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Amazon Patents Customized 404 Pages 167

theodp writes "Among the patents awarded to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Tuesday was one for his invention of Error Processing Methods for Providing Responsive Content to a User When a Page Load Error Occurs, which covers displaying alternate web pages in response to HTTP 404 page-not-found errors. So is this the technology that causes Amazon's Home Page to be displayed when Bezos' MIA Patent Reform Page can't be found?"
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Amazon Patents Customized 404 Pages

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  • RTFA you tards (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @10:03AM (#22233720)
    It's not a patent on 404 handlers. It's a patent on a client-side component that detects errors including, but not limited to 404s, then relays the error to an external server and receives an alternate URL or resource to serve the user. Blame the patent office for being idiots if you want, but this time *you* are the idiot.
  • by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @10:09AM (#22233770)
    Its not all the patent offices fault. They have to follow the rules, and those rules were not set up for the torrent of patents they receive these days.

    If you get too many patent applications, the process of establishing if prior art exists also gets swamped. Thus without a special effort, patents which have prior art can still get granted.

    I've skimmed the patent in question, and it sounds like a new thing to me. There may be bits and pieces that invalidate some of what it does, but since the USPTO allows patents for software products (which has always struck me as dumb), this is probably valid.
  • MSIE did it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @10:09AM (#22233778) Homepage Journal
    Much as I'm loath to hold it up as an example of anything ever, Internet Explorer has been using client-based action to generate a friendly "This page cannot be displayed" page in place of 404 errors for years and years.
  • by nagora ( 177841 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @10:12AM (#22233806)
    To me, this is like placing a patent on "using the emergency flashing lights on my car to signal for help." Someone already thought of this use of my emergency flashing lights, and that's why the lights were implemented.

    Which is exactly the situation with the 1-click patent. Cookies were invented to allow a site to recognise a returning user/customer, so patenting the act of using cookies to recognise a returning customer (and by "recognising" I mean linking them to an account) should never have been allowed a patent.

    There is a VERY simple solution: don't buy anything off Amazon, and tell your friends not to too. I don't. If they want my money they can stop trying to prevent me from working.


  • Re:Not prior art (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cduffy ( 652 ) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @10:18AM (#22233860)
    The "client-side component" in question is (or can be) simply a part of the browser's built-in functionality. And don't tell me that using a redirect to a different server dedicated to dynamic 404s is bloody "innovative".

    (And having a 404 handler that tries to figure out what the user is looking for [which is the other major component]? That has very, very much been done before).
  • by superid ( 46543 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @10:26AM (#22233944) Homepage
    IANAPA, but coincidentally in another window right now I am writing a patent disclosure application. I am lucky enough to work at an office that has a cadre of patent attorneys and just last week I had a discussion about a topic just like this Amazon patent (or I think it is).

    In my case, I've "built" a system using nothing more than a set of other peoples building blocks. Each existing component is already extensively patented and/or in common use with TONS of prior art. The system I created performs a useful function that is also covered by prior art (in my case, it is a medical diagnostic tool).

    The patent attorney told me that my idea was very likely patentable because it was a "novel" (new) implementation, even though the pieces exist and a (different) end product already exists.
  • by GauteL ( 29207 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @10:27AM (#22233956)
    ... which is using a well known malware/phishing technique.

    It is a client component (read adware/malware) that intercepts 404 messages, calls home to find out where to redirect the user, then redirects.

    i.e. if you type in "slahdsot.org" it will search a database of misspellings and redirect you to "slashdot.org".

    or.. in the case of malware.. if you type in "myinternetbank.com" it could redirect you to "myphishingsite.com".

    I'd be surprised if there isn't prior art among the less ethical Internet inventions out there.
  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @11:14AM (#22234368) Journal

    If you get too many patent applications, the process of establishing if prior art exists also gets swamped. Thus without a special effort, patents which have prior art can still get granted.

    Um, easy solution, don't issue any patents until you're sure there's no prior art. If there are too many patents submitted, tough shit, no patents for anyone. That would motivate reform!
  • Old news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yog ( 19073 ) * on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @11:17AM (#22234396) Homepage Journal
    Bezos has stated in the past that he is patenting software methods as a defensive measure. "We're not saying we have bad patents," Amazon.com spokesman Bill Curry said. "We feel very good about our patents... [Bezos] makes the point very emphatically in the letter that we cannot unilaterally disarm in a world where there are big ugly players who aren't disarming." [wired.com]

    It's like road rage. When people are cutting you off and breaking all the rules, you have to tailgate and cut them off as a defensive measure (sometimes, at least). Nice guys finish last. The entire system is broken and the Patent Office really needs more legislative direction because it has strayed from its original mission.

    I think software and business methods should not be patentable in the same way that physical inventions are. Also, I question the concept of selling patents. We end up with these litigious patent holding companies that have no technical abilities of their own, only a lot of lawyers.

    A few years ago I looked into making and marketing a telephony device that would be an incremental but useful improvement over existing equipment, and discovered that so many methods related to telephony and voicemail are patented that practically speaking there was no way to make a device without infringing. "A method for playing back a telephoned message by pressing a button"--give me a freaking break. No wonder the U.S. has slipped behind in technical innovation, when much of the incentive for incremental product improvement has been removed by the threat of instant litigation. Thank goodness the Asians still believe in incremental improvement.

    I'm OK with Amazon patenting stupid obvious things, as long as they don't enforce those patents, which I believe they have done very little of, and as long as Jeff Bezos continues to crusade for patent reform. Just my 2c!
  • Re:Old news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JCSoRocks ( 1142053 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @11:31AM (#22234554)
    That's all well and good until someone steps in and replaces Bezos. What happens when we get someone who sees patents as a profit center and not just a way to prevent other wackos from patenting it? What happens when they decide to sell those patents to some patent warehouse owned by lawyers? Needless to say, it could get ugly fast. The fact is, these patents should never have been granted in the first place. They're nothing but harmful to American business.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @11:42AM (#22234656)
    People seem to forget that prior art is not the only criterion for exclusion even under the currently broken patent law.

    Patents are supposed to be non-obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art.

    I've read through this patent. Yes, it sounds vaguely "new," as this type of error handling is usually done on the server or on a proxy. Yet it is simply a straightforward application of universally used programming concepts.

    It's just describing a web browser (or browser plugin/script) that responds to web server errors by displaying alternate content. What is non-obvious about this? Nobody can seriously claim it's something that is "only obvious in retrospect." I can't even conceive of a programmer of ordinary skill to whom this patent's claims could appear non-obvious.

    By permitting such patents, the patent office is violating its own legal criteria of acceptance. Regardless of whether the patented matter already has prior art, it is also required to be somewhat inventive (i.e., non-obvious).
  • by tjarrett ( 162732 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:26PM (#22235142) Homepage
    Well, Amazon is making clients now. Is it possible that this is related to what Amazon is doing with Kindle?
  • Re:Old news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cching ( 179312 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:41PM (#22235300)
    Of course you're right, but with the system the way it is, someone grabbing them now so that they aren't used against anyone else is the best we can hope for. Ideally, there would be a body out there to whom you could assign "obvious" patents so that they can't be used for evil. That seems like such a good idea that I'm sure it must exist. If so, maybe we could lobby Amazon to contribute their "defensive" patents to this body so we're in the clear now and forever.
  • Re:Old news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by seebs ( 15766 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @01:18PM (#22235834) Homepage
    Bezos has said that, yes.

    Would you call his one-click lawsuit from a few years back a "defensive measure"? I would not.

    The fact is, he's lied on every last thing he's said on the issue, and swallowing these lies given his clear, repeated, public contradictions of every such claim is just pathetic. I mean, it's long past "stupid".

    You believe they have done "very little" of enforcing patents on "stupid obvious things". How much is okay? Would you say that demanding an injunction against a competitor running their existing web site, at all, during the holiday season is "very little"? Reasonable for you? You think it's no big deal to demand that someone suddenly, on no notice, stop accepting any orders on their web site until they revise their system not to conflict with a "stupid obvious" patent?

    The fact is, Bezos is part of the problem, and actively so, and all his "crusading" for patent reform has consisted of, purely reactively in response to negative outcries over his abuses, saying sets of things that his critics would like him to say... And then doing nothing about it, and continuing to use the system, as is, to his advantage. Including filing suits.

    You know why so many 419 scams have phrases like "in God's name" and "we are devout Christians"? Because there are millions of people who will reflexively assume that anyone who claims to be Christian is honest and trustworthy, as long as they use a few of the right buzzwords. Bezos has found the corresponding hole in your cognitive system; you simply can't be bothered to investigate the truth of his claims. Why? Because, if they were true, they would be exactly what you wish he'd think.

    It ain't so. Amazon is an abuser of the patent system. Amazon is a spammer. Amazon is everything we hoped they wouldn't be, and they rely on our wishful thinking to convince us that, really, they're a great company, when they are actually systematic scumbags. They spam, and then they get caught and "fix" it. They abuse the patent system, and they don't even stop abusing it, they just say it's "defensive". They have filed suits against competitors who were not using patents against them since they first claimed this was defensive.

    Why do you keep trusting them? What's your emotional investment in never, ever, considering the possibility that they lied to you?
  • Re:Not prior art (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @01:43PM (#22236174) Journal
    ...or it redirects you to MSN search for some ludicrous reason.
  • Re:The Plan (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Plaid Phantom ( 818438 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @05:55PM (#22239322) Homepage

    If I read the patent right, this is a client-side error handler (Javascript, perhaps?) which, instead of just accepting a 404 error page, forwards the URL to a separate web server which determines another page to display somewhat like mod_speling, but I'd guess it could be more powerful (which I'd imagine would be useful with the URLs I've seen Amazon come up with). But then, who would be hand-typing an Amazon link anyway? Are they recording bad links within Amazon's pages so they can fix them?

    It's certainly more powerful than simply customized error pages, but I'm not sure I see a point to it. Other than not letting someone like SCO or Raymond Nero [slashdot.org] get it.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson