seeming, to me (and I repeat - IANAL), failing the tests outlined in the Bilski case... Amazon can fight as much as they want, but this patent is a dud.

    • Bilski dealt with business methods and not software so the "machine" part of the machine/transformation test never came up. The method failed the transformation test because the data didn't represent anything physical.

      I find that an ominous development for software patents. The transformation part of the test is unavailable in the general case. The validity of software patents seem to rest solely on the fact that software runs on machines. Whether or not a computer suffices as a machine as patent law define

  • ... the only one working xmas eve.

  • Lots of people had to work Christmas Eve - including my wife (an accountant). So what? Christmas Eve isn't a holiday.

  • Like DerekLyons, I know lots of people that work Christmas Eve. I had to take it off. I don't get what the huge crime is, and I AM a Christian and celebrate Christmas.
  • Why Defend It? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jjohnson (62583) on Friday December 26, 2008 @01:54AM (#26233505) Homepage

    One wonders why Amazon bothers spending money on lawyers to defend a patent that's irrelevant now. All loss of the patent means is that competitors can create 1-click features on their sites, something that's far from a selling point in Amazon's favour now. Back in the day when ecommerce was the realm of pornographers, it was a slick feature to offer, but nowadays it would seem almost quaint to tout that as a reason to use one site over another.

    • Amazon should be less concerned about 1-click (how many people honestly use Amazon for one click?) and more about price aggregation/comparison apps for mobile devices. Everyone shops based on price in this economy.

  • If they license (and sue people for) a patent that hasn't been granted yet, make them refund all licensing fees and legal expenses when patent is denied. Simple. A lot less crap would be patented in the first place unless it's truly non-obvious and innovative, and those filing patents would be scared shitless of licensing them to anyone before they're granted, let alone starting a patent lawsuit.

  • I've been buying stuff from Amazon ever since 1886 or whenever it was that they started selling stuff. And ever since about that time, I've been ignoring their plea to sign up for "1 Click ordering". It sounds like maybe I would just click on some button and it would order stuff for me. Would it be stuff I wanted? I dunno, but I've always been afraid to turn it on. Besides, I like to think about what I'm buying, and going through a bunch of steps makes it harder for me to order stuff I don't really want, or

  • The curious thing about the 1-click patent is that I don't know anyone that does or would even consider using the feature. I would never use the feature. Like most people, I want to see a summary of my order before the final click to satisfy myself that I *really* need/want to spend the money.

    Rich people like Sam Walton would never use it either. The only people using it must those credit card wielding yuppies from teen movies with an infinite supply of someone else's money. I thought people like that o

  • When they have a case with little or no merits, lawyers will often attempt to make the process so unpleasant that the other party will just give up and settle. I.e. xmas-eve depositions / due dates, asking for 65,000 pages of documents in hard copy, comically long discovery processes, etc.

  • What if the Amazon/O'Reilly patent reforms that was attempted back in 2000 were successful?
    Because I thought about this kind of problems long before I read this.

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