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Patents IBM

IBM Granted "Paper-or-Plastic?" Patent 517

theodp writes "On Tuesday, IBM was granted US Patent No. 7,407,089 for storing a preference for paper or plastic grocery bags on customer cards and displaying a picture of said preference after a card is scanned. The invention, Big Blue explains, eliminates the 'unnecessary inconvenience for both the customer and the cashier' that results when 'Paper or Plastic?' must be asked. The patent claims also cover affixing a cute sticker of a paper or plastic bag to a customer card to indicate packaging preferences. So does this pass the 'significant technical content' test, IBM'ers?"
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IBM Granted "Paper-or-Plastic?" Patent

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  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:50AM (#24492685)

    We have no bags at the supermarkets anymore, unless you buy them. So almost everybody has bags or boxes that will last much longer.

    Environment and such, ya know. Other countries do the same, I believe.

    • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:59AM (#24492773) Homepage Journal

      Would you like to kill a tree or a turtle?

    • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:22AM (#24492921)

      We have no bags at the supermarkets anymore, unless you buy them.

      In Seattle Washington, our City Counsel just voted a 20 cent per bag (paper or plastic) tax. Indeed, the city also outlawed the sale of water in plastic single-use bottles in or on all city owned property. I believe that more and more municipalities are headed this direction.

      But it's still an asinine patent that is a perfect example of one of the many problems with our patent system.

      • by aussie_a ( 778472 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:51AM (#24493069) Journal

        In Australia we have bags that are bought in stores as well as plastic bags, giving people the choice on whether or not they're environmentally conscious.

        However I saw a news report about research (the research's validity I know nothing about, so it could be complete hogwash) showing that the bags that are sold and used in preference to the plastic bags aren't biodegradable or recyclable (although they are reusable of course). In comparison there are biodegradable plastic bags which will degrade within 6 months of being buried in a dump.

        I think the biodegradable plastic bags sound like the better choice and much more preferable then a 20 cent tax per bag (although it might end up costing more then 20 cents per bag, at least its actually doing something rather then just punishing people). Although I don't know if supermarkets (in either Australia or America) use the bio-degradable ones, or if they use the traditional plastic bags.

        • by jacquesm ( 154384 ) <j&ww,com> on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:56AM (#24493083) Homepage

          the really amazing thing here is that those bags seem to know where they are, so they don't decompose when they're not buried in a dump!

        • by value_added ( 719364 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @05:06AM (#24493403)

          I think the biodegradable plastic bags sound like the better choice and much more preferable then a 20 cent tax per bag (although it might end up costing more then 20 cents per bag, at least its actually doing something rather then just punishing people)

          Your recommendation appears based on the notion that not using plastic bags is punishing someone. I don't see how alternative approaches can ever be considered punishment, given that convenience of any type involves a trade-off, and the negative connotations of the term are more appropriate for bumperstickers and negative campaign ads than for reasoned discussion.

          By offering plastic bags, the tradeoff is mostly the wasteful use of resources vs. the customer being able to carry home their purchases. With plastic rings for 6-packs of aluminum cans, the tradeoff includes an even more wasteful use of resources, threats to the marine environment, and the collective cost borne by the rest of society vs. marketing effectiveness (6-packs on sale!) on the part of the retailer, and easy-to-carry benefits on the part of the consumer.

          My own opinion is that anything that encourages environmental responsibility and awareness of the true costs involved by all parties is A Good Thing. If that requires a minor incovenience or a similarly minor change of habit and routine on the part of everyone involved, so be it. If it involves a surcharge, then the surcharge will remind people that they have to take into account what the realities are when they make their purchasing decisions and force them responsible for their actions. At the moment, we don't see $20 Environmentally Destructive Surcharge sticker on computer motherboards, but if it comes to that, I'm sure we'd all benefit from it.

          You can, of course, seek or encourage compromise solutions. However, the plastic bag problem is relatively simple to fix, so I don't see any need to pursue half-hearted or partially-effective schemes at the periphery when something more fundamental needs addressing. Namely, resources of all types have their limits, we're too wasteful as a society, we're only too happy to remain ignorant of the consequences, and everything has a cost that someone, somewhere pays.

          The irony here is that instead of taking the opportunity to use the plastic bag issue as a symbolic Step in the Right Direction and moving on with what we've learned, we're busy arguing over whether consumers are being punished.

          Won't someone please think of the consumers! ;-)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by zsau ( 266209 )

            If you don't get regular plastic bags free with your shopping, you end up buying bigger, thicker plastic bags wrapped in another plastic bag to throw out your rubbish. Plus obviously you've gotta buy a bag to put your shopping in. How is that more environmentally friendly? You probably use up two or three times the amount of plastic.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by jridley ( 9305 )

              That's true, but our family gets far more bags than we use. All our rubbish goes into plastic grocery sacks, yet we have a large plastic bag full of hundreds of smaller bags that we've accumulated over the years. I've given a few hundred to animal shelters who use them to pick up dog waste. I threw away several hundred when it got to the point where we had probably well over 1000 bags. We started using reusable bags over a year ago, and we still have hundreds of plastic bags in the stash; probably enoug

          • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @11:04AM (#24496953) Homepage Journal

            Plastic bags are NOT a problem. Stop buying into it and read up.

            1) The degrade a lot faster then paper bags.
            2) Bags made in the US are not from oil(You didn't make this point, but it always crops up)
            3) A lot of people use plastic bags as garbage bags. Getting rid of plastic grocery bags means more people are buying 'regular' trash bags; which are far worse in every respect.

            Charging a fee hurts the poor. Yes, 1 dollar can mean the difference between eating and not eating.

            How about we do it another way? a 20 cent discount for every reusable bag a customer uses?

            A large portion of people would switch very quickly. Of course we still have the garbage bag issue.

        • by kklein ( 900361 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @05:11AM (#24493423)

          As much as I hate Wal-Mart, I have to say that they have been using biodegradable bags for a very long time. Good thing, too, because those loonies will try to put every single item in its own bag if you're not careful.

          Personally, I'd rather just see biodegradable "plastic" bags than anything else. My wife and I reuse all shopping bags as trash bags, and although paper is a nice idea and all, it is basically useless for that or any other bag purpose, because it's not waterproof.

          Over here in Japan, they not only give you a million bags, but they are non-biodegradable. You can buy "eco-bags," but to be perfectly honest, I don't like them. They're synthetic canvas, so I imagine they're much worse for the environment, and they look like crap after about 6 months. Walking around with a filthy, scruffy canvas bag is not really... my style.

          That said, it would probably be fine if everyone did it, but that's not going to happen unless they start charging for bags, and then we'd have to buy trash bags anyway.

          Biodegradable shopping bags, please!

      • I become tired of having to tell my bank card that I speak English. Why not have a bit on the card so that we don't have to repeat entering this info.

        • Why not simply set up ATMs so they display all information in all available languages? That's how it's done here, we got 4 languages in our ATMs and there's plenty of room to display them all. It's not like they display a whole EULA to read for you before you do business with them...

        • by hughk ( 248126 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @05:43AM (#24493599) Journal
          Many ATMs do this in Europe, they take the fact that you have a non-local card and either offer you a menu in the country of origin or offer you a choice. I have taken a German ATM card to the UK and the ATM switched to German automatically.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by h4rm0ny ( 722443 )

        In the UK, Marks and Spencers started charging about 5p for a carrier bag. I changed my habits to re-using carrier bags almost instantly. They seem to have stopped that and just give out really posh carrier bags with proper handles and everything. This also works as they look too posh to just stuff with rubbish and throw out.
      • Actually, the one way plastic bottle causes less problems if properly recycled than reuse bottles do, environmentally. Cleaning those bottles takes a whole lot more water and chemicals than making those plastic bottles does.

        Of course, a rising oil price might change that...

    • by mrboyd ( 1211932 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:54AM (#24493073)
      I used to reuse the plastic bag as trash bag like everyone else. Now I have to buy my grocery bag almost everytime I go shopping and buy additional trash bags which seems to be made of thicker plastic than the shopping bags I had before.

      Carbon neutrality or disguised corporate greed? You choose.
    • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @04:36AM (#24493269)
      Same thing in the Republic of Ireland. Used to be that you'd grab 3 or 4 bags to do the shopping. These days you take a reusable bags or a box with you and stick everything in that. If you forget your bags you have to pay for disposables. I don't have the figures to hand but the scheme has apparantly cut bag consumption by 90% which is close to a billion bags a year. I can't say its a major burden either as you soon adapt and remember to save up your bags and bring them with you.

      A billion bags in a country the size of Ireland. The US has 75 times the population meaning it could save 75 billion bags a year.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by anomaly256 ( 1243020 )
        I forsee a new economy based on the shopping bag currency being deployed soon. Banks will loan out 100 bags and expect 200 in return. Bag counterfeitters will be charged with the highest penalties, whilst governments print their own bags at will.
    • by 2Bits ( 167227 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @04:40AM (#24493289)
      China has just implemented this policy as well, you must pay 0.2 RMB if you want a plastic bag. Stores which still give plastic bags for free will be fined, or worse, shut down.

      All in the name of environment.

      The cost saved has never been passed to customers. Worse yet, stores have been taking in even more profits, selling at amazing high price all kinds of shopping bags.

      The cost is totally transfered to customers. There are other side affects too, as a result. People used to put their garbage in those plastic bags, tied them up before throwing them in the common garbage bin. Now, they just dump the garbage directly in, bringing flies and other insects, and having very stinky neighborhood.

      We used to use those as garbage bags as well, and as we are only two, we don't have much garbage. The smallish grocery store bags are just perfect for daily garbage. Now we have to buy those larger black bags, which we can't fill in one day. Since we don't like stinky overnight garbage in house, we throw away a half empty bag, which is a waste. So, for our family of two, this policy does not seem to do any good to environment. Unless we are willing to keep garbage overnight, of course.

      The so-called experts on the panel who decided this policy (in closed door, as all other policies in China) admitted they didn't consider any of the social and cost issues before they passed it. As if this is new to any one.
      • by leenks ( 906881 )

        In some parts of the UK there are quite strict controls on what you can throw away in the trash and what must be recycled. Some cities have a policy that vegetable/fruit waste must be separated from meat waste, and that plastics, metals, glass, paper and cardboard must be separated too. If you separate your waste in this way it becomes much easier to contain / store and stop flies and smells.

        Hopefully this will become a UK wide policy, and fines will be introduced for those that don't recycle this way.

    • We haven't gotten to that stage yet in Melborune, but now all the supermarkets have these shitty uber thin, weak, small plastic bags we get.

      We use them in our garbage bins - all of them. But these smaller ones barely fit as much, so we need to use a lot more. Plus, don't get me started on carrying them from the supermarket. So many times I've had my milk bottles fall out the bottom of these really weak plastics which just fall apart as you're walking from the supermarket home, hell, even to the car!

      So blood

  • debit or credit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by laktech ( 998064 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:50AM (#24492695)
    How about we also solve the "debit or credit" problem I have to deal with each time I visit the mini-mart?
    • by SpeedyDX ( 1014595 ) <speedyphoenix@ g m a i> on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:05AM (#24492803)

      So you show the cashier a card to show them which card you prefer to show them?


      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by geekoid ( 135745 )

        um, a debit card can be used like a debit card, or like a credit card.
        From a use standpoint, the money still comes out the same.

    • by BerkeleyDude ( 827776 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:05AM (#24492805)

      How about we also solve the "debit or credit" problem I have to deal with each time I visit the mini-mart?

      Let me guess: I'll have to put a "credit" sticker on my credit cards, and a "debit" one on my debit cards.
      If only there was a way to store this bit of data electronically, and somehow attach it to the card itself...

      • Oh! Oh! Let's patent it! Who's with me, let's pool our money and patent it and we'll be rich!

        What? Don't look at me like that, it wouldn't be the first obvious patent granted despite prior art from times immemorial. This patent granted to IBM has to be the best example for this, I'm fairly sure some grocery store had that very same idea ages ago, they just didn't patent it because it's such a stupidly obvious idea that nobody besides a patent troll would dare bother a patent office with it.

    • Re:debit or credit (Score:4, Interesting)

      by IBBoard ( 1128019 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:24AM (#24492929) Homepage

      There's a difference? In the UK we just insert the card and type our PIN. Before that we handed over our card, signed the receipt and watched as the cashier didn't compare signatures. No-one seems to care between credit and debit because Visa do both and don't make too much differentiation.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Scannerman ( 1136265 )

        This is obviously confusing some people.

        in the UK we have one card from debit(Maestro) , one for credit (M/c, visa etc)

        Other countries (I've found it in Australia) appear to be able to access several accounts from one card

        • by leenks ( 906881 )

          In the UK we have many debit cards - VISA (Delta), VISA (Debit), Maestro, Switch, Electron etc, and many credit cards (Visa, Mastercard).

          I've never heard of having more than one account on a card - it sounds really nasty, especially if you lose the card.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Builder ( 103701 )

          My visa debit card clearly says Visa debit on it and people still ask me if it's a debit or credit card. This normally only happens in places that charge 2.5% for using a credit card though.

      • A credit card grants credit, a debit card directly registers to your bank account. If you don't say the store will prefer to use the debit system because its more security for them.

        You're the one paying for a credit card though, so you may as well use it.

  • by Nymz ( 905908 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:51AM (#24492697) Journal
    Answering paper or plastic isn't as inconvenient as having to carry around an identification card for every store I shop at. Why don't they just combine all the cards into a single ID. Yeah, and while they're at it, pulling that one card out of my pocket sounds inconvenient too, so why not just permanently affix it to my right hand or forehead. I'm so lucky that everyone wants to help me. /sarcasm off
    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      It sounds to me like they add this to a customer affinity card. I, personally, agree with you. I have no tolerance for carrying around these affinity cards, and do not shop at any store that relies heavily on such cards. I consider a waste of my time to either find the card or state that I do not have one. In fact, now that I think about it, I am shopping less at stores that demand I apply for a credit card every time I check out.

      OTOH, a large portion of the population do go for affinity cards. They

    • If its such a stupid idea I guess you don't care about the idea being patented.

  • The answer. (Score:5, Funny)

    by zapatero ( 68511 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:53AM (#24492717) Journal

    Q: does this pass the 'significant technical content' test?

    First the long answer: Nope.
    Now the short answer: No.

  • by spectrokid ( 660550 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:53AM (#24492721) Homepage
    In Denmark, where "no-nonsense" is a lifestyle, you pay +/- 1$ for each bag you want. (Makes you think twice about double-bagging!). In Belgium, you buy a reusable bag from the store. If it wears out or tears, you can trade it in for free. In the US, you guys are patenting your dependency on foreign oil.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:57AM (#24492751)

      Man, I'd stock up on the -$1 bags!

    • by jlar ( 584848 )

      $1 per bag? It is closer to $0.5 in the shops I buy my groceries in.

      "In the US, you guys are patenting your dependency on foreign oil."

      70% of plastic bags are made using a by product of natural gas. The remaining 30% are made from naphtha (a by product in the distillation process of petroleum). I don't think that plastic bags are the main concern in relations to foreign oil dependency. Environmental concerns on the other hand are probably important.

      Or you could ban them for the happiness of your nation;-)

      ht []

  • I don't have a customer card? Do I get neither?

    • by foobsr ( 693224 )
      I don't have a customer card? Do I get neither?

      Be lucky if you get food. More seriously, I suspect that in a time not too distant you will have to have a card (security, terrorism, ease of processing, yadda ...) for each and every transaction you make. A little further on, this will be an implanted device, still later, it will be wired (interfaced) to your neural system.

      Not a new idea [], though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gsslay ( 807818 )

      I'd like a card that says;

        "I do not have a customer 'loyalty' card. No, I do not want a customer 'loyalty' card."

      Would save me hours of wasted time in the average year. Can I patent this idea?

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Jedi Alec ( 258881 )

        I'd like a card that says;

            "I do not have a customer 'loyalty' card. No, I do not want a customer 'loyalty' card."

        Would save me hours of wasted time in the average year. Can I patent this idea?

        Can I have one that says: "No, I do not want a customer 'loyalty' card. I'd love a customer 'loyalty' blowjob though."?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jsiren ( 886858 )

        What if the store had a loyalty card that they would be required to present if they wanted my custom?

  • I change my preference based on whether I need more plastic bags for small trash bins. Sometimes it is nice to have a paper bag which generally takes a regular shape in the trunk for efficient loading. For small loads plastic is great with the hooks in the lid of the trunk.

    Generally we bring our own bags (but sometimes they're in the other car). It is nice that some places give a discount. Aldi's charges for bags you don't bring, Beuhler's gives a discount for each bag you bring. However, Marc's in NE

  • Actually Yes. (Score:2, Insightful)

    While in reality it may seem too simple and even stupid for some, the fact that none of us thought of it before and had implemented it shows it as unique.
    The process itself is simple: Affix a sticker (much like any other sticker), and next time the cashier needs to only scan it instead of asking.
    Morally objectionable: I don't think so. Not commonly used. Although a bit dumb.
    Legally Valid: Yes.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by risinganger ( 586395 )
      Ok, I will admit I don't know exactly the criteria for innovative applications in the US, but if in reality it is remarkably simple to many and even stupid to some then it doesn't deserve a patent.

      My guess as to why somebody hasn't thought of this before? because I expect my cashier to be capable of asking a simple question and I don't see that it saves valuable time. IBM would be better off coming up with a more efficient way of reducing queues than this kind of crap.

      Story after story here on /. we've di

  • Seriously, does the patent office in the US actually read these applications at all anymore?

    I can't decide who I think less of, the person that thought to file this or the person that actually granted it...

  • by TheJasper ( 1031512 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:01AM (#24492781)

    Databases have been known for a few years now. Customer identification cards as well. So now you can patent specific pieces of information when tied to the identification?

    Maybe I'm stupid but it seems to me that the system might be in need revision. Perhaps IBM was trying to make a point?

  • by arse maker ( 1058608 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:06AM (#24492817)

    For all the anti plastic bag talk, I've never really heard any reasons WHY they are so bad. The common one you get from people is either they get into the water and damager wild life, or they don't bio-degrade.

    If its damage, then if you take care to dispose, how is it an issue?

    If its bio-degrade, I dont get that either. They arent the largest things around. Is it a significant issue? Things barely degrade in landfills anyhow, they are anaerobic.

    Maybe these days its oil based.. which maybe somehow slightly valid.. but its nothing compared to petrol. Also, anti-plastic has been around so long it cant be that. So maybe someone can inform me!

    While there is probably a good answer(s) ill have shot back at me, I'm still going to be annoyed that its not well conveyed onto consumers WHY this is bad. I feel too much like I'm in 1984 if I just have to know things are bad because everyone says so. Feels like its some minor issue that gets so much press yet if everyone stopped using them it wouldn't help anything at all.. producing huge amounts of paper bags would be a nightmare and is everyone using reusable going to save us all? Most people seem to slack off once they feel they are "doing their bit" by not using plastic bags.. even if they don't know anything about the issues involved.

    • by SilicaiMan ( 856076 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:25AM (#24492931)

      The common one you get from people is either they get into the water and damager wild life, or they don't bio-degrade.


      If its damage, then if you take care to dispose, how is it an issue?

      if they're not biodegradable, then how do you dispose of the millions of bags that are thrown in the trash every day? where do you put them?

      If its bio-degrade, I dont get that either. They arent the largest things around. Is it a significant issue?

      you under-estimate the number of plastic bags thrown away each day. They aren't only used in supermarkets for your groceries. Practically every store uses them (clothing, electronics, books, everything). There is also plastic packaging. Plastic bags ARE a HUGE problem.

    • If its damage, then if you take care to dispose, how is it an issue?

      Because of their size & weight, plastic bags escape normal disposal options easily. Look around you. Most of the trash I see on the streets is plastic bags.

      You probably use thousands of plastic bags every year. Are you so confident of your disposal methods that none of them entered a waterway?

      if its bio-degrade, I dont get that either. They arent the largest things around. Is it a significant issue?

      1) Paper bags recycle more readily than plastic.
      2) You could just reuse a sturdy bag and that way, not contribute to landfill with the containers you use to take home your shopping at all.

    • Throw-away products, plastic or paper bags, disposable cameras, packaging materials, whatever, are wasteful, in principle. It costs energy to produce them and to dispose of them. If a long lasting alternative is available, it is almost always better. Lasting products can often be fixed if they are broken, and if you don't need them anymore, you can give them away or sell them.

    • by Joce640k ( 829181 )

      For every person who "takes care to dispose" there's six more who don't.

      That's an issue.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I was dreaming up a whole post about the problems with plastic bags, but I think I'll take it a different way. Forget about saving the world, I don't use plastic bags because they are an inferior tool for the task.

      I have several bags that I use for shopping, including: a messenger bag and a canvas tote (which I also use for carrying things generally) and three insulated bags specifically used for grocery shopping. I leave the grocery bags in the car so they are always ready. These bags are better beca
  • Both. A sticker on a card is paper on plastic. Cool.

  • Not an invention (Score:3, Insightful)

    by enoz ( 1181117 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:10AM (#24492845)

    I believe prior art exists for the invention of storing and retrieving user preferences.

    • I believe it's called the "Brain" and has prior art (in every mammal and most advanced animals) dating back many millions of years.

  • by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:28AM (#24492943) Homepage

    IBM have been patenting really really stupidly simple and obvious inventions for quite a while now. It seems that every month /. reports on an IBMer being granted a patent on something like stickers on credit cards, or on/off switches, or a great new way of peeling an orange.

    Here's what I think: you've got IBM, a very wealthy company with a very strong brand and a good reputation, and a lot of clever people. Why not solicit crazy-but-patentable ideas from IBMers, drop the small (to IBM) amount of cash on patenting it, and then have a portfolio of crazy stuff. Then when you run into problems with other patents you can pull out a patent on putting a sticker on a bank card and say "Well, you let that through..."

