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Amazon 1-Click Patent Shenanigans Continue 29

theodp writes: " has a report today on the strange saga of the 1-Click Bounty contest. BountyQuest president Charles Cella is refusing to answer questions on the contest. Tim O'Reilly admits he's not clear how BountyQuest officials researched and judged the entries, but still lashes out against charges of possible shenanigans raised by a contestant who BountyQuest tried to "buy off" with a T-shirt. In the meantime, Jeff Bezos still has no comment on the contest's odd outcome. "
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Amazon 1-Click Patent Shenanigans Continue

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  • The point of issuing a bounty is to LEARN for very little money what MIGHT be able to hurt you.

    Consider three possible outcomes:

    1. Smoking gun prior art is found.

    2. Art close to the patent but not exactly is found.

    3. Nothing is found.

    In case 3 the bounty submitter loses BQ's fee, and gains the ability to say in court "we searched and found nothing both publicly and privately." Well worth the fee!

    In case 2, you lose the fee and the bounty, and you gain the ability to say in court "we searched and we found stuff which is relavent but different in the following ways ..." which you have now had a long time to dissect with an army of lawyers. AND you might get ideas of things which you CAN ADD to your patent that you didn't think of before.

    In case 1, you lose the fee, the bounty, the patent, but you gain: the knowledge that only the lawyers will get rich if you try to enforce your patent. You just saved possibly YEARS of litigation, and millions of dollars of law fees.

    That my friends is the point! #2 is what you WANT to have happen, because that is information that you can USE to show how your idea is DIFFERENT.

  • I'm not sure if I can approve of BountyQuest. To what extent does locating prior art, and attacking patents based on it, simply encourage the precedent of patenting everything that you do? These patents should be attacked not because someone's done the same thing before, but because they're <i>obvious</i>.

    If I create an equilateral polygon with 42387 sides, and through some quirk (surprised?) I can patent it, should I? If no-one's ever created the shape before, should the patent stand?

    Yes, I know, obviousness is much harder to prove. But it's the Right Thing, if it can be pulled off. Isn't it?

    BountyQuest is a wonderful project, and I support it, but I'd like to know what others think about this: is BountyQuest encouraging a dangerous precedent?

  • For those who don't regularly read "Good Morning Silicon Valley," there is an [interview] [] with several of the BountyQuest bigwigs.

    I'm discouraged by their answers. I asked what I considered a fairly hard-hitting question, basically accusing them of pandering to lazy lawyers for lazy companies that want to saddle their competition with research and development costs, by stealing their patents.

    Naturally, the boys blew sunshine and roses up our collective asses, completely ignoring the potential consequences of discouraging companies from doing their own research and development.

    In all honesty, I think BountyQuest is just as sleazy as the grubbing patent lawyers. They're using the geek (chem geek, electronic geek, bio geek, etc) communities as dupes for lawyers. Shameless!

  • DAMMIT - I fergot my broom!!!
  • I knew someone would not think what I wrote was that funny, but...

    I submitted a prior-art to BountyQuest that was probally better than the three that won prizes, and all I got was this lousey t-shirt.

    ...wouldn't fit on a t-shirt.
  • by Neon Spiral Injector ( 21234 ) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @04:12AM (#299568)
    I destroyed's 1-click patent, and all I got was this lousey t-shirt.
  • Consider this: $10,000, at $250/hour, is one work week for a skilled patent lawyer. Compare this to the amount of money and time Amazon must have spent litigating the patent.

    And how much would a killer prior art be worth to Barnes and Noble?

    Essentially, they offered a prize which is very much peanuts compared to the cost and value of this patent. And not a lot to motivate a professional patent person to take it on (except just for the challenge)

    What they did was to wager that an amateur would not find something that their lawyers hadn't already found. And they could make great publicity out of the offer.
    That's not a bad bet.

  • Excellent point. These companies are paying their lawyers tremendous amounts of cash to handle this patent suit.
  • by thedocwat ( 100238 ) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @04:51AM (#299571)
    I find it terribly interesting to look at the timing of this whole thing.

    On March 2, 2001 a company called MCAM [] issues an analysis on the Amazon 1-click patent. The report [] makes available several instances of prior art -- exactly the stuff Bounty Quest is looking for.

    A week later, Bounty Quest makes its announcement. There is prior art, but nobody submitted it. (Right) ;-)

    On March 14, 2001 reports [] on this whole fiasco and draws into question some of the motives behind Bounty Quest.

  • What does it matter if BountyQuest decided that this guy didn't deserve a share in the bounty? Sure, he's obviously pissed, fine. But that doesn't equate to a "whitewash"; his submission is still there. It would be a whitewash only if they tried to make it look like he had never submitted at all.

    Conway's logic here is like claiming that not winning the race is equivalent to not having raced at all. That's crazy. You may not be in the winner's circle, but people saw you on the track.
  • Er...the same people who moderate, meta-moderate!
    There is no justice in the afterlife!
  • I know that it is just another Onion joke, but I got really upset when I read that Onion article. Maybe I read slashdot too much? Maybe I think that Microsoft will eventually do something as bad as that, in real life.
  • Minivend, an open source e-commerce app had 1-click in 1996.
  • You're right, $10k is peanuts to a patent lawyer.

    The point, however, is to get submissions from people who aren't lawyers - and give them a bit of motivation to collect the stuff they might know about together for BQ.

    Now, $10k isn't a huge sum of money to a software developer, either. But combine that with an interest in what BQ tries to do, and it's worth waking up for.

    I haven't read the disputed submission yet - but obviously judging this particular entry has gotta be a delicate issue no matter what Jeff Bezos publicly says. Fortunately, as the article points out, already unearthed substantial prior art (enough for an appeals court to issue an injunction against amazon), so the point regarding this patent may fortunately be moot.
  • As read in the Industry Standard Europe:

    A bounty of 11,120 Euros in the contest to debunk Amazon's "one click" patent has been split three ways. The submission of an episode of Cheers, in which Norm ordered a beer with one command, missed out on a share of the prize.

    Scriptwriters of Friends are now suing on the grounds that they pioneered the development of virtual communities.

  • by pieterh ( 196118 ) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @04:50AM (#299578) Homepage
    A conspiracy theory that suggests that the this story was just a smart way to hide any prior art for the one-click patent is too far fetched. Let's see... first I create a forum and a focus for people to come forward with incriminating evidence, then I try to silence them with a t-shirt. Why would anyone so smart be so stupid? Apply Occam's Razor and take the simplest solution: quite a few people stumbled here, but there is no hidden agenda.
  • I for one plan on patenting the NO CLICK shopping method. It randomly puts items into your cart for you...

    Tired of thinking of what to get someone? Let's NO CLICK shopping work for YOU!

  • Barbrady: Ok ok, let's calm down. People of Slashdot, do you declare shenanigans on the Amazon people?
    Slashdot People: YEAH!!!!!!!!
    Barbrady: Ok Amazon people. Do you accept this decree of shenanigans?
    Amazon Woman: What the hell are you talkin about? This whole site is screwy.
    Barbrady: Well that settles it. Everybody grab a broom! It's Shenanigans!!!
  • The original Slashdot 1-Click "prior art" story can be found here []. The original BountyQuest page can be found here as well []. And of course, if you're not real big into goat-love, the actual links are: l

    ...and... php?bountyName=1019

    ..., respectively.

    My .02,

  • Uh the above post is Funny. And it is on topic. Are the moderators smoking crack (again)?
  • I am just curoius as to how long has the validity of the patent been in dispute? I remember hearing about it quite a while ago when they tried to sue B&N, but I don't remember if that is the first time it was ever questioned or not.
  • This all sounds rather fishy to me. Consider this:

    Last fall, O'Reilly and Bezos joined forces, investing in a Boston-based company called BountyQuest

    So O'Reilly and Bezos both have a monetary interest in BountyQuest, agreed? Now look at this part of the article:

    Matthew Powers, managing partner of the Silicon Valley office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, says it's unlikely the site would try to cover for Amazon.

    First off, yes they would if Jeff Bezos is one of their primary investors, and head of one of the largest online companies around. Secondly, I find it ironic that O'Reilly is also a partner. Why try and blast Bezos' patent, then join forces on a seperate project? Sounds like a cleverly veiled plan to keep O'Reilly satisfied with money, the eventual stock rise of BountyQuest, while keeping the one click patent in place for Bezos helps build up BountyQuest, they design a contest to expose 'prior art' for existing patents, then when people find some that resemble the one click patent, they pay them off with just enough cash to shut them up. No wonder the guy with the T-shirt got screwed. His sounds like the most plausible reason to dismiss Amazon's patent, but we can't have that now, can we? So give him a T-shirt, everyone will think the other three entries were 'better' and life will go on. I would really like to see all four entries in their entirety and judge for myself. Links anyone?

  • by loggia ( 309962 ) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @05:03AM (#299585)
    After reading the SlashDot teaser, I found the article actually says absolutely nothing to impinge on BountyQuest's credibility.

    The company actually decided to give partial prizes on the Amazon challenge, even though they were understand absolutely no obligation to do so.

    They have also already given away several $10,000 bounties as promised. The company is legit. That article is lame-o.
  • I seriously doubt that Bounty Quest will ever be a money maker for anybody. O'Reilly and Bezos started Bounty Quest as a way of encouraging people to find prior art. I don't think either has much to do with the day to day running of the site and both have a lot to lose from the site being dishonest. Call the site a kind of bet between the two about the validity of software patents and especially the one click patent.
  • they'll finally be able to overturn some of those damn Microsoft Patents []

    Then maybe I'll be able to get something done...
  • Hey moderator, why is this off-topic? I was discussing the timing issues presently occuring in one-click technology.
  • by BountyQuestTeam ( 442497 ) on Wednesday April 11, 2001 @08:05AM (#299589) Homepage

    BountyQuest [] here.

    We invite the Slashdot community to judge for itself on this one. Here are a few points to consider.

    1) There were no winners in the 1-click contest [], but we did receive a lot of great art [].

    2) Tim O'Reilly, out of the goodness of his heart, decided to give away $10,000 of his own money, split among some of the best art we received, as a consolation prize.

    3) We posted all of the art for all the world to see on our web site. (Something we were under no obligation to do.)

    4) One hunter who didn't win or get a share of the gracious award is upset.

    We suggest you look at his submission: #25 [] and see what you think. Is it better than the TV-Remote control submission (#18) []? We'd love to hear what you think about it.

    And now, back to reforming the patent system!

    The BountyQuest team

  • Why not give them a chance to judge for themselves?

    Why didn't BountyQuest include links to the original narrative and other materials that the 1-Click Bounty hunters provided?

    Wouldn't this have been more honest than just posting BountyQuest's interpretations, which were certainly intended to back up your decision, and a link to hundreds of pages of documentation that even Tim O'Reilly admitted he didn't have the time to look at fully and try to understand?

    While BountyQuest claims that entry #25 doesn't describe 1-Click shopping, the original bounty submission described a system used to browse, order, bill, accumulate and deliver items with a single mouse click - which would sound an awful lot like 1-Click shopping to most objective observers (If it walks like a duck...).

    It's interesting that Charles Cella, BountyQuest CEO, took the fifth on the questions of contest impropriety, a stance that baffled Tim O'Reilly, who had the honesty to indicate he shares concerns about how the contest was judged.

    Too bad you seemed to have withheld the narrative and links even from Tim O'Reilly - without it he went out on a limb and made false statements in his interview to try to justify BountyQuest's decision.

    Finally, as far as the relevance of entry #25 goes, I'll leave you with the words of Jim Ward, a BountyQuest principal, who indicated in an e-mail message dated 3/20/2001 that ..."We recognized, and even stressed, that many of the other submissions were relevant, and yours was clearly in that group."
  • I like to drink pee. Would you shit on me please?

Someday somebody has got to decide whether the typewriter is the machine, or the person who operates it.