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Third Anniversary of Bezos-Backed Patent Reform 115

theodp writes "With IE, IM and Linux all threatened by patent infringement lawsuits, it's worth noting that Saturday marks what would have been the third anniversary of BountyQuest. With $1+ million of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' money and an Amazon VP on its Board, BountyQuest vowed to reform the patent system through its prior art contests. While BountyQuest raised eyebrows when it found winning prior art right off the bat for a patent Amazon was sued for infringing on, it surprisingly drew little heat when it announced no winning prior art could be found for Bezos' own 1-Click patent. 'There was no Bounty winner, mainly because the 1-Click patent is specific to the Web,' explained BountyQuest. 'This was a tough one to win because the Amazon 1-Click patent is so specific to the Web,' added BountyQuest investor Tim O'Reilly. Amazon's claim that the contest outcome vindicated Bezos' 1-Click patent went unchallenged by the New York Times, who instead took contestants to task for submitting prior art that 'failed to mention the Internet.' But legal documents have surfaced revealing that a month before these arguments were made, Amazon was told by a Federal Court that 'This distinction is irrelevant, since none of the [Bezos 1-Click patent] claims mention either the Internet or the World Wide Web.' If it was 'in everyone's interest to get all relevant prior art out into the open,' as Bezos said, then what happened?"
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Third Anniversary of Bezos-Backed Patent Reform

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  • Wow (Score:2, Funny)

    Thats confusing!!

    Who do I send my $699 to?
  • Simple explanation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mopslik ( 688435 ) on Friday October 17, 2003 @10:29AM (#7239509)

    If it was 'in everyone's interest to get all relevant prior art out into the open,' as Bezos said, then what happened?

    Money changed hands?

    • If it was 'in everyone's interest to get all relevant prior art out into the open,' as Bezos said, then what happened?

      >Money changed hands? Folks didn't want to upset the boss?

  • Exactly what patent is Linux threatened by?
    • Exactly what patent is Linux threatened by?

      It's easier to point out which software patents are actively avoided.
      GIF, MP3, and S3 Texture Compression immediately spring to mind.
  • Excuse me (Score:4, Funny)

    by arvindn ( 542080 ) on Friday October 17, 2003 @10:30AM (#7239525) Homepage Journal
    Could you back that up with some links please?
  • If something already exists, except for the "on the Internet" part, then clearly that's neither invention, nor not obvious to a person skilled in the field.

    So I don't see why this talk of "it doesn't mention the Internet" is even relevant.

    But of course, I suppose I lack cynicism...

    • Exactly. Bountyquest was only there to try invalidating patents for prior-art reasons.

      But there is a whole separate criteria for patent validity: non-obviousness. It's that aspect which was missing in the "One Click" patent. Since BountyQuest didn't try to disprove non-obviousness (which is a much higher legal threshold to reach), it can't be blamed for failing to stop "One Click". (People don't tend to publish documents about obvious things)

      If, in 1998, you had asked an experienced web developer "How
    • I'm not sure that "1-Click Ordering" is obvious. In fact, it's so non-obvious that after Bezos instructed the developers what he wanted them to do, they came back with 2-Click Ordering (1-click plus a confirmation page). Presumably these developers were "Sufficiently skilled in the art" of developing websites, yet the thought of actually letting a user buy something with one click was completely foreign even after sitting in a meeting and having it described to them. This is in Cooper's book, "The Inmate
      • Any idiot can come up with a one-click system. A smarter person will come up with a one-click system, then think about what problems such a system may cause. The user could accidently click on something he didn't mean to buy! So to safeguard against that, you add a confirmation page, making it a two-click system.

        You don't dream up the system with a confirmation page to begin with, then "innovate" getting rid of the confirmation page. (That is, unless you're so intellectually challenged that you have t

  • OJ Simpson made more sense than this guy. What the hell is he trying to say?
  • What happened!?
    What always happens, fiscal interests overtake any possible *cough* moral/societal principles/obligations. It wasn't in the investors best interests to have prior art found.
  • I'll tell you what happened: $
    Same ol' song.
  • Amazon set up us the bomb.
  • by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Friday October 17, 2003 @10:35AM (#7239572) Journal
    Tomorrow is the 3rd aniversity of a dead company that was involved in things we don't like.

    Slow news day?
  • SCO is suing IBM and others for patent infringement around the use of linux .en.htm l

    do not buy or use any SCO products under any circumstances..
    • Actually they are not threatening linux with patent infringement retard. In the end SCO is going to be killed off by the patent system. They infringed IBM's patents and they are just going to have to pay for that.
    • SCO vs. IBM: Not patent infringement. Supposed breech of contract.

      SCO vs. Linux: Again, not patent infringement. Supposed copyright infringement.

      so, no, Linux is not being threatened by patents.

      • There is no SCO vs. Linux lawsuit.

        Maybe you are confused with
        RedHat vs. SCO
        • Parent poster was talking about a patent lawsuit with SCO as plaintiff vs Linux.

          I pointed out that the only lawsuits SCO has filed to date are against IBM (contracts) and SGI (copyright); there are no patent lawsuits from SCO against any linux vendor/user.

          What you are referring to is Redhat (as the plaintiff) suing SCO (as the defendant). Certainly not a threat to the linux community :-)

  • Ummm, Bezos started the organization to shill for Amazon's patent position? Did anyone honestly expect otherwise? What else have they been doing for the past 3 years? They sound like Microsoft: soooooo cogniscent of "IP issues" when handing 10 million over to SCOX to thump Linux, but willing to change the way their browser works and force their customers to rewrite millions of web pages to avoid a 500 million fine for infringing on Eolas' plug-in patents.
    • They didn't avoid the fine, and they weren't avoiding future license costs either because Eolas isn't willing to sell them a license.
      • Forgive my ignorance but I really haven't been following this story. If Eolas isn't willing to sell a license, then what is their angle? It would seem that they could make a pretty penny with even modest license terms considering the IE market share.
  • I was taken in by the possibility of winning a $10K prize and actually did some research and located some prior art to submarine one of the patents on BountyQuest. Long story short, they fucked me over. I can't prove it, but they told me someone had beaten me to punch. I find that difficult to believe given how quickly I located the prior art and submitted it. I think what really happened is that those assholes ran out of money to pay the honorariums. What a convenient business plan:

    1) Convince othe
  • How about granting patents to companies that ACTUALLY invent something that is of real intellectual value instead of the user tripe of, "here is a widget, it does something, it come in multiple colours and was developed by doo-dacky incorporated at their R&D facility located out in the sticks where donkeys dig for day light".

    Just look at the eloas patent, it is so open ended, one has to place it in the "how long is a piece of string" pile of questions which hopefully can be answered by some divine inte
  • Bring it back! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by krysith ( 648105 ) on Friday October 17, 2003 @11:08AM (#7239816) Journal
    I remember when I first heard of Bountyquest. I checked it out, and actually did some searching to see if there was any low-hanging fruit. Unfortunately, if someone is offering a few $1000s to find prior art, usually it's hard to find. However, I thought the idea was a very good one. The whole point is to attract people who have worked in the field of the patent in question, because they would be the ones who would know about the prior art. Say if someone had a patent on "hypersonic oil pumps". Well, most people don't pay much attention to the hypersonic pump field, and most patent attorneys don't either. But if you are someone with 20 years of experience in that field, and you remember back in '78 when those guys in Minnesota were working on the Fido project, well, provide some proof and you just pocketed $20k. (Example completely hypothetical: I'd be surprised if there actually were hypersonic oil pumps) For the system to work, Bountyquest had to have experts from various fields drop by to see if there was anything from their particular field. It also benefits the experts in that field, by not only giving them money, but by keeping bad patents from cluttering the technological landscape in that field. Programmers, see the advantages of this?

    I hope that a successor to Bountyquest appears soon. There is no reason that someone else cannot offer rewards for proof of prior art - even in the Amazon case! Although the Amazon case is really more about whether doing something already done, but claiming it is new because it is on the internet, is valid as an invention. I think most slashdotters would agree that it shouldn't be (otherwise we basically have a 20 year moratorium on internet innovation).
    • Wouldn't the "reward" for finding prior art be the protection of that prior art from infringement? I agree that where BountyQuest was going was finding someone who invented/owned or knew about that prior art but never filed for a patent. You can't expect the USPO to know about everything ever invented, only what is patented. If it was invented, but never patented,someone else could claim it (i.e. the Windows GUI that Xerox PARC invented, Apple copied and M$ patented). I think they were onto something, there
    • Well, if there are some Hypersonic Erection Systems [] already available, I guess there would be some hypersonic oil pumps as well. ;)
    • >>There is no reason that someone else cannot offer rewards for proof of prior art - even in the Amazon case!

      They've probably patented the business model.
  • hypocrisy

    \Hy*poc"ri*sy\ (h[i^]*p[o^]k"r[i^]*s[y^]), n.; pl. Hypocrisies (-s[i^]z). [OE. hypocrisie, ypocrisie, OF. hypocrisie, ypocrisie, F. hypocrisie, L. hypocrisis, fr. Gr. "ypo`krisis the playing a part on the stage, simulation, outward show, fr. "ypokr`nesqai to answer on the stage, to play a part; "ypo` under + kri`nein to decide; in the middle voice, to dispute, contend. See Hypo-, and Critic.] The act or practice of a hypocrite; a feigning to be what one is not, or to feel what one does not feel; a
  • by Baki ( 72515 ) on Friday October 17, 2003 @11:18AM (#7239918)
    If you believe in patents, what matters is not if it has been done before, but if it is worthy of patent protection, i.e. it must be non trivial and not something that is so logical that the "invention" is unavoidable.

    The problem with prior art is that you do not reward a patent based on a objective judgement if it is a true invention or not, but based on luck: If the first one who happens to think of a new but trivial idea (probably a lot of people think of it in parallel, but one of them writes a bit faster than the others so to say) is a bastard then the rest is out of luck and has to live with a patent situation.

    For me, law must not be based on luck or chance, but on objective judgement.

    A further problem of course is, how to determine what is trivial and what is not.
  • I'm still reading all the links . . . gimmie a bit to formulate a comment . in themeantime:

    Imagine a . . oh wait.
  • If there is prior-art invalidating the one-click patent... Where is it? Do you think, if someone submitted prior art on BountyQuest and was ignored, they wouldn't speak up elsewhere? Or was BountyQuest paying them hush money when they turned up? Or were Amazon's hit squads murdering them once they were identified?

    The fact is, Amazon's patent is pretty darn specific, and after I heard the particulars I wasn't much surprised that there's no prior art. (Frankly, I don't really LIKE that one-click service
    • "Prior Art" is not the only invalidator for a patent claim, as far as I know. I would think that, in the instance of 1-click, that should not be patentable because how is that different than purchasing something from a vending machine? All you do there is put in a coin/bill, one "click" and presto! you have your purchased item. Why is making a computer program for that patentable? I don't know but, of course, I'm not a patent lawer.
      • I would think that, in the instance of 1-click, that should not be patentable because how is that different than purchasing something from a vending machine?

        Don't you think that someone out there has a patent for exactly that process? i.e. the mechanics of how a vending machine vends based on a user putting in money and pressing some buttons?

        I don't really agree with software patents, but I don't think your analogy is accurate.
        • I think this analogy is right on - regardless of the existence of a patent or no on the concept of a vending machine, the idea of making an "online vending machine" is (in my mind) obvious (as a natural progression of the concept of vending machine) and therefore should not be patentable. It all goes to how broadly you interpret prior art or other things in existence (after all, if patent people try to get as much as they can through broad claims, shouldn't their review be just as broad?)
    • The problem of amazon 1click is not "prior art", the problem is "Where's the damn invention?", "Where's the inventive step, the technical effect"? It's trivial and trivial patents are harmful to an economy. More analysis on the prior art issue ( FFII paper [])
  • I submitted something to BountyQuest that clearly proved one of the patents they were looking at had prior art. After the contest ended, I bugged them every couple of months for at least a year (maybe longer), and kept getting the "we're trying to finalize that" run around.

    If these people couldn't "finalize" any of the bounties people were looking at, no wonder they went under.

    I wonder how many other people this happened to?
  • As much as I really hate the patent system it is the dagger that is going to finally finish SCO. No matter what happens IBM is going to destroy them with infringment claims.
  • In fact, whether there is 'prior art' or not: Amazon 1 click revealed the failure of the patent system when it comes to eCommerce, Internet and Software. Patents may be good in other fields, in the software industry they are not common usage. Patents benefit only lawyers and patent privateers. And Large scale IT companies can deal with them...

