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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.

  • Frost Pist! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:30PM (#42835867)

    What about ice delivery?

    You kids with refrigerators stay off my lawn!

  • by bobthesungeek76036 ( 2697689 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:30PM (#42835869)
    The USPTO has no signs of life...
    • Re:It's official (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:34PM (#42835951) Homepage Journal

      Apparently, you can take any patent in the database, copy-pasta in a word processing document, go to the end of the document and add these characters:

      ....ON A COMPUTER!

      And you have a new patent, ready for filing.

      This is becoming absolutely absurd.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Camaro ( 13996 )

        I love pasta. May I license your patent?

      • Re:It's official (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:58PM (#42836313)

        The thing is, that this wouldn't be patentable in real life, even when patents first began.

        Back then:
        "Hey, I want to patent something?"

        USPTO: "What?"

        "A customer requests a product, not just once, but to have it delivered to them regularly. We keep their names on file and send it out and collect payment at the end of the month."

        USPTO: "That's not an invention, that's how you run your business. Fuck off."

        • Re:It's official (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @04:14PM (#42836501) Homepage

          More closely to the actual patent:

          "My invention is a method [] for business, where I have a machine that will listen to my customers, record what products they want regularly, and maintain an ongoing list for each customer. Whenever a product on the list needs to be ordered so it will arrive when the customer wants it, this machine will alert me place the order on the customer's behalf... on a computer."

          Or in other words, it's not really like a milkman, or even how a milkman operated, but let's not let that get in the way of our Slashdot-mandated rant against the USPTO.

          • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @04:50PM (#42836979) Journal

            it's not really like a milkman, or even how a milkman operated

            I was a milkman once, let me tell you it was a tough job. I had no idea what my customers wanted, when they wanted it, or hell, I didn't even know where they lived, I just wandered around town until I ran out of gas then dumped the whole load of milk in the ditch and walked home.

            Just think, if only someone had invented a way to keep a list of people, what they wanted, when they wanted it and where they wanted me to drop it off, I might have been able to keep my job a second day!

            • Now, see, if you had only had Amazon's system, you would have had each house's order readily packed in your truck, whether they were regular customers or not. All you'd have had to do would be drive past their house and throw the order in the general direction of the door, porch, or doghouse with your apparently-normal level of concern. No worries about special orders for the day or who's paying when... just driving and tossing.

      • Re:It's official (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Friday February 08, 2013 @04:07PM (#42836411)

        Apparently, you can take any patent in the database, copy-pasta in a word processing document, go to the end of the document and add these characters:

        ....ON A COMPUTER!

        And you have a new patent, ready for filing.

        In a 2007 ruling [] the Supreme Court said these sorts of "combination patents" are not valid. So I can't see how the USPTO can justify continuing to issue them.

      • Re:It's official (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DrData99 ( 916924 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @05:29PM (#42837455)

        Well, Amway Corp has been doing this *on a computer* for quite some time. And they have lawyers that *might* take exception to having their business processes patented by someone else...

    • We clearly need more Einsteins working in patent offices.

  • by hedgemage ( 934558 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:30PM (#42835877)
    Newspapers, magazines, book-of-the-month, all these are products that are delivered at regularly scheduled intervals. But these are old media, so it makes sense that Amazon doesn't know about them.
    • Strangely enough, I've managed my magazine subscriptions through Amazon for years. So their own stuff is prior art! And old enough they can't patent it anymore.

  • by schneidafunk ( 795759 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:32PM (#42835889)
    The first time they try to defend this patent, it will be thrown out of court. Seems like a waste of time & money.
    • Re:Why patent? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Desler ( 1608317 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:33PM (#42835929)

      Because they can use it to threaten smaller competitors.

      • Or they figure it is cheaper and easier for them to patent it than to deal with some other company patenting it and harassing them.

        • by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Friday February 08, 2013 @04:01PM (#42836353) Homepage Journal
          That's what "defensive publication" is for. Any invention that one publishes can't later be patented by someone else.
          • by leonardluen ( 211265 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @04:56PM (#42837063)

            except you can't use those to threaten and counter sue and attempt to force them to drop their suit.

            for an analogy...say you are a bully carrying a stick out to steal someones lunch money. you come across victim A who is holding up his backpack defensively...might as well take a few whacks at him, he can't do much to you, and maybe you will get lucky and his lunch money will fall out of his pockets...worse case you hit him too hard and your stick breaks

            on the other hand you come up to victim B who also has a stick. now you have to consider whether you are the one that will get the beating. it is similar to the debate about guns, having your own stick puts you on equal footing to your aggressor.

    • So this is just a defense patent. To squat on it before anyone else.

      The US Patent Office seems like a waste of time and money to me.

      Nearly all the good stuff is kept secret and proprietary and unfiled anyway.... and all the big 500 companies run their employees ragged filling out and filing bullshit.

      All the megacorps usually have folders of patents, in a Mutual Assured Destruction situation with all the other megacorps. If you're a small guy, good luck enforcing your patents, it usually means who has the

    • All lot of small companies that do not have the resources to get into a long legal battle will pay out. Even if they fought and managed to win, the legal battle would likely either bankrupt them or put them so far behind their competition that they might has well be bankrupt. The patent office has been irresponsible by letting bad patents through and expecting the judicial system to validate/invalidate them in court.
  • by NettiWelho ( 1147351 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:32PM (#42835903)
    United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Really??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bobthesungeek76036 ( 2697689 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:33PM (#42835923)
    "... an idea five Amazon inventors came up with ..."

    It took five of them to come up with this brilliance??? Amazon must have some stellar intellects...
    • Re:Really??? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NettiWelho ( 1147351 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:41PM (#42836063)

      Amazon must have some stellar intellects...

      Or an R&D department filled with lawyers instead of engineers.

    • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:51PM (#42836201) Homepage Journal

      "... an idea five Amazon inventors came up with ..."

      It took five of them to come up with this brilliance??? Amazon must have some stellar intellects...

      On the other hand, it does open up a new avenue for the old joke setup;

      How many Amazon inventors does it take...

      - to screw in a lightbulb?
      5 - one to screw it in, one to file a patent on the process of rotating an object until it is seated in a socket, and 3 more to pat each other on the back.

      • Amazon would never be so ineffective. They certainly would file several patents on this: One for rotating an object in order to get it seated, and another one for stopping the rotation at the point where it is seated, both with subclauses for the case that the object is a light bulb, that the place it is put into is a light bulb socket, and that the direction of rotation is clockwise (and to be on the safe side, also a subclause for the case where you put it in by counter-clockwise rotation). Then two furth

      • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @04:34PM (#42836775) Homepage Journal

        Why did the 5 Amazon inventors cross the road?

        To slap the chicken with a lawsuit for not purchasing a license to their method of relocating livestock from one side of a tarmac surface to the other via bipedal forward kinetics patent

    • Actually it took one guy to come up with it, the rest was this... []

      • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
        Well, kind of like that but the one guy that came up with it has long died of old age long before Amazon ever existed.
      • Dilbert is luck he only got his boss's name on it. I have a patent filed by an Internet company that has about a dozen names on it. One other engineer, besides myself, created all of the work described in the patent. But every manager in the two chains-of-command (tech and business) involved is on the patent, some of them people I had never heard of, plus as few who were completely unknown to me. The order of listing naturally has us two engineers at or close to the end of the list.

  • This is crazy why do companies even get patents like this anyways? I use to think that people who say we should do away with patents were a little crazy, but maybe it wouldn't be as bad as I thought if it were to happen? I don't know hard to say, but stuff like this is ridiculous. Something seriously needs to be done already.
    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      Honestly? Because just by itself it looks really small and harmless. No one would ever use it all by itself because it likely would be thrown out of court and/or invalidated. However to combine it with a hundred other equally ridiculous patents and you go after your smaller competition. The smaller guys might be able to fend off a few patent attacks, but if you throw your entire portfolio at them then it takes significantly more resources to fight. So the competition either capitulates, or licenses you

  • ...I use it so that I get a new pack of socks every 6 months...

    Nothing better than coming home from work to a fresh package of socks!


    • What happens if they "accidentally" change the price of your sucks upwards of 1000%? Does it still automatically purchase them?
  • So if you happen to be passing through Waterbury, Conn., and see a solid gold milk truck driving itself through the streets, you'll know it's Jeff Bezos.

  • by Dancindan84 ( 1056246 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:40PM (#42836039)

    How many amazon inventors does it take to screw in a light bulb? No one knows, but it takes 5 to figure out how to automatically send you a new one every 6 months.

  • Well ok then. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JustAnotherIdiot ( 1980292 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:40PM (#42836045)
    Did someone at Amazon tell their boss that you can patent the most bullshit things, and they're just seeing what the biggest BS patent they can get is?
  •'re doing it "using a computer"!!

    That makes it new, right? /sarcasm

  • Hmmm ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:41PM (#42836057) Homepage

    Columbia House did this years ago. I know many people get their oil or propane delivered regularly. TFS points out the milkman. Newspapers have been delivered for a long time.

    This is a business process, not an invention from what I can tell.

    Yet another patent which is a "system and methodology for doing something we've been doing for decades, but with a computer".

    Epic fail to the USPTO.

    • I signed up on the internet to have diapers delivered on a schedule in 2007, 2 years before the filing date.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by gstoddart ( 321705 )

        Wow, sorry to hear you need diapers, but glad you have the courage to admit it. ;-)

        But seriously, automated, recurring delivery is decades old, possibly more. How this could even be patented is beyond me.

  • maybe even webvan

    in the NYC area we have had a bunch of food delivery startup over the last 15 years

    in the dot bomb era we had webvan. you order food online and they deliver. they bombed.
    peapod is owned by a few B&M food stores and delivers
    Fresh Direct is the new all online food store in the NYC area. they even partner with nice buildings here in NYC to offer special holding rooms for food and to have the doorman sign for it. they have had subscription food delivery for a long time.

    Fresh Direct is a lit

  • Doesen't peepad have patents on stuff like this?

  • What if? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spaceyhackerlady ( 462530 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:47PM (#42836151)

    Are Amazon deliberately trying to discredit the USPTO, or even the entire patent system?

    This patent fails on so many criteria: prior art, lack of novelty, obvious. If it's granted, it's a crock.


    • Most likely Amazon's policy is to patent anything and everything they can come up with. There is no penalty for a rejected application, so the worst that can happen is they waste some lawyer-time - if they were more selective, they'd risk not patenting something good, or being beaten to file by a competitor who invented simutainously but didn't waste time deciding if the invention was patentable.

  • Is this a real filing or is Amazon (or it's engineers) trolling the USPTO to see if there are any signs of life?
    A software patent for something acting like the milkman that actually references milk deliveries? Something smells fishy.
  • Has first to file started yet?

    If Amazon is the first to file on this does it matter how many people have done it before or even if they didn't invent it. It's all about who gets first post at the USPTO now isn't it?

    Please help me understand. The broken patent system never made sense to me and the things Congress does to 'fix' it, like first to file, make even less sense.

  • by Assmasher ( 456699 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:59PM (#42836327) Journal

    ...his ACTUAL goal is to have software patents abolished entirely - while simultaneously protecting his company from others who patent things out of greed and avarice.

    This explains why he continually patents the most ridiculously obvious things - it's an effort to eventually (so he hopes) get the non-technical world to realize how absolutely f***ing stupid the software patent system is. Sadly, he appears to think that his efforts need to be even more obvious; ergo, the latest patent.

    I'm telling you - GENIUS...

    BTW - On a serious note, I'd be embarrassed as an engineer to have my name as 'inventor' on a patent so blatantly f***ing stupid.