    I reckon they're gearing up to give the US patent system an almighty rattling.

    • by leenks ( 906881 )

      And like most companies they are patenting as much as possible that they use within their Point of Sale systems (or wherever else). Primarily this is a defence mechanism because the patent system is so broken - if they don't patent it they risk someone else suing them later.

  • Here's a scenario I often run into:

    I'm checking out at the store, and put my reusable bag in front of my items or say, "hi I brought a bag with me today"

    Often, the cashier will fail to break out of repetitive-task-robot mode and automatically start loading the plastic bag.

    Other times, they'll put things in the bag so stupidly that they'll then proceed to load up items in a plastic bag that would have fit just fine in the cloth bag.

    Or they'll put bagged items in a bag. I've had the following things put into

  • by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:43AM (#24493027)
    Back when I was in the States (the only place where they asked), I took
    • plastic when I had a very small amount of stuff (1 plastic bag)
    • paper when I had somewhat more (1 paper bag, which tend to be larger than plastic)
    • plastic again when I had very much stuff (plastic bags have a more convenient handle, so you can carry more than one, whereas with paper this would be awkward).

    Can the IBM system store such a complex decision process?

  • When I started replying I was going to have the usual rant about this being a stupidly tiny "invention" or probably not even an invention at all as it's so simple. I was going to compare it to the invention of the steam engine or the television or some other complex device but it occured to me that I couldn't think of a single complex device that was a single invention.

    I think every single complex device that we use is built up of several (perhaps hundreds or even thousands) of tiny increments each one of w

  • Why not? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:59AM (#24493099)
    With our crazy patent system, if you're as big as IBM is, the smart thing to do is to patent anything and everything you do. Even if you don't intend to enforce the patent, it prevents someone else from patenting the same thing and suing you. Given court costs to defend against a patent suit and the multi-million dollar awards if you lose, $1500 for a patent application seems like really cheap insurance.
  • Will somebody *PLEASE* publicly humiliate the shitwit patent examiners that approved this garbage?

    Lately, I've been giving serious thought to starting a website just to put these asshats up for the public humiliation and shaming that they deserve!

    The shitwits responsible:

    Primary Examiner: Lee; Michael G.
    Assistant Examiner: Savusdiphol; Paultep

    Somebody, PLEASE, start giving these half-assed clerks the humilitation they so deserve!

  • by Ecyrd ( 51952 )

    Originally I thought that when they asked "paper or plastic" they wanted to know if I wanted to pay with paper notes or a plastic credit card. And then I was confused in Australia because their notes *are* made of plastic.

    Life gets so much more interesting when English is not your native language :-)

  • 'unnecessary inconvenience for both the customer and the cashier'

    Because the last thing we should be doing is communicating with each other.

  • by damburger ( 981828 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @04:25AM (#24493227)

    All this money that is being spent pursuing retarded patents like this is classified as R&D spending. It is seen as successful R&D spending because it produces patents (a handy metric for innovation) and money. The question of quality, of whether it actually corresponds to real technological advance, seems to be irrelevant to most people in industry and high office.

    The US, seeing itself as a high tech economy, is measuring inputs (R&D money) and gross outputs (patents and the money they produce) and patting itself on the back for the resulting 'growth' (innovation), despite the fact you are producing little or none.

    Being completely unaware of the true state of your economy is a dangerous place to be.

  • A few years ago, a friend of mine came up with a wonderful description of breating which might actually pass the patent test, but I then concluded that... as well described as it was, no patent examiner was going to be stupid enough to pass the patent.

    Now, however, I'm having second thoughts.

  • I haven't seen a supermarket offering paper bags in 10 years.
  • by dastrike ( 458983 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @05:15AM (#24493443) Homepage

    Here in Sweden, you pick the type of bag yourself and place it on the conveyor belt along with the groceries. (Assuming of course that you didn't bring your own bags or other suitable container with you.)

    And then you pack yourself the groceries into the bags.

    A plastic bag costs in the ballpark of 25c (US) and a paper bag about 50c (US).

    • Is that, by associating you with your bag selection, the store can actually better know in advance how many bags it needs to buy. If you did bring your bags, the store would know it, and could then send you stuff to thank you for your environmental savvy, and then based on data mining, show you some of the promotional items you might be interested.

      We all laugh at the IBM Patent, but they are going to make a ton of money off of it.

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