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Amazon Takes Round One in Patent Dispute 229

Posted by Hemos
from the cold-cock-punch dept.
Masem writes "Amazon has gotten a preliminary injunction placed on Barnes & Noble due to the fact that B&N used Amazon's patented 1-Click method for ecommerce. This does not bode well for those fighting against business model patents, and if Amazon does turn out victorious, this could deal a lot of damage to e-commerce." Now, at this point it is only a preliminary injunction, however, it does not sound the tone we'd like to hear.
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Amazon Takes Round One in Patent Dispute

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  • ..gone bad.
  • by apocalypse_now (82372) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @05:24AM (#1487008) Homepage
    All a preliminary injunction says is that the plantiff's case does in fact have merit, and to prevent further potential damage from being done, the defendant must cease in the offensive behavior until such time as the defendant is cleared. There has been no trial, no finding of fact, and no consideration of the merits of Amazon's case by either a judge or a jury. Don't get too worried too quickly.
    --
    Matt Singerman
  • by chchchain (120540) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @05:27AM (#1487009)
    is that at least this fight is against someone with (relatively) deep pockets. I mean, at least bn.com isn't a one man show that doesn't even know a lawyer.

    In a perfect world, the patent isn't valid if it was obvious to one skilled in the art. Hopefully B&N will duke this thing out and get a good precedent set.

  • by ||Deech|| (16749) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @05:29AM (#1487010)
    This is just plain idiotic. The only way e-commerce is to take off is if it is universally adopted and considered "safe" by the unwashed masses. What Amazon is doing is *not* protecting their investment in doing busness over the web, rather, they are harming it by discouraging others from using a rather generic, but good, method of making it easier to shop online. The only way e-commerce will take off is if many companies, including competing ones, get out there and present their products. (I know their already are many out now) The threat of being sued because they might be violating someone's stupid patent on common technology would be a serious deterent to a small company attempting to market online.
  • Of course, there is NO merit to this stupid patent as anyone who reads the CGI Usenet Newsgroups knows. Even disregarding that software patents are stupid and evil, there is plenty of prior art here -- including some written by me years ago -- and, of course, it's hardly novel, either.

    Perhaps having 2 titans go at it will finally shed the needed sunshine on this nonsense -- so perhaps the injunction is a good thing in the end.

  • by Dast (10275) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @05:31AM (#1487013)
    Just make your customers click somewhere twice. ;)

    Then you have 2-click shopping. But, then again, I'm applying for a patent on n-click shopping, where n > 1. So I would have to sue.
  • Considering the fact that the patent is very specific about "1-click" shopping, B&N would be wise to simply change their method of shopping so it takes 2 clicks to do the same. Personally, I don't visit vendor sites based on how many clicks it takes me to order...and I doubt many others do either. I think B&N is missing the forest for the trees. It make business sense to wage battle against Amazon on the sidelines, and find a temporary workaround.
  • by AGTiny (104967)
    All "1-click" shopping is is simply storing the users' name/address/shipping info/credit card (eek)/etc in some database and always using it when they buy something. That's not exactly rocket science.. so how can they patent something like that? If I were B&N I wouldn't be too worried about this.. except if they are forced to take their 1-click shopping offline, which I assume is what they will have to do.

    Hmm.. I think I'll patent 2-click shopping.. 1-click plus an "OK, I really don't mind that you saved my credit card number in your database, so go ahead and let anyone with my cookie automatically order anything they want!" button :)
  • As has been said, a preliminary injunction means only that the case has some merit. But really, if Barnes & Noble literally took Amazon's patented 1-Click technology, then there's a case.

    The good thing is that there is, as there is with many patents, a way around it -- Barnes & Noble just has to change enough that it can be considered different. Honestly, the technology used by places like amazon and buy.com aren't really that good. All they seem to do is store your ip. That's just great if you happen to order something from a public computer. It saves your info for anyone else to use. They do have this "if you're not XXX, click here" line, but that just relies on users to do the right thing. I have long ago learned that you can never rely on and end-user to do the right thing.

    The sad thing is how many people don't seem to realize what can happen if they save private information on public machines. In the computer lab at school, so many people use programs like Eudora and Outlook Express to check their school mail accounts and leave their account info saved locally. They don't seem to realize that anyone who logs in at the same machine can access their mail account.

    In my opinion, a company that cares about the people ordering from them would make them log in and produce the information from that. It's slightly less convenient, but it's also more secure.
  • by eshaft (82430) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @05:34AM (#1487017) Homepage
    Alright, this is probably going to be an unpopular post on a open-source haven like /., but I think that it's good that some of these companies have a way to protect themselves from competition. Internet sites offer so much to so many for, in most cases, real little. Think about it - you spend hours developing your competitive advantage and it's gone the second you go live. Not that companies should be able to patent non-revenue and widely used things like the technology behind downloading files off the net, but innovative methods like Priceline's and maybe Amazon's, that are not real difficult to reproduce but still unique, should have some protection.
  • Which amounts to guilty until proven innocent. If B&N has to stop doing business, they start to lose money. In this case the "offensive behaviour" is operating a web site that makes B&N money. Whether Amazon wins or not, B&N still loses money. This is pretty bad.
  • Not that my occasional purchases are going to matter in the grand scheme of things, but I don't feel the need to buy from Amazon in the future because of this.

    It's a great place to shop, but there are lots of alternatives. I'll spend my money with vendors who aren't resorting to dirty patent tricks in such an obvious way.

  • The good thing is that at least this fight is against someone with (relatively) deep pockets.

    The bad part is that it's just as likely B&N will simply make their ordering system a "two-click" setup than fight with Amazon over a patent issue. B&N isn't in the business of proving the patent system is silly. They're in the business of selling books. If the bottom line says a fight over a patent issue isn't worth the trouble (i.e., they're not likely to loose a bunch of customers simply because they remove the one-click approach), then I bet they'll just decide to do away with one-click rather than fight it. They have nothing to gain just by proving the patent system is stupid, so they'll probably not bother.

    At least that's my guess.

  • This stupid patent and the insanely irritating Christmas commercials they have been running lately. At least bn.com has a plan to institute their version (express checkout) soon.

    We should all do our seasonal book and music gift buying at bn.com! I have...

    Eric
  • by Signal 11 (7608)
    This doesn't mean too much, except that the judge thinks that there is enough possibility for damage to place an injunction on B&N to prevent further harm. Don't get too cynical just yet!
  • I'm letting them know, politely, that their practices will cost them more than just attorney fees. To make the point clear, I'm attaching the total sum I spent in their on-line store during this year.

    While Amazon's service is generally good, and shopping there is easy and convenient, I can't in good faith endorse anyone who abuses the patent system the way they have. I'll be more than happy to shop there again, if they make it clear that they will make it their policy to not patent obvious software "inventions".

  • I wouldn't depend on B&N to fight the battle for us. It would be nice, but they are probably reluctant to fight the patent itself. Rather the defence would involve differences in implementation. The worst result for us would be a settlement.

    Guess who'd be paying for an "Amazon-One-Click E-Commerce Tax" in the end?

    - Steeltoe
  • This patenting/suing/injuncting crap is just like a game of Jinx!

    All these obviously repressed corporate types are doing nothing but childrens games -- only this time they expect their Coke at the end.

    (Jinx - owe me a Coke!)

    -m
  • No, you are WRONG. It is NOT a finding of fact - it is a statement saying that the plantiff's case has merit. Study the law a little bit before you go and make such rash comments.
    --
    Matt Singerman
  • I hope that last accident didn't post ...

    I am firmly of the belief that public companies are inherently evil.

    This evilness is especially disturbing to observe in companies we think/thought are/were cool. It seems like once a company goes public, it loses its soul -- the purpose of the company is then to make as much money as possible for the shareholders. Obviously, you have to be somewhat ethical to make money -- you must keep your employees and customers, and you must behave according to the law to keep from being involved in lawsuits.

    Unfortunately, it's very good business strategy to file stupid lawsuits against people because they might infringe on a stupid patent you hold that stupid people shouldn't have issued you in the first place. This sort of stupid lawsuit is now just another tool of a "successful business." Suits probably have friggin' seminars on it.

  • This isn't about data security, it's about ease of use.

    The 1-Click "technology" is very simple and logical construction that's fairly obvious to anyone creating ecommerce sites professionally. On the sites I've been working on, we're using similar techniques to ease the use of the site. So, IMHO, this shouldn't have received a patent at all as it's nothing unique and similar things have been constructed in the past for certain.

    Now, the reason this being bad is that if other web developers want to give their users similar ease of use, they can't. As a user, you suffer. Amazon's patented a user interface contruction and thus making it harder for others to provide easy to use web services. And since Amazon is getting away with it, others will come behing. Is that really what you want?

    sulka
  • From Amazon's point of view, at least, its *not* a bad thing. Yes, the unwashed masses will have to consider one-click safe and easy before online shopping "takes off", but Amazon would much rather have companies pay them a penny each time someone used it!

    Look at it from their POV - they own a patent on this. No matter how misguided, the law of the land says they should get royalties on it. And would companies walk away from one-click if they had to pay amazon $0.01 every transaction? I think not... its just too useful for those "unwashed masses" you speak of. So I think they're doing something sensible by enforcing their patent, rather like trademark protection. (Now if there were to be a net-wide backlash against them, that would be a different can of worms...)

    Do I think this is a good thing? No, not at all - but the fault is in the broken US patent system. Amazon and B&N are just doing their bit to bring it to wide attention, and I for one will not be unhappy about the slugfest. (Though who gets rich from this? Amazon? Nah, not yet. B&N? Nope. The masses? Not really. Its a conspiracy by trial lawyers, of course... maybe they divvy up cases like this: You patent this, I use it, you sue me, we both get rich while the companies bleed...)

    I'm cynical this morning! Must be the additives in the coffee...

  • The bad part is that it's just as likely B&N will simply make their ordering system a "two-click" setup than fight with Amazon over a patent issue.

    all fine & dandy until that pesky "two-click" patent pops up... Will have to wait and see I guess, but in a landscape littered with patent mines, this issue is going to come to the fore at some point, and I'd expect it from B&N before joeschmoe.com. They might deem it in their overall better interest to clear the general air with a court precedent if they feel confident they can win.

  • by Otto (17870)
    A preliminary injunction means that this will probably go to trial.

    I hope to hell this stupid patent is overturned. I mean this is as obvious as you get. Storing the customer info in a database has been done for years. Making a 1-step buy button on the item is so obvious that it's ridiculous. There's plenty of prior art, as well.

    I hope that B&N fights this one tooth and nail. With any luck, Amazon's patent will be ruled as unenforceable or overturned or something. Hopefully, the judge will see this as well, and decide to make a statement about companies patenting the blatently obvious to mess their competitors about, and say that the only way the get away with it is that the patent office is too busy to care anymore.

    I need to vent my anger more often.

    ---
  • The problem here is simply that even Amazon, the acknowledged leader in e-commerce book sales is still not turning a real profit. So, someone there decided to look shortterm and register this *rediculous* patent and now start a lawsuit. If they win, they will probably do more to hurt e-commerce than any other organization - simply because they will scare away other potential e-commerce businesses.

    The only good thing here will be if the result of this lawsuit is a legal finding that you *cannot* patent software or webdesign techniques. Copyright the code - sure I can see that - but not the methodology. Absolute fscking B$.

    Maybe I should patent "1-click" browsing:

    "A method by which the user can be transferred from 1 Universal Resource Locator to another Universal Resource locator, automatically by simply using their pointing device to select an underlined word, phrase, symbol, or graphic image, and requiring only 1 click of the button on their pointing device. This method also to be available using the keys of their computer keyboard as an alternative."

    Then I could sue every webmaster who has a page on the web and demand royalties!

    Of course there would be no problem showing prior art - but then prior art undoubtedly existed *somewhere* before some Amazon programmer wrote a few lines of code that created some cookies on the user's computer.

  • by gorilla (36491) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @05:44AM (#1487036)
    "Amazon.com spent thousands of hours developing the 1-Click shopping feature. We've always worked hard to be innovators."

    Grab cookie.
    Grab book id.
    Use cookie to lookup userid in database, and extract shipping & billing details.
    Create order.
    Output pretty screen.

    How hard were these programmers working?

  • If as everyone says there is no merit in Amazon's case. Then the injunction must be the aim of the suit. and so having recieved it countersuit, claiming that as the technology that amazon are using is so obvious. then they are presenting a spurious case, which can only be intended to damage my buisness. get them charged with restraint of trade, use the department of justice against them. stop them setting up a Microsoft style monopoly of simple shopping. after all it's going to be easier to do before they're in the overwhelming position.
  • Why don't we actually hear more about the patent problems elsewhere? I can hardly believe that only the US has greedy exclusionists.
  • Have any of you considered pointing this out to B&N? If what you say is true (I'm not doubting your veracity -- just IANAL), I'm sure they would be more than happy to get the patent overturned for you.
  • What an interesting time frame they chose to go after their competition. I realize that they were awarded this screwy patent not too long ago, but hey, this is ridiculous and just plain evil. It kind of reminds me of a time when a local grocery store was in trouble, so they sold canned foods at a loss to attract customers. What happened? The competitor sent employees over to buy all the on-sale items to hasten their death.

    Right in time for Christmas shopping - what a great time to cause the most amount of damage with an injunction.
  • Bottom line is that B&N had to develop an implementation of the idea anyways. It's not like they took the script and reverse-engineered it. It's easier just to re-code their own solution.

    And it's better for the consumer, now there are two companies with an easy-to-use system for purchasing on-line.

    If you are trying to defend Amazon.com's millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours of work, remember that the system that they implemented is a simple lookup to a database. It's an idea that is not even theirs and it's been around for years.

    It's not amazon that is under attack here it's the Patent Office's haphazard granting of stupid patents. It has to stop.
  • \begin{sarcasm}

    Gee, didn't Gore patent n-click Internet browsing (since he invented the Internet)?

    Wait, isn't there a patent for n-click Computer Usage, owned by the inventor of the Mouse? Did somebody say "prior art"? but doesn't the poor guy have a right to defend his online position and his business plan?!?!

    \end{sarcasm}

    (Disclaimer: I have no political motives other than to spin humor at the expense of politicians.)

  • by SilverFate (113951) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @05:54AM (#1487049)
    The problem with their logic is a very simple one. In order for a patent to be valid it must not be obviouse. Well here is the thing, Microsoft had a patent on Cookie technology (as in the browser end) first, and the concept of 'one click shopping' was the whole point of Cookies, to make e-commerce easy (no really, I did some probing). Anyways B&N should call as witness the team at microsoft who developed the technology, since that would end it real quick. I hate to say it but this time Microsoft may be a hero for free flow of commerce and information.
  • No, s/he was RIGHT. In the major programming languages comparing (rather than assigning) the equality of two values, != means "not equal" and == means "is equal". So, the title of the original post was correct in stating that "preliminary injunction is NOT equal to major finding of fact".

    Study programming syntax a little bit before you go and make such rash criticisms.
  • All "1-click" shopping is is simply storing the users' name/address/shipping info/credit card (eek)/etc in some database

    I remember that back in January, amazon.co.uk were not registered with the Data Protection Act 1998 (updates 1984) (UK) which would have meant that doing any of the above would have been illegal under UK law. Does anyone know whether they are registered yet under the DPA? If not, then surely B&N could get their own back...

    I think that in this case B&N will win out if people send examples of prior art to Barnes and Nobles lawyers. If no-one tells them, then I doubt that they will have fun finding said examples. It is not enough to got "I did this blah years ago" on Slashdot, you know!

    Not that they are nasty, I am sure.

  • With the rise of e-commerce and the Internet, we've seen a increase in tech-related cases hit the courts. This is a problem. In the best of cases, the justice system doesn't move at the speed of the Internet. Nor do our judges fully understand the industry and the effects their rulings have.

    This Amazon case is a perfect example. Every one of us understands that the Amazon patent is shady, at best. If I was the judge, I'd declare the patent null and void, and rip into the Patent Office. But I know. A real judge? He sees a patent, sees evidence of B&N violating said patent, and obviously issues a preliminary injunction.

    Now, I've got faith in our judges and justice system. It's populated by remarkably clever people. Judges will study, research, and learn - mcuh as Judge Jackson did in the Microsoft case. The problem lies in the fact that this makes the wheels of justice move even slower than before.

    The gov't needs some type of tech-smart judge.

    and the patent office needs to get a clue.

    Neither will happen, but it's nice to wish.
  • This is a capitalist society we have in North America, let's vote with our dollars, and pressure those who have "partnerships" with Amazon, like Slashdot, to dissolve those partnerships.

    ttyl
    Farrell
  • by blogan (84463) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @06:00AM (#1487055)
    Instead of e-mailing Amazon and saying, "I'm not going to buy from you anymore....", e-mail B&N and say, "If you fight this case instead of cowering, I will be a faithful customer to you. If you give in, I will not buy from you."
  • After watching Borland and Lotus duke it out in court several years ago over look-and-feel issues between Quattro and Lotus-123 (a move BTW which came close to bankrupting both companies), it's really suprising to see two big players in e-commerce trying to do the same thing. I think I'm in the wrong career - I want to be a lawyer.
  • I have found BookPool [bookpool.com] to be cheaper than Amazon.com on many occasions. There are certainly alternatives out there...
  • This has nothing to do with open source and everything to do with stupid patents. The "technology" in question is simply the idea to store customer information so that when the user clicks a button then all the saved info is used to build an order (instead of having to ask the customer for that information again).

    Amazon should never been granted a patent because there are almost certainly examples of prior use and the idea is also an obvious application of other technologies. The fact that the patent was granted shows the shortcomings of the patent office. This is further made evident by the fact that, so far, the patent is being upheld.

    Amazon isn't trying to protect their investment in their "technology", they're trying to use the legal system to beat down their competition with ludicrous patents. It's like a writer of murder mysteries trying to sue other murder mystery writers for using his patented "frame the daughter for the the brother's crime" plot twist, just so that he can take their books off the market.
  • Amazon.com sells books over the web. Currently, they lose a lot of money doing it, but eventually, it's hoped that they will start making money.

    Too bad for them, but bookseller Barnes and Noble is also selling books on the web. Barnes and Noble is already a profitable company with a large market share. Why should Amazon best them on the web? Because they're first?

    In a world where the competition is one click away, Amazon needs reasons to compell web-surfers to stay on their site. How about if the shopping experience is marginally smoother?

    This patent may be silly, but man, it's all they got to show for their $26 billion USD market capitalization. That's worth a vicious court battle.

  • I would imagine that in other countries, companies that do this just don't have as many resources to back up absurd patent claims.

    I used to like amazon too.


    Conscience is the inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking.

  • The good thing is that there is, as there is with many patents, a way around it -- Barnes & Noble just has to change enough that it can be considered different.

    The problem is that the patent isn't for a piece of code or something. The patent is essentially for a method. Store the customer info in a DB, then have a button on each item to make an "instant buy" type of thing. That's it. Anything that does that in any way at all is covered by the patent.

    Honestly, the technology used by places like amazon and buy.com aren't really that good. All they seem to do is store your ip. That's just great if you happen to order something from a public computer. It saves your info for anyone else to use.

    Actually, they use cookies. Anyway, you can set your account not to use permanent cookies on most sites (I don't know about Amazon)...

    And if you ever use a public computer to purchase something, thereby entering your CC info, you are an idiot. Nearly every public computer I've ever used, I've found a keyboard sniffer installed by some enterprising young cracker on it. :-) Go to the library sometime and take a real good look at some of the free systems sitting around...

    The sad thing is how many people don't seem to realize what can happen if they save private information on public machines. In the computer lab at school, so many people use programs like Eudora and Outlook Express to check their school mail accounts and leave their account info saved locally. They don't seem to realize that anyone who logs in at the same machine can access their mail account.

    This is why you remove stupid programs like these and force the user to do it your way.

    Back at school, so many people were leaving their account info around, that finally, they disabled SMTP/POP3 access from the labs. Blocked those IP ranges. Suddenly, those people using eudora at 50 terminals had to telnet into the main system like they were supposed to do in the first place. Those people using their own personal systems were not in those IP ranges, and were not blocked. Later they switched to IMAP and some standard program that always asked for username/password in the public labs, along with hardware-based locking of the drives from changes.

    A good sysadmin will do things like that to make it happen the right way. I mean yes, freedom of choice; yes, each user knows different programs.. But when 50 people complain to you that the email they just sent was on some random users account because they didn't change the mail program setting before they sent the e-mail, and replies are going every which way.. Well, I think you'd see the benefits of making the user do what you damn well want them to do.

    Of course, at some place like a library you don't have that sysadmin. You just have a standard PC with a phone cord plugged in.

    In my opinion, a company that cares about the people ordering from them would make them log in and produce the information from that. It's slightly less convenient, but it's also more secure.

    What, and upset all the customers who use their computers from home, who never have anyone else access the system? Sounds like a bad solution to me. Upset the masses to protect the few who don't know any better? No. Bad idea.

    ---
  • I agree. I have spent a lot of money with Amazon over the past couple of years and have found them good with dealing with any complaints or queries I have. The best thing you can do is send an e-mail to Amazon explaining that you can no longer do business with a company that uses such tactics. A simple polite e-mail should do the trick. If they get enough people voting with their feet...

    thanks,

    - Dale
  • by karb (66692) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @06:07AM (#1487063)
    I think the problem with patenting business strategies lies in the non-evolutionary nature of it.

    Mapquest was (I believe) the first online map engine. Mapblast came along, it does the same sort of thing, but it's a superior product. (don't argue with me about the previous if I'm wrong, I'm just trying to make a point.) If mapquest had patented the idea of having a map online (I don't really know if they have or not), we would be stuck with crappy Mapquest until the patent ran out, or until someone came along with enough money to start a new business *and* license the patent, which could be a long time.

    When the business strategy is nearly the product, (you can buy the same book ten different places on the web, so you use the easiest one) only allowing the original inventors to use a strategy stifles innovation. It's like the first bookstore that thought to put a coffeeshop in it would sue every other one that did it. You could argue for something like that, but traditionally that hasn't been patent fodder.

    Bookselling online is obviously different from an online service (like the map businesses), but I think the analogy extends. I think the bookseller with the best prices and best marketing strategy (not the best totally original strategy, just the best strategy) should be able to be the best bookseller, not the bookseller with the best patents.

    p.s. if think that if Amazon were smart, they would have just found a way to license their software to all the other booksellers that were slow to come online. It would have really fattened their profits (if they have even started making them yet).

  • If you think this is bad, wait 'til cases like this have the WTO behind them...
  • Hell, send them copies of your receipts from other online booksellers, telling them that their heavy-handed approach to squashing their competitors is reason enough to do business elsewhere. If they see enoguh dollars going to other companies for this, maybe it'll change their minds. The only thing they care about is money.

    They're well aware that their patent is ludicrous. They're just playing dumb and trying to screw their competitors, using an overburdened and behind the curve government agency as their shield. Let them know that you know this, and because of it you're spending your dollars elsewhere.
  • Thanks for the link.

    This isn't about money, however. I've been buying from Amazon because it was convenient, and I didn't have to spend time looking. My time is valuable, too.
  • it seems to me that amazon is trying get a hold on simple things that everyone should have rights to. That is one method they could use to get a monopoly on the (albeit useless) region of selling krap.

    hmmm... sound familiar?
  • Is B&N using amazons method to institute 1-click shopping, or are they using an in house method with a user interface that works similarly to acheive the same end result? If its the latter, and amazon wins, Apple should file a lawsuit against Microsoft. IBM should file a lawsuit against Compaq. Intel should file a lawsuit against AMD(among others). Whoever has the rights to UNIX has alot of people to sue. Unless B&N is actually using the same code, aquired directly rather than coincidentally coming up with the same obvious solution to the same problem, there is absolutely no case.
  • I thought that /. stopped linking to amazon - I seem to remember seeing Fatbrain links in most of the book reviews and whatnot lately.
  • ... that stupid patents cause stupid lawsuits. I nearly choked on my beer when I noticed the little patent number next to their One-Click thing on Amazon's site. It's such a stupid thing to grant a patent on. And now we're stuck with a stupid lawsuit that's going to have widespread, meaningful impact. Either way, consumers are going to lose.
  • You must have missed my manifesto which I released recently. I repost here for you edification. <begin repost> Hi people. Before I pour hot grits down my pants, I would like to have a word with my adoring public. In my absence the last few days, I've noticed a proliferation of people running around claiming to be the grits boy. While I was initially flattered , I quickly became saddened by the actions of seemingly noble minded slashdotters. While most imposters were able to muster up a weak facsimile of my legendary, humourous musings on life spent with grits down my pants, it became clear that they were missing an essential point. The point is this: I actually enjoy pouring hot grits down my pants. I seriously doubt that the imposters share such an affinity. Why do I enjoy pouring hot grits down my pants? That is a good question deserving of a serious answer. I have seen several arm-chair pyschologists attempt to diagnose my predelection for tossing hominy down my trousers. Some have chalked it up to a perverse, sado-masochistic, sexual ritual. Some imply that my prose is the work of some bored child. The plain truth is I do it as homage to Linux. Homage to Linux? Yes. Think about it. Linux has five letters. Grits has five letters. There are instant versions (Redhat) of Linux and there are instant grits. There are industrial strength versions of Linux (Debian) and there are industrial strength, slow-cooking grits. Linux started out as a niche product. Grits, outside of the south, remains a niche breakfast product. Linux and grits both go well with eggs and sausage. The synergy between Linux and grits is clearly evident. When I pour hot bowls of grits down my pants, I am professing my love for Linux !!! You now know who the real grits boy is. You also know a little more about the grits boy. I hope that I am able to continue my relationship with you fine people. I also hope that some among you will come to appreciate my love for grits and Linux. Who knows. Maybe you too will pour hot bowls of grits down your pants. Remember. It starts with hominy grit. </begin repost>
  • My latest round of book shopping was done at Barnes and Noble for exactly this reason. I won't be back at Amazon unless they drop this absurdity.

    You and I aren't alone here. I think a lot of software developers (not just /.ers) feel this is in bad taste. Check out Brian Hook's(of iD Software and now Verant) take on the situation at http://www.voodooextreme.com/ask/rant.html#oct2599
  • I agree... however as I was reading the article I found I was more offended by the continuous use of the word innovate then anything else. I really hate that word almost as musch as integrate or e-.

    Conscience is the inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking.

  • Congrats to slashdot by the way, they seem to have silently switched to fatbrain. Weehoo!

    Now open /.'s source taco, and we'll stop saying first post all the time. ;-)
  • I'm developing an online shopping system for someone, and, of course, am trying to reduce the number of clicks it takes to do what someone wants.

    I have never bought anything using Amazon or Barnes and Noble, but I might end up getting sued for independently coming up with a way of doing things that's too similar to their way of doing things.

    I have a friend who worked for a company doing reverse engineering at some point. My recollection is that it was legal under certain strict circumstances. The people doing the reverse engineering had to make sure they didn't know anything about the device they were reverse-engineering, and that when they were done, all they did is write reports, which other people then used to create a device using the same technology.

    Would something like that protect me in this case? I can't be violating their IP because I don't know anything about it?

  • Hey, I make a living creating software. I'm not against the concept of government sponsored protection of innovative things to reward the innovator and encourage further innovation. I dream of getting a great idea, implementing it, selling it with precisely that protection, and becoming filthy stinking rich. (Who here doesn't?)

    However, this particular "technology" isn't worth protection. It's not innovative. It's obvious.

    The next thing you know, somebody's going to patent putting the checkout counters in a department store near the exit.
    --

  • I regret to inform you that at this time that I have only worked with grits and Linux (please see manifesto above). I do not rule out using FreeBSD in the future, however I will only use FreeBSD when I find a true synergy between it and grits. I am very serious about grits, as you well know.

    Thank you for continued patronage and the question.
  • How is storing an ID for a user innovative? Isn't that the whole reason cookies where invented?
  • This looks another high(ish) tech company adopting the M$ business model. It work likes this:- If by skill or fluke you become the market leader in your sector. You want to protect this position. You could of course do this by continuing to provide innivative solutions and excellent service, but this is hard work. Instead what you do whenever someone looks like challenging your postition you unleash a pack of lawers. The fact that legaly you don't have a leg to stand on does not matter -- your rival must respond to the suit which causes time and money, plus, you almost always get the preliminary injunction. For a small rival company the existence of a law suit will usually sink the company. For a larger target like B&N the preliminary injunction will disrupt your development plans , and, probably your sales and marketing as well. This disruption is not trivial re-scheduling and replanning your development efforts costs $'000s. M$ of course are famous for this type of stuff (e.g. copyrighting words like "bookshelf"). The only solution that I can see is too lobby congress and get all software patents and silly copyrights abolished.
  • OK, help me figure this out. I know that there are several criteria that must be met before a patent can be issued, such as no prior art. As I understand it, one of these restrictions is that the invention to be patented should not be obvious to another person who is reasonably skilled in the particular field the patent applies to. So don't most of these patents that involve patenting an existing business model translated to the internet fall into this category where the invention is obvious? What part of the 1-click patent or other patents such as selling downloadable music or buying custom generated music cds over the internet is so non-intuitive to other business people and internet developers?
  • Who cares? I don't shop at Wal-Mart if I can help it. If I visit Amazon.com or any other book vendor, I'll do it to buy books, not read a bunch of banal book reviews or lame author interviews. I'll do a Google search if I'm interested in real author information.
  • Alright, this is probably going to be an unpopular post on a open-source haven like /., but I think that it's good that some of these companies have a way to protect themselves from competition. The best protection from competition is to give great service to customers, offer great products at a good price. In other words, do what is best for the customer - people will pay money for that. When a company competes by hindering the operations of competitors it is doing something that is undeniably bad for society as a whole. In otherwords, it's a bad corporate citizen. Not to mention that the patent in question is ridiculously obvious to anyone but a patent examiner and the judge and never should have been granted in the first place; this action should never have gotten to the point of an injunction. I'd like to get on my little soapbox right now and say to Amazon: I'm a customer, I've bought books from you, but I never will again until you toss this stupid patent.
  • by bridgette (35800) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @06:31AM (#1487088)
    As someone else pointed out, they claim to have spent thousands of hours on what is essentially a fairly simple feature - adding the "one click" button to the UI and using cookies to determine the user (assuming the guts of "multi-click" shopping were already there). This makes it very likely that either their progammers aren't very good or their project management isn't very good, or both. And if so, the software's quality is questionable and therefore difficult to sell.

    Then again, since their success isn't measured in actual profit, but rather in "percieved mindshare" inflating the stock price, they would prefer eliminating competitors to mearly making money off of them.

    BTW, I totally agree that this patent mess is a Very Bad Thing(c). Moreover, I don't understand how or why these "concept" patents are granted in the first place. It's one thing to copyright the phrase "One click shopping" but it's another thing to patent the concept of not requiring a login to make an online purchase. It's equivalent to McDonalds not being content with copyrighting "SuperSize" and instead patenting the concept of offering food in a greater quantity for an small additional fee.
  • A simple polite e-mail should do the trick.
    How 'bout simple polite e-mail to O'Reily? Why a decent publisher would want to do business with them?

    I cannot afford boycotting O'Reily (where else can I get books?), but at least I'd like to show my concern.

    This is a Negative Karma Magnet® post.
    --

  • Amazon's claim can be debunked by simply finding sites that existed prior to Amazon's "invention" of 1-click shopping, where 1-click or 0-click shopping was actually in use. Out of all those sex sites, there just about had to be a few that grabbed some poor sucker's credit card and then started billing him on a "per view" basis -- thereby demonstrating "0-click shopping". There were probably even sites that informed you that they were going to charge your previously entered credit card to show a nekkid hot babe if you clicked some button, and then actually showed you a nekkid hot babe and charged you when you hit the button.

    Hell, even a posting to the internet would do. Some nerd along the line probably thought it worth mentioning in some newsgroup that activating stored billing/shipping information automatically might be a good idea because, after all, we can write these wonderful things called "computer programs" and it is worth writing them because they can do repetative, mundane things automatically.

    But really, isn't this missing the point? Amazon is damaging a world-wide infrastructure with their sleazy conduct. They should pay damages to all those who have suffered inconvenience as a result of their abuse of the patent laws.

    For example, Amazon has made themselves so repugnant that I cannot visit their web site. So where do I go to buy things on the web without all the hassle?

    Most of the people who shop on the web have time that is worth a reasonable amount of money.

    I wonder if it is feasible for all the Barnes and Noble customers (and all the other web shoppers) who are now inconvenienced by the Amazon anarchists, hiding behind their legalisms, to file a class action law suit against Amazon?

  • I sent it to feedback@amazon.com. I don't know whether this address goes to a human or to /dev/null, because I haven't gotten a reply yet.

  • by Chalst (57653) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @06:37AM (#1487092) Homepage Journal
    Ageless does have a point: these preliminary injunctions can be
    crucial in business. So even if Amazon's patent is found to be
    unworkable in law, they still got the lead on Barnes & Noble through
    this maneuvre.

    It's an old strategy in anti-trust law: company invokes
    an anti-dumping lawsuit against a foreign competitor, gets injunction.
    Case eventually reaches trial after lots of delaying tactics, evidence
    shows foreign competitor's prices were profitable. Case dropped
    plaintiff ordered to pay costs which were a small price to pay for the
    market advantage achieved by the whole legal fiasco.

  • None of which has anything to do with wether an idea should be patentable or not. To obtain a patent an idea should be revolutionary, not evolutionary. Neither should there be previous implementations of the same idea. This is not innovation.

    Yes, those companies have a real bad problem, because theyre just stock hype and so much hot air. They have virutally nothing except a brand. Yes, a lot of stockholders will get burned as they realize they will never make money to justify stock price because any teenager in a garage could do what they do and competition will be fierce. Too bad for them. It still isnt patentable.

    Hey, I actually thought about something close to the web before it existed. I spend several hours on it. Think I should do an IPO and patent the web? After all, I deserve some profit from those hours.
  • by technos (73414) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @06:40AM (#1487096) Homepage Journal
    Amazon wasn't lying. Below you will find an excerpt from Jeff Bezos' own notes

    25 manhours Implementing the system
    25 manhours Debugging the new system
    118 manhours Time (Jeff Bezos) spent on the golf course thinking about Amazon
    480 manhours Touchy-feely focus group to evaluate the emotion evoked by the square button.
    162 manhours Spent preparing Powerpoints to illustrate the new feature to Marketing
    416 manhours Marketing has stuck their collective heads in their collective arses.
    14 manhours (Bezos) Got blazingly drunk at a bar, spent the night in the drunk tank
    480 manhours Marketing, who didn't like the Powerpoints, orders another 'focus group' They request chimpanzees this time, citing them as smarter than most AOL users.
    90 manhours Marketing likes the new focus group results, takes the afternoon off to visit a strip club.
    2 manhours (Bezos) Fired the entire Marketing department, and replaced them with the chimpanzees.
    20 apehours The chimps have a meeting over brunch to discuss patenting their new business model.
    100 manhours Time billed by patent laywer for an afternoon visit from the chimps.
    275 manhours Time billed by patent attorney whilst in the Bahamas on vacation.
    600 manhours The lawyer spends an evening drafting the patent documents. Goes back to the Bahamas, taking a friend with him.
    50 manhours Time spent by the laywers secretary completing the patent documentation, filing them, calling the Patent Office, etc. The only real work in the patent process occured in this step.
    170 apehours Patent was approved! (Bezos) Called a press conference, shmoozed the media, and had the marketing chimps call and harass our competitors.
    -------------------------------
    Tot al: 3,027 man/apehours
  • (Gak! KDE deveopers: please take note - my original post above was mangled by the KDE help browser-cum-webbrowser stripping all the html tags from the text in the preview screen edit box - PLEASE TRY posting to Slashdot yourself, you'll see what I mean. This is NOT the correct behaviour.)

    Alright, this is probably going to be an unpopular post on a open-source haven like /., but I think that it's good that some of these companies have a way to protect themselves from competition.

    The best protection from competition is to give great service to customers, offer great products at a good price. In other words, do what is best for the customer - people will pay money for that. When a company competes by hindering the operations of competitors it is doing something that is undeniably bad for society as a whole. In otherwords, it's a bad corporate citizen.

    Not to mention that the patent in question is ridiculously obvious to anyone but a patent examiner and the judge and never should have been granted in the first place; this action should never have gotten to the point of an injunction.

    I'd like to get on my little soapbox right now and say to Amazon: I'm a customer, I've bought books from you, but I never will buy from you again until you toss this stupid patent.
  • by elflord (9269) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @06:58AM (#1487105) Homepage
    Making it take two clicks doesn't mean that you no longer violate the patent. The patent is targetting storing user profiles in a database.

  • by Ellen Spertus (31819) on Thursday December 02, 1999 @07:04AM (#1487110) Homepage
    Microsoft Patents Ones, Zeroes [theonion.com] is one of my favorite Onion [theonion.com] articles. Every year, I give a copy to the students in my computer architecture class.
  • While I don't like the patent or this lawsuit for obvious reasons, I'm not a big fan of one-click purchasing. It's impulse buying at it's worst.

    I don't think I'll stop shopping at amazon though, their prices are simply too good on a lot of books. Pretty much any company that is large enough tries these kind of B.S. lawsuits all the time. Barnes and Noble isn't any better than amazon. If I were a Good Person I'd probably shop at a locally owned bookstore and be happy about spending a few extra bucks.
  • I like that alot. Sounds like that McDonalds commercial. :)
  • If someone could provide an appropriate address and case number, maybe some of us could write to the judge with friend of the court representations explaining (i) that the patent is trivial, (ii) that Amazon know this, and (iii) they are just using this injunction, the patents system and the legal system as a whole as delaying tactics to obtain an unfair commercial advantage.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • Seems to me like Amazon is only attacking B&N on this point because they're major competitors. Two questions I have would be, is there any evidence that Amazon would then attack any/all booksellers that use a similar technology? And, how book-specific is the technology? Is sounds like it could be applied to the purchasing of many things. Would Amazon really start going after any/everybody? I'm hoping that this is just a case of Amazon wanting to beat up on B&N.

    d

    Does anybody remember the "press release war" these two had, when B&N acquired somebody, so then Amazon posted a press release stating "We're afraid of you becoming a monopoly and we hope there's room in the industry for the little independent booksellers". So then, B&N posted another press release in response stating "Don't whine, Jeff, everybody knows that Amazon has got more revenue than all of us bigboys combined. Little independent indeed." So then Amazon responded back in a press release with "Oh." (Or something like that, I wish I could remember the exact details)

  • Too bad i threw out my bookmark, but here goes:

    On Tuesdays "Oddly enough" news on Excite, it was reported a company somewhere in Asia tried to patent curry, the spice. Excite seems to be down right now (? is it my firewall or something? I can get to every other site i visit except Excite today). But when it comes back, go to the Oddly enough, click one of the features, and it'll probably be in the right hand column as older news...

    So it's not just Americans that have a monopoly on stupid patents, if that's any reassurance

  • However, if I'm not wrong, it's still the judge that grants the preliminary injunction, and that is a bad sign. Any judge with sense would simply have held Amazon in contempt of court for attempting to make a mockery of the patent system in this way.

    -
    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • Amazon needs reasons to compell web-surfers to stay on their site. How about if the shopping experience is marginally smoother?

    But isn't the whole one-click thing contrary to that? Back when I used to shop at Amazon, I had to disable the one-click thing because it was inconvenient (and maybe a little scary) to not get to look over my "shopping cart" before committing to an order. The last thing I want is to accidently buy a bunch of books that I was just browsing.

    This whole one-click thing is anti-consumer, not a way to get/keep customers. I believe it is intended to get existing customers to accidently buy more books during the short time that they are Amazon customers. I guess their thinking is that people will get tired of Amazon's shenanigans (privacy problems, spam, deteriorating web site quality, etc), so there's no harm in trying to milk and alienate customers that were just going to leave anyway.

    Anyone who bought Amazon stock thinking that the store will get more profitable in the future needs to get their head examined. Amazon's behavior makes it look like they have a short-term hit-and-run business plan.


    ---
  • I am a lawyer, but this isn't legal advice. If you need legal advice, please see a lawyerin your own jurisdiction.

    While there is no final finding of fact, one of the conditions of the preliminary injunction is that the plaintiff show a substantial likelihood of ultimately prevailing in the case.

    Irreparable harm is another consideration, but this surprises me here--damages to amazon from the patent violation can be compensated later with money; they don't seem irreparable. However, damages to B&N would seem irreparable (how do you figure out the lost business?)
  • I don't like shopping at Barnes & Noble, because they use very Microsoft-like tactics in the bookseller industry (though they keep it in the "real" world, at least).

    At the same time, this dispute just cost me the last of my respect for Amazon. I don't intend to shop there again until they decide to stop this silly abuse of a patent system that could really use a total overhaul anyway.

    Where am I supposed to get books online now? Granted, there are more than a few very nice bookstores in my area (including a very nice Border's) but what do I do when I can't find what I need there? This is an honest question; if anyone knows of other good online booksellers I'd love to hear about them.
  • No, you are WRONG

    No, he's not. Stop thinking like a lawyer, and think like an ordinary person (ie, someone who has no stomach for lies in the legal system). B&N had something (the use of a particular piece of code); a judge took it away. What you seem to be saying is that B&N may be innocent of wrongdoing, but that it's OK to take something away from them. If B&N did nothing wrong, then they should lose nothing.
  • The bad part is that it's just as likely B&N will simply make their ordering system a "two-click" setup than fight with Amazon over a patent issue.

    What's more likely is that Amazon and B&N will settle out of court and B&N (and any other big corp) will pay Amazon some money (also known as contributing to the Amazon Frivolous Predatory Lawsuit Fund, probably costing them much less than it would cost them to fight the patent in court) and get a license to use the 1-click method for all time. Then B&N (and/or any other big corp) gets to use the 1-click method and Amazon gets to beat the competition to death with a stupid patent without facing anyone with deep enough pockets to successfully challenge it. Ain't the system great?

  • (that "stupidest idiots on the planet" thing is a direct quote-- and not a horribly exceptional utterance, either.)
    Off-topic rant, but I'm seething: Nah, the stupidist idiots on the planet don't work for Amazon's customer service - they work for UPS's customer service. I actually blew my top and threw my phone into the wall yesterday, smashing it to bits in frustration after trying to get someone at UPS to understand my wish that they just leave my fscking package at my door, since I will not be there to sign for it (as I will be a work, imagine that). This, on top of the wonderful adventures I've already had this year in trying to get them to deal with two broken packages, and a lovely incident about two years back where they put my package on the truck after I'd arranged to come pick it up, has earned UPS top billing on my personal corporate shit list.

    So do my personal boycotts mean anything to UPS, or (sliding back towards topic) amzazon.com, or Microsoft, or (leaving topic again) Proctor and Gamble? Maybe not. But I'm going to mention my boycotts to friends, family, and co-workers. I'm going to put my reasons for boycotting up on my web site. If every unsatisfied customer can cause 20 people to take their business elsewhere (impossible a few years ago, but with the web now...who knows?) it just might have an impact.

  • by fishbowl (7759)
    I hope that the reason the court has accepted this lawsuit, is so they can have the opportunity to
    ream amazon.com.

    I am thinking about sending back my amazon.com
    coffee cup, saying "thank you for the nice gift, but I have a fundamental disagreement with your
    business strategy and can no longer stomach being
    your billboard, regards, your former customer, yadda"
  • Unfortunately, publicly traded corporations are legally bound to make the most profit that they can through legal methods for their shareholders. If they aren't breaking the law, and if their action is more likely to produce increased profits rather than a loss for whatever reason, they would be hard-pressed to justify to their shareholders why they didn't do it.

    And if pulling sleazy legal shit like this is likely to produce a firestorm of consumer resentment, then they owe it to their shareholders to knock off the legal shit.

    So boycott Amazon. Why is this such a hard concept for people to get?

  • #include <IANAL.h>

    It seems to me that the loss of business to Amazon could be seen as an irreparable harm if the injunction weren't enforced.

    It still seems like a lousy decision, in my untrained opinion, since the original patent is so obviously flawed.
    --
  • I don't think it should have been marked down as a troll, but when you make an argument it pays to use as little vitriole as possible. Otherwise other people, including moderators are likely to dismiss the argument out of hand.
    --
  • Time for a poll perhaps?
    Which buzzword irks you the most?
    • innovate
    • integrate
    • e-anything
    • synergy
    • proactive
    • enterprise
    • solutions
    • empower


    --
  • Don't forget

    enterprise
    intranet
    enabling
    nth generation (where n = 3 to 7 depending on industry)
    best of breed
    featureful

    --
  • IANAL, but previous patent discussions have raised the point that it is usually better to wait be sued in court and then seek to have the patent invalidated than to ask the patent office for an administrative review, because the administrative review process is much more biased in favor of the patent holder, and a positive administrative review process can be used in further court cases.
    --
  • Something recent maybe? That code's waay old.
  • There is a site and mailing list trying to prevent the introduction of patents on software and business models in the European Union: freepatents.org [freepatents.org].
  • There has been no trial, no finding of fact, and no consideration of the merits of Amazon's case by either a judge or a jury. Don't get too worried too quickly.

    A preliminary injunction can only be obtained after making a substantial showing of likelihood on the merits. In the present case, it is highly likely that a hearing was held, and some evidence presented in addition to argument.

    As a practical matter, the readers should understand that it is usually very difficult to obtain a preliminary injunction in a patent case -- far more difficult than with Copyright, Trademark or trade secrets.

    In part, this is because even the flimsiest showing of invalidity can undercut the "substantial likelihood of success," notwithstanding the presumption of validity afforded a patent at trial. Ordinarily, technical arguments of invalidity are useless, except to make a record for the Federal Circuit. However, at a P.I., these arguments are golden sources of "no substantial likelihood."

    Secondly, a defendant can usually blow a cloud of smoke concerning the claim construction of the patent in question -- particularly for software patents -- even for the broadest sounding claims.

    Finally, it is often the case that a showing of irreparable harm is effectively countered with the argument that money damages can be adequate, or with a balancing of harms argument; particularly when balancing the injunction against the costs of pulling a significant commercial website.

    As a practical matter, getting P.I. in a patent case is a legal slam-dunk -- a rare and significant accomplishment. Amazon's attorneys did very well for their client yesterday. Obtaining P.I. in a patent case tends to change the entire tenor of the proceedings. This case may well settle soon.
  • That loss of business would just be sales that amazon *would* have gotten if they hadn't gone to B&N *solely* because of the interface. But if amazon wins, they get a royalty on every B&N sale through the web page. Put in that way, I'm not even sure *why* they want the injunction--the royalties are probably better than the extra business . . .

    hawk, esq.
  • Boycotts are not *always* effective, but they *can* be (e.g. Nike's overseas employment practices were turned around by a campaign started by a few dozen people working for a small non-profit organization).

    You only need to be sucessful with a few boycotts like this before corporations will start thinking about getting less trigger happy with the lawyers. In my opinion, this will be eaisier than convincing the US government to fix the patent laws.

  • Yes, that's a point, but it's also worth noting
    that boycotts can be effective even with
    relatively small percentages of people
    respecting the boycott.

    The nice thing about the free market as a
    "democracy with dollar votes" is that
    proportional representation is built-in.
    A consumer revolt that reaches 5% of the
    market cuts that companies income by 5%.

    Whereas a politcial revolt that only gets 5%
    of the votes is likely to leave the same
    weasels in power, feeling no immediate
    penalty.

    (I almost said "profit" rather than "income"
    above. Then I remembered we were talking
    about Amazon.)

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

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