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Patents Your Rights Online

Amazon Scores Gift-Delivery Patent 91

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the only-can-deliver-coal dept.
theodp writes "In May, the USPTO rejected Amazon.com's patent claims (PDF) for its Method and System for Placing a Purchase Order Via a Communications Network (a 1-Click spin-off). At the time, a USPTO Examiner cited Bilski, explaining that elements of CEO Jeff Bezos' gift-delivery invention 'may be performed largely within the human mind,' coming to essentially the same conclusion a NY Post reporter arrived at in 2002. But Amazon's attorneys have worked their legal wordsmithing magic (PDF), convincing the USPTO that 'obtaining delivery information for a gift from one or more information sources other than the gift giver and recipient' is indeed novel and patentable. A Notice of Allowance for the patent was mailed to Amazon on November 17th, just in time for Holiday Season injunction-giving!"
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Amazon Scores Gift-Delivery Patent

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  • by mea37 (1201159) on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:04AM (#30202770)

    "they restrict you doing something no matter how you do it "

    Actually that is entirely untrue. If you find a way to determine the delivery address for a gift, and Amazon's patent doesn't describe that way of determining the delivery address, then you are free to do it, patent it yourself, etc. If you "find a better way", the law explicitly recognizes that as a new invention.

    You cannot patent "doing something". You can patent "a device that does something", and apparently "a method of doing something". Granted when /. discusses a patent they always act like it's a patent on "doing <whatever>", but that is not the case.

  • by mea37 (1201159) on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:19AM (#30202936)

    I don't know what you mean by "the source is other than giver or receiver"; but since you're comparing it to Santa Clause, I assume you mean the origin of the delivery. Since that is how every catalog or online shopping service works - the source is a warehouse somewhere - there would be a tidal wave of prior art, if that were what the patent covers. But it isn't.

  • But Amazon's attorneys have worked their legal wordsmithing magic (PDF), convincing the USPTO that 'obtaining delivery information for a gift from one or more information sources other than the gift giver and recipient' is indeed novel and patentable.

    The PDF linked by the submitter is the amended Abstract. What legal weight does the Abstract have? NONE.

    In fact, the single-page PDF with the amended abstract was to fix the Examiner's object that the abstract was 191 words long. That "wordsmithing magic" is just trimming the length down. It has nothing to do with the Bilski arguments.

    At the time, a USPTO Examiner cited Bilski, explaining that elements of CEO Jeff Bezos' gift-delivery invention 'may be performed largely within the human mind,' coming to essentially the same conclusion a NY Post reporter arrived at in 2002. But Amazon's attorneys have worked their legal wordsmithing magic (PDF), convincing the USPTO that 'obtaining delivery information for a gift from one or more information sources other than the gift giver and recipient' is indeed novel and patentable.

    And this is two different arguments: inventions that are "performed largely within the human mind" are unpatentable under Bilski, even if they're completely new and non-obvious. In other words, if I invent a brand new type of mathematics that is completely unknown to the world, it's unpatentable because it's just done in your mind. It's not that it's not "novel".

    So, essentially, the submitter has tried to claim that the attorney's fixing the length of the abstract, which bears no legal weight whatsoever and is merely for use in searching patent databases, somehow solves any question of patentability and novelty. And that's just wrong, and stupid.

    Now, what did Amazon really say regarding the Bilski rejection? They amended the claims to include a server computer, which means they're tied to a specific machine, under the Bilski test. You can't do the method in your head unless you've got a web server installed in there.
    Incidentally, as I explained above, this has nothing to do with whether something is novel or not obvious - this is just about "can you do it in your head"? Novelty is an entirely different question, and one that Amazon got around with further amendments to narrow the claims and additional arguments.

    Also, this is the law as it currently stands. The Supreme Court will likely clarify the Bilski test in a few months, but currently, that's the test. So don't bitch at me about how a server is a generic computing device or how any computer method is still really just a mathematical algorithm. I'm just pointing out that the submitter's "they changed the abstract and that somehow convinced the USPTO that it's novel!" is completely, entirely, absolutely WRONG.

  • Mod parent up.

    This is out of control. It's time to start the boycott Amazon mission. This is plainly ridiculous and far beyond an abuse of the patent system.

    How? If you read the rejection, the Examiner said "your system is obvious because of these references, and unpatentable due to Bilski, and oh, by the way, your abstract is 191 words long and it has to be under 150." The submitter here linked to the shortened abstract and claims that that "wordsmithing" - i.e. trimming out 41 words - fixed the obviousness problem. It didn't. The abstract has no legal weight - it's just to aid in searching the patent database.

    The part that's plainly ridiculous is that people are so anti-patent that, based on an incorrect and misleading summary and a link to a one page pdf of an amended specification, they're calling for a boycott.

  • by billrp (1530055) on Monday November 23, 2009 @12:48PM (#30203900)
    Here's what they seem to have patented: If you (the gift purchaser) don't know the complete mailing address for a gift recipient, then amazon will use the information that you provide (eg, name and city, or maybe just email address), and the amazon servers will find the complete address for you, using their own databases or public database sites.

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