  • You can't call art milk delivery, after all
  • I'm going to patent piping natural gas to homes. It's crazy but it just might work.

    • Re:We're doomed. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @04:33PM (#42836759)

      The inventor of that, William Murdoch, actually didn't patent it because James Watt Jr informed him that it wasn't patentable.

      James Watt's father, the more famous James Watt of steam engine fame, then went on to steal the idea for himself.

      *The* Watt is remembered as the father of the steam engine. His true contribution to history wasn't really technological: He invented patent trolling. Boulton and Watt's firm dominated the industrial revolution by systematically patenting every little detail they could come up with, right down to individual layouts of gears, and then letting the lawyers loose on anyone who dared compete. Far from advancing steam technology, he deliberately held it back, fearful that smaller and more practical engine technology would be disruptive to his highly profitable business manufacturing large stationary engines. Murdoch eventually became a partner in the firm once it passed from Sr to Jr, having established his loyalty both by his skill at invention and his willingness to perform industrial espionage - offering assistance to unsuspecting inventors and smaller steam firms, only so he could gain access to their workshops and later testify in court that he had seen them using mechanisms patented by Watt.

  • A patent on regular deliveries boinking all the stay at home wives in the neighborhood.
  • Sorry, Amazon, but I have pre-existing artwork on this. CSA's and standing wholesale orders for our farm products are delivered to customers on a re-occuring basis.

    Since I'm a generous and reasonable farmer I'll settle out of court with Amazon for a mere Billion dollars for their attempt to infringe on my business model.

  • This one is on a computer.

    This gives me an idea of some perverse strangeness, I need to create a patent for the automated regular delivery of items that will then schedule automated regular delivery of other items. Damn now I can't as I have publicly disclosed my patent idea.
  • by udippel ( 562132 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @04:34PM (#42836771)

    We were used to plentiful of uninformed /. 'news' over the last decade on patents and stuff; when 'filing' and 'granted' was considered the same, effectively, and lots of nonsense, like the contents of the abstract being considered as the underlying idea, or even as the legally binded grant, and much more.

    In a nutshell, I expected the same, yet again, and was almost reluctant to even go into the details and actually read the document.
    It is a patent
    It does grant what the summary said

    There is a comment from AC further up ("Bad summary of patent") stating correctly that it does contain a last minute change as necessity for potential infringement. True. But I can't believe that there is no anticipating document before 2009, where a recurring delivery system of any sorts had a 'last check' of possible modifications by the customer before the actual delivery.

    Much too often, I had to come to the defense of my former colleagues in patent examination. In this case, however, I need to agree when someone questioned if there are signs of life left in the office.
    Actually, I doubt it.

  • 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. []

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @05:24PM (#42837385) Journal

    Just like the "slider lock" smart-phone case; any emulation of an existing non-patented physical process should not by default get a patent. A specific implementation of an emulation, okay that may be patentable, but not the mere act of emulation.

    Thus one cannot patent emulating baseball itself because the act of baseball is not patentable (the game has been around a while). However, a specific algorithm for emulating the game is perhaps legitimately deserving of a patent, or at least a copyright. But that should not cover ALL baseball emulation attempts by competitors; only those that use the same algorithm. (Likely there are many ways to emulate baseball, to varying degrees.)

  • by ZahrGnosis ( 66741 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @05:25PM (#42837403) Homepage

    I said it before and I'll say it again. Taking something that exists and making it digital (or on the internet or on your phone or any "just-add-technology" change) doesn't make it new. Prior art should still apply...I refer you to my comment on Tuesday

    Obvious, Novel, and Prior Art aren't just digital []

  • Fire the reviewers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @06:25PM (#42838085)

    This is one instance where the incompetence of the reviewers is so blatant that they should no longer be working for the USPTO. There is a point that people need to be held accountable for their decisions. The USPTO has become too much of a rubber stamp under the idea that the courts will sort out any issues. The system breaks down under that model as many people do not have the money to go to court. The USPTO is hardly a speed bump in the patent process any more.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann