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Amazon Patents the Milkman 365

theodp writes "Got Milk? Got Milk Delivery Patent? Perhaps unfamiliar with the concept of the Milkman, the USPTO has granted a patent for the Recurring Delivery of Products , an idea five Amazon inventors came up with to let customers schedule product deliveries to their doorsteps or mailboxes on a recurring basis, without needing to submit a new order every time. 'For instance,' the filing explains, 'a customer may request delivery of one bunch of bananas every week and two gallons of milk every two weeks.'"
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Amazon Patents the Milkman

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  • by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:29PM (#42835853)

    Jeff Bozos is a chiselling little crook.

  • Re:Ok (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:48PM (#42836161)

    How nobody else implemented this almost justifies that amazon should get the patent...

    Newspapers implemented it a few centuries ago. If you subscribe to a newspaper, it is delivered to your door, and you get a discount off the newsstand price. You can also vary the schedule. For instance you can get it delivered everyday, or just on Sunday.

  • by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:53PM (#42836233)
    When I had milk deliveries from a milkman -- quite a few years ago now -- I managed the deliveries over the internet. I no longer get that delivery, but I do get a recurring vegetable box delivery and a recurring snack box delivery, both of which I manage over the internet. This is in the UK, though, and the US Patent Office might not be aware that we exist.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 08, 2013 @04:11PM (#42836451)

    35 USC 101: Patentable Subject Matter
    "Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title."

    That's the black letter law and has been for quite some time. Not saying it is right, or that the interpretations haven't been vastly overextended, but patents don't cover just inventions.

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @04:24PM (#42836639)
    Patenting a process that's been around for hundreds of years (milk delivery or one-click "put it on my tab") isn't "new" or "useful".
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @04:59PM (#42837097) Homepage

    Everyone, repeat after me: "Business methods should not be patentable"
    That means:
    - No one-click ordering patents
    - No more patents on online auctions
    The courts cannot fix this. It is up to congress. []

  • Re:Ok (Score:5, Informative)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @05:05PM (#42837177)

    As I understand, they patented their subscribe and save feature which has been around for years. How nobody else implemented this almost justifies that amazon should get the patent... almost, it's a stupid patent.

    When you look at the actual patent [] you see there was plenty of prior art cited. If Amazon cited these you can bet they believe (as does the USPTO) that the Amazon patent is significantly different, and does not infringe.

    You have to READ the patent to see what part of this is new.

    For instance Amazon states in the Patent

    Some online merchant systems may provide customers the ability to place standing orders for delivery of consumable products on a recurring basis, such as every week or every month. However, these systems may be limited in their flexibility for allowing modifications of the recurring orders or for allowing the addition of one-time or specialty products to an order. Further, the customer may not be able to schedule the recurring orders for the same time and day of each week or month, thereby making it difficult for the customer to arrange to be present at the delivery of perishable goods or other consumables.

    This patent is different, in that it allows Scheduling not only the day of a re-occurring delivery, but also the time. This is pretty significant. You get to choose the time slot from available time slots, when the truck will be in your neighborhood on the days you request, at the hour you request. And you do this by some form of drag and drop of products to your door step, selecting from the available time slots (presumably when the truck will be there). Pretty specific if you ask me.

    Further, you can easily change it by adding or subtracting items (one time, or every scheduled time) to be on that truck, put it on vacation hold, etc.

    (If Amazon can actually pull that off in any grand scale, I'd be surprised, but that's not the patent office's problem.)

    Further virtually every claim in the patent is proceeded by the words: A computer-implemented method.
    Dammit! I hope there is an App for this!!

    This, the computer scheduling done by the customer, combined with picking the actual delivery time slot from the available time slots, is the bit that they are patenting. Not the milkman, not the newspaper boy, not your local grocery weekly delivery.

    The closest prior art is the cited Amway patent []. But it merely suggests to the customer that they might want to order some more Amway for future delivery, and says nothing about the details of precision or picking of exact days and time slots.

    I'll leave it to the lawyers (and wanna-be lawyers) among you to pick out the details where this patent differs from the others, but do try to contain your rage till you at least Read the Patent, and ignore the hype in the summary. Its really pretty clever, and relies on Amazon knowing the precise location of the delivery vehicles on their routes in the future, and using that information, allowing the customers to make sure a half dozen bananas are on that truck, and will arrive at their door step when they are home to receive them.

    Ambitious, and fairly novel if you ask me.

  • Re:Ok (Score:2, Informative)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @05:36PM (#42837535)

    To drill down further: let's talk about websites that are significant in size and thus significant to the internet: []

    I'm also intrigued: will those sites have to change their subscription saving ways? What if it was just a subscription and you didn't save shit, does that fall under the patent?

    You have to save shit if you are going to allow your customer to order a dozen bananas every other week on the truck that will just happen to be in their neighborhood at 6PM on Friday.

    And when they add two pounds of Nuts for delivery 5 days before Christmas on the truck that will be near their house there at 3:30, all they have to do is drag the nuts to the delivery schedule for their neighborhood, mark it one time, instead of re-occuring.

    Look, this is way more precise than "send me a newspaper every day".
    You get to pick the day.
    You get to pick the time of day slot.
    You get to specify the re-occurrence frequency and day of the week.
    You get to easily add/subtract from your scheduled deliveries, all on line or from your phone.
    You get to see a list of exactly what time slots are available, (when the trucks will be near you), and select the one you want.
    You get to put it on hold when you go out of town.

    They aren't patenting the fact that its saved in a computer. They are patenting an entire delivery scheduling methodology for customer order management of groceries (etc) that will re-occur on a predictable and fairly precise time period of the customer's choosing. Not something that shows up in the mail sometime in the future.

  • Re:Ok (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @06:49PM (#42838353) Homepage Journal

    They are patenting an entire delivery scheduling methodology for customer order management of groceries (etc) that will re-occur on a predictable and fairly precise time period of the customer's choosing.

    Still, it's hardly rocket science, is it? It's more flexible & sophisticated than telling the milkman to bring you a pint every other day, but it's not a qualitatively different thing like a jet compared to a piston engine.

    I'd be surprised of most ERP systems don't have something like this.

  • by zzyzyx ( 1382375 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @09:44PM (#42839961)

    Why is USPTO asleep at the switch?

    A rejected patents entails a relatively small application fee, needs a motivated rejection memoir from the examiner, which can be appealed and ensures a long processing time of the patent application.

    On the other hand, an accepted patent means recurring renewal fees for the USPTO, and a painless job for the examiner which is paid in part depending on how many applications he can process per month.

    Does that answer your question?

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.