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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 macbuzz01 (1074795) on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:23AM (#30202352) Journal
    You insensitive clod! What about the people with only one eyeball? Wait...maybe I could patent that...
  • Psychic Postmen (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tilandal (1004811) on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:24AM (#30202358)

    "obtaining delivery information for a gift from one or more information sources other than the gift giver and recipient"

    Hey, if they have truly figured out a way to determine who I am sending a gift to without asking me or the person receiving the gift I would say that is worthy of a patent. All other retailers will be stuck actually asking you where you want your stuff mailed and who has the time to enter all that info?

  • Patentable? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mea37 (1201159) on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:26AM (#30202396)

    Maybe it is, maybe it isn't; I'm holding off to hear more arguments.

    The submitter and at least one other poster are convinced that it's not at some obvious level, and I guess I'm missing the basis for that. So here are my questions:

    1) Did you read the patent claims?
    2) Do you know of anyone in the history of online shopping that has done the thigns the patent claims cover?

    My answers: Yes I did; and No, I honestly haven't.

    Lack of prior art alone doesn't prove something to be patentable, but if (as submitter applies) there is nothing novel about this patent, then I would be surprised to see we'd gone this far with online shopping and never seen it. Remember that just because something is novel, doesn't mean it doesn't "seem obvious" after someone has pointed it out...

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:37AM (#30202480)

    It just occurs to me that, like so many other things, the government is simply incompetent at patents. They aren't like copyrights where you basically do the equivalent of a diff() between two works and come to a conclusion nor or they like trademarks which are also similiarly easy to evaluate.

    People talk of fixing the patent system, but is it any fix at all? The really good stuff seems to be always "proprietary" and hidden anyway, and the goal of patent was to open knowledge in exchange for limited time monopolies - well, considering that society is different and much more fluid now, that you're hardly in a secretive guild, let alone one company your entire life, do patents satisfy the original purpose anymore?

    And if they don't, why keep it around? Is it becoming too big a drag on commerce? I'm really curious what proponents have to say, because slashdot does tend to get one sided on issues.

  • Re:Psychic Postmen (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mea37 (1201159) on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:40AM (#30202508)

    There is a little sleight of hand in that wording.

    Some of the patent claims actually involve contacting the recipient in various ways to get delivery info. A nice feature in some situations, though I wouldn't be entirely surprised if there were prior art (though as I've mentioned elsewhere I'm not specifically aware of any).

    Others, however, do involve going to 4th-party sources - online databases of contact info, I think it even mentions DNS records as a place to check, etc. This is the part I think least likely anyone else had thought of; but then again, it's the part I'm not sure I would want to rely on when trying to send someone a gift...

  • Re:Prior art (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Grond (15515) on Monday November 23, 2009 @12:00PM (#30202738) Homepage

    That's not prior art at all. The patent is about "obtaining delivery information," not gift ideas or suggestions. A better example would be walking into a store and saying "I'd like to send this widget to my friend Bob who lives on Main Street," the clerk looking up Bob in the phone book and confirming that you meant Bob Smith who lives at 123 Main St, Apt 1, Anytown, Somestate, 12345.

    The patent is just about filling in the blanks in the delivery information in case you don't happen to know the gift recipient's ZIP code, apartment number, etc. It's actually an extremely narrow patent, and I've never seen another retailer offer the service. That doesn't mean it's novel and nonobvious, of course, but it passes the laugh test, in my opinion.

  • Re:Psychic Postmen (Score:3, Insightful)

    by afidel (530433) on Monday November 23, 2009 @12:02PM (#30202752)
    i don't know, if I give a flower delivery service a name and city and give them a big tip I'm sure they would do much of the same type of sleuthing. Does having the guesswork be performed by a computer make it a novel invention?
  • by radtea (464814) on Monday November 23, 2009 @12:06PM (#30202774)

    The real problem here is I have no idea what is being patented. Since /. patent-related headlines and summaries are always false and misleading, this posting just makes me wonder what Amazon has actually patented. It would be interesting to know, but since neither the headline nor the summary of the article contains any factual information about the patent that could be used to form a rational judgement about the novelty of the subject matter there's really no point in discussing it.

    Since it's Amazon--assuming the summary has the assignee correct--the patent probably has something to do with online sales, but I wonder what? I just wish there was some way of figuring that out without digging down into the USPTO site myself, which I can't be bothered to do because all it will tell me is that a patent has been granted on something that might actually be kind of innovative. At least, that's what's always happened in the past when I've bothered to contribute to the /. community by trying to inform people about how the (badly flawed) American patent system actually works.

    If we knew what had been patented, people might be able to present prior art, but since we know nothing about what has been patented there really isn't any point in talking about it, is there?

  • by postbigbang (761081) on Monday November 23, 2009 @12:19PM (#30202938)

    You have the spine of wet spaghetti. If principles can be easily sacrificed for a few bucks here and there, you tacitly approve of the evil you describe.

  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday November 23, 2009 @01:39PM (#30203812) Homepage
    Greed, it strikes me, is one of the great moral questions of our time (considering how it has brought to the world economy into its worst position in 80 years). Exploiting a broken patent system to gain ludicrous patents to use to stifle competition is as much a cause and/or symptom of the insane push for profit regardless of cost or merit. I doubt very much that anyone thought patents would simply become one vast extortion racket.

    Only they didn't. Slashdot skews peoples' perceptions of patent issues. It's like, I've known a couple of NYPD cops who have an incredibly cynical view of humanity and the danger that's out there. Why? Probably because they're called when there's a problem, so that's what they see day in and day out. The same thing here, slashdot basically aggregates the negative stories, exaggerates them, then pumps them out to us day in and day out.
  • by Interoperable (1651953) on Monday November 23, 2009 @02:39PM (#30204462)

    I'm really curious what proponents have to say, because slashdot does tend to get one sided on issues.

    Allow me to offer my opinion on the subject as I am a proponent of the patent system (in principle, not the present implementation). The primary purpose of patents is to acknowledge that ideas have value. Manufactured things, of course, have value and those who build them earn a wage for the manual labor that goes into making them. Without the inventor, however, we would have only raw materials and muscle but no manufactured goods. The patent acknowledges that a person has a right to earn money from their ideas as well as from their physical labor. That is a right that I wholeheartedly support because I make a living off my mind not my muscles, as do many on Slashdot.

    I happen to think that patents are necessary for the promotion of ideas and technology but that isn't the basis on which I think patents are a good thing. The argument hinges on the fact that people have a right to profit from their ideas because they thought of them. The notion that ideas are public is simply absurd. If I have an idea nothing can compel me to tell it to you; it's in my head, it's my idea. If I wish to build something using my idea and sell it, that is my right. The patent codifies the system that allows me to license others to build something from my idea if I don't have the means to build it myself, thereby distributing the fruits of my mental labor to the public. It is the patent that distinguishes the value of the idea from the value of the resources to build the thing. I disagree with the notion that physical labor can be done for the benefit of the individual but mental labor must be done for public good.

    I also think that absurd "methods" patents and broad software patents like the ones that show up on Slashdot undermine the patent system. Those patents should be done away with. In most software cases I would agree that the copyright system is the better venue for protecting intellectual rights since I have yet to see a software patent that I think should exist. The existing implementation of the patent system needs to be dramatically reformed to avoid the obvious patents that get through on the virtue of the legal departments of large companies.

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