    Europe canceled plans to introduce an Us style software patent system because the SME software industry kicked the patent industry (patent lawyers, patent institution
  • With $1+ million of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' money and an Amazon VP on its Board, BountyQuest vowed to reform the patent system through its prior art contests. While BountyQuest raised eyebrows when it found winning prior art right off the bat for a patent Amazon was sued for infringing on, it surprisingly drew little...and so on and on...

    This reminds me of another text:

    "An ye be a man of mettle and sympathy, aid me now. I hight the Princess Alison Jocelyn, daughter to good King Giles, and him, foully murd
  • So this is now to become the patent equivalent of the old fortune cookie "... in bed!" game?
    • "You will prosper in your next venture" ... "on the Internet!"
    • "Exercise extreme caution before making a life changing decision" ... "on the Internet!"
    • "With this laser pointer I can exercise my cat" ... "on the Internet!"
  • by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Friday October 17, 2003 @12:38PM (#7240785)

    Guess how much of my money Amazon has gotten...exactly NONE. Same goes for the RIAA. How many others here can say the same?
  • by tadghin ( 2229 ) on Friday October 17, 2003 @01:24PM (#7241263) Homepage
    I was glad to see that the moderator at least labeled the "dept" correctly -- but I wish that slashdot wasn't reduced to posting flamebait in order to drive traffic.

    Theodp did indeed submit what he thought was prior art to the bountyquest 1-click competition -- he sent in a huge binder of IBM mainframe documentation without any comment about what part of it he considered prior art. When pressed for details, he gave some section numbers, but for the life of me I couldn't see its relevance, and neither could any of the bountyquest patent attorneys. It basically described a system in which you issued commands, and the computer responded! I think we all know a few of those. I gave him far more time and consideration than the actual merit of his submission required -- it seemed to me to be one of the most useless and irrelevant of all the submissions, yet he keeps claiming it as if it were the answer. Spending time answering his assertions seems only to have whetted his appetite for attention.

    Theodp's accusations of malfeasance are particularly irritating because I did in fact pay out $10,000 of my own money for the three pieces of prior art that seemed most relevant. None of them were a slam dunk, though. (However, after the contest ended and BountyQuest went on the rocks, someone did send me a killer piece of prior art, which I still have in my possession in the event that Amazon ever sues anyone else over 1-click. I never used it because in the interim, Amazon settled with Barnes & Noble, and the case was put to bed. Meanwhile, I had become convinced that Amazon had seen the light (and the pressure -- suing B&N was a PR disaster for them) and would not again choose to use patents offensively.

    As to acquiring patents (however ridiculous), the system is so broken that all companies are doing it these days, so that they'll have some defense if someone else sues them. Amazon is no worse in this regard than anyone else, and I believe that because of their bad experience, they are likely a lot better. They understand in a way they never did before that they are part of a technology ecosystem, and owe a lot to the open source and open standards developer community who created their opportunity. The Amazon web services interface is a direct outcome of what they learned through their mistakes over the offensive use of the 1-click patent, and the conversations about "giving back" that ensued.

    The fact that BountyQuest failed was a big disappointment both to me and to Jeff -- it seemed like a good idea. But like many other startups in the dotcom era, it didn't make it over the hump.

  • So using SCO Math I figure Cowbowneal has about 30 days to purchase a license from me in the amount of $47,000 which is fair market value of my imagnination.

  • It still blows me away they allow pantents like that. I better go out and patent the 1-word-order. You know the system were instead of calling 1800 numbers and ordering product through a lengthy process all u have to do is phone the number say one word and your order is on its way.

    But u can't do that in the normal world. Because the order system can not be patented. I can not believe the EU also gave them a patent on this. I thought they were smarter then that.
  • ' If it was 'in everyone's interest to get all relevant prior art out into the open,' as Bezos said, then what happened?"

    It's called "lying, cheating and stealing."
  • While was a for-profit company to find prior art and closed down... I have started the proposal to create Fight The Patent Foundation, 501c3 non-profit organization that extends my current one-man crusade against patent abuse at More details at I would be interested to hear from those that are interested in helping out with the vision. I have a pledge drive to raise money to start the foundation going... Fight the P

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin