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Patent US8296192 – Method for making money on the internet (google.com)
206 points by nh on July 28, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 128 comments



"A man has a right to use a saw, an axe, a plane, separately; may he not combine their uses on the same piece of wood? He has a right to use his knife to cut his meat, a fork to hold it; may a patentee take from him the right to combine their use on the same subject? Such a law, instead of enlarging our conveniences, as was intended, would most fearfully abridge them, and crowd us by monopolies out of the use of the things we have."

- Letter to Oliver Evans, (16 January 1814); published in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1905) Vol. 13, p. 66.


In researching my forthcoming book, Without Their Permission, I found a great letter from Jefferson that went so far as to consider putting limits in the Bill of Rights: "Monopolies may be allowed to persons for their own productions in literature and their own inventions in the arts for a term not exceeding__years but for no longer term and no other purpose."

Letter to James Madison, August 28, 1789 http://www.founding.com/founders_library/pageID.2184/default...


Jefferson was the U.S.'s first patent examiner, this eventually became one of his most time consuming duties. It's claimed that this indicates he supported patents, which is false, as this letter, written well after his duties, shows[0]. He was simply trying to have them applied as granted as strictly as possible

[0]http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a1_8_8s12.... Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson 13 Aug. 1813 Writings 13:333--35

Jefferson was, of course, an inventor himself, though not as prolific of one as Benjamin Franklin, who also opposed patents.


Actually, he did become quite a convert on the topic of patents. See my comment above to see his change in perspective in a letter dated a scant year after the one you cited: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6118931


This, as with the patent comment, takes quotes out of context. The specific context relevant here is that while Jefferson was initially skeptical of patents, after only two months of being one of the first patent examiners, he became a firm believer. [1]

"An act of Congress authorising the issuing patents for new discoveries has given a spring to invention beyond my conception. Being an instrument in granting the patents, I am acquainted with their discoveries. Many of them indeed are trifling, but there are some of great consequence which have been proved by practice, and others which if they stand the same proof will produce great effect." - Jefferson to Benjamin Vaughan, June 27 1790 [2]

[1] http://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/pate...

[2] http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-16-02-03...


Those letters are quaint and all, but unless ratified in laws are off topic.


I disagree. As per the HN Guidelines [1]:

> On-Topic: ... anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity.

[1] http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I think he meant off-topic in a legal discussion because they are merely a lawmakers opinions and not actually law.


Off topic in a real courtroom, maybe. In the court of public opinion, Jefferson holds some sway.


It may be off topic in an argument against the propriety of a specific patent within the current system, but is absolutely on topic in an argument favoring reform due to that system having overstepped its initial charter. I think your parent was making the latter argument.


I think perhaps you meant "moot" (I love that word).


To give fuller context: Oliver Evans, one of America's earliest prolific inventors, wrote to Jefferson [1] discussing the extent of his patent rights and his concern that they were being misrepresented anonymously [2]. This quote is from Jefferson's response [3] to that letter.

(It's worth following the links in the letters above to see the story unfold.)

Now, here's where it gets interesting: Evans asserted his patent against Jefferson, and Jefferson did grudgingly pay royalties [4].

It's interesting how the passage years and being at the receiving end of a patent changes one's perspective [5].

[1] http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-07-02-00...

[2] http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-07-02-00...

[3] http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-07-02-00...

[4] "He enforced that patent against many mill operators, including Jefferson. From this experience, Jefferson understood the frustration of technology users confronted by activist patent holders. Ironically, it was his Board of Arts that granted Evans the patent." - http://www.hssonline.org/publications/Newsletter2009/July_Ma...

[5] "Jefferson's objections to the Evans patent are difficult to reconcile with the fact that his Board of Arts granted the patent in the first place. As much as he might argue, in 1813, that the Evans work was not novel, he and his colleagues had reviewed the Evans work in 1790 and considered it worthy of a patent at that time." - Jefferson Vs. the Patent Trolls: A Populist Vision of Intellectual Property Rights, Jeffrey H. Matsuura (http://books.google.com/books?id=10Tol-c7xH4C&lpg=PT74&ots=b...)


If these weren't depressing they'd be funny. For those who don't know the patent & trademark office (PTO) defines "obvious" as described in a prior patent or, sometimes, an academic paper. Even if everybody in the field has been doing the same thing for years it isn't "non obvious" unless somebody wrote to the PTO about it. But since it's obvious in reality those nobody except crooks bother to.

The whole system is rigged in favor of "people" who write up patentable junk -- those who have the time to write it into patents -- whereas people who actually build things are busy perfecting the trade skills the patent system was made to protect.

OK - tirade over. Back to my new app. My wife dreamed it up and we're writing it together. When finished and released, if it does well, some fat slob -- who never wrote or programmed anything useful in his life -- will show up to shake us down.


That's not at all how the prior art base of the USPTO, nor any other patent office, is defined. The problem is that these are the most easily searchable bases of prior art because their fields necessitate it: academics are required to find everything piece of related are on what they're researching when producing works like a PhD thesis, and as such huge databases of academic work exist which are easily searchable; patents in the US are also required to disclose all know prior art (I believe, US patent law isn't where my experience comes from), and as such, the larger patent offices (the European and US particularly) have had to develop tools for effectively searching patents. Patents are also usually a good source for prior art because they like to disclose things as broadly as possible so they can claim as broadly as they're allowed. If you find a document which describes something within the scope of the claim you're looking at, then you've got a great novelty citation.

The reason sometimes known things are allowed through is because the patent offices can find no proof that it is well known in the form of a single document before something can be called not novel. In some other juristrictions, common general knowledge in the art is more often used when it's known that something is already routine. even if there's nothing that clearly shows is, simply because it's so common.


> That's not at all how the prior art base of the USPTO, nor any other patent office, is defined.

Prior art isn't the issue.

To be patentable, an invention has to be: 1) non-obvious (to someone skilled in the art); 2) novel; 3) (other things).

Prior art addresses the novelty side of things. Not the non-obviousness side.

The requirement of non-obviousness sounds great in theory, but is in reality a joke, since the only test used is that of prior art.

It is possible for an invention to be obvious and yet for no prior art to exist. In technology one (non-obvious, novel, patentable) invention often enables a big pile of (novel but now obvious, and therefore not patentable) inventions. Using prior art as the only test for obviousness ignores this case entirely.


Yes - this is what I meant, though I think it's also what I wrote. It's not prior art; it's obviousness, and the USPTO defines non-obvious as published, co-mingling the two. So we see lots of patents for obvious tweaks from one platform to another. For example, the same functionality ported from local computer programs to web-based systems, client-server architecture, and now mobile all seems to qualify as non-obvious. In reality these ports are entirely obvious to anybody who understands that the underlying tech is basically the same.


I would strongly dispute this, and ask that you provide some proof that this happens. Examiners are quite well versed in their technology areas, and can see when a known idea has just been tweeked.


Prior art most definitely addresses the non-obviousness side of things. To show something is non-obvious, examiners will usually take two documents which together disclose all the features of the claimed invention, and say it would be obvious to combine them.

This is how it works in the US (and is quite frankly often quite unfair to the applicant, because the two documents may indeed have all the features, but the invention lies in the idea of combining these unrelated idea to result in something that is greater than the sum of its parts).

In most large juristrictions (excluding the US), there must be something that would lead a PSA to combine the ideas in the documents. So for example, if a claim is to features A, B, C, D and E, then to combine documents X and Y, they should both disclose say features A, B and C, and then one may disclose D, and the other may disclose E. In the US, it is very common for the examiner to find documents which disclose A, B, C and D, and then find a document that discloses E and has no relation to the first document (ie, the document is from a completely different field of endeavour) and combine them.

What this shows is that the US actually has a substantially higher standard in many ways than most countries. But the problem comes back to the prior art base; if you good citations are not found juring examination (and hey, examiners are people like you and me), they cannot make a good case that the application is not novel or is obvious.

> The requirement of non-obviousness sounds great in theory, but is in reality a joke, since the only test used is that of prior art.

Well no, it's not. If the claim is to a known idea with a well known alternative in the art (say a house put together using screws instead of nails), then that's clearly not inventive, and an examiner will object as such. These are often known as workshop improvements or well known alternatives in the art.

My question to you is that if a) the law requires evidence, and not just opinion, and b) it must be shown that something is was obvious at the application's priority date, what else is there to use apart from the prior art? Me saying "Yeah, I'm pretty sure that would have been obvious 4 years ago" is definitely not good enough, so how can I prove it without other documents?

> It is possible for an invention to be obvious and yet for no prior art to exist.

But again, the law requires that you can prove that, and if it is the case that the invention is obvious, there will almost without a doubt be some document or documents which shows this. Human beings are pretty good at documenting pretty much everything, it's just a matter of being able to find it.

The issue here is that most people don't understand the role prior art plays. They assume that it's only used for objections based on novelty, and it this is certainly not the case. Maybe many of the readers here could spend some time actually reading the objections given by offices like the USPTO and see that actually, the way they thought things should be run, but assumed they weren't, are actually standard practice.

If you believe you have proof an accepted application is not novel, or is obvious, then by all means, get on Ask Patents and submit it. But it is not, nor will it ever be, good enough to just say "Aww yeah, pretty sure I would've come up with that, now I've read their solution", which is how most people start when talking crap about these matters. The difference between "I think that's obvious!" and "Here, I have proof that obvious!" is millions of miles, and it's about time HN readers realised this.


imho, i say that the claims of the patent has to first be examined by a person skilled in the arts, without first reading the actual patent. If the person skilled in the arts is able to discern the inner workings of the patent _without_ having read the patent itself, then the patent can be deemed obvious and thus cannot be valid.


Uh what? So you're saying that if a PSA can understand the definition, it's not inventive? That's ridiculous. And you can bet that many patents are indeed examined without a reading of the description, it's often not necessary. The claims are supposed to stand on their own, and only when comes to matters of determining the exact scope of a term in a claim would you refer to the description most of the time. Also the description should give enough information about a topic that someone who's not an expert in the art (and this is distinct from someone who is skilled in the art) can fully understand the invention, but but apart from the clarifications I mentioned earlier, it plays little role.


This is another example of a patent with a specific scope being given an incredibly broad title.

This patent is actually on selling web site commenters the ability to have their comment appear in some kind of distinctive format, which might be a different font, or it might be appearing before the other comments.


Are you trying to imply that claim 1 has anything, and I mean anything, inventive? BTW this was filed in 2011, not in 1996...


Not at all, only that it's not what people are going to think it is by looking at the title.


I assumed that nobody could think that the title could be what was patented ;)


As someone not familiar with how patenting really works, that's exactly what I thought at first, and reading patents isn't exactly a clear way to understand what is "actually patented" either. In this case when I read it I understood, but sometimes reading them leaves me MORE confuses.


Dan Shapiro has written a good post on this: http://www.danshapiro.com/blog/2010/09/how-to-read-a-patent-...

To summarize, he says:

1. Skip the title

2. Skip the drawings

3. Skip the abstract

4. Skip the specification

5. Find the independent claims, and read them

6. Back to skipping – toss the dependent claims (any claim that starts with “The _____ of claim _____” is essentially a refinement or detail of the parent claim).


2. Skip the drawings

Except if they are flowcharts !


Step-by-step beginner's guide to determining the scope of patents:

1. Read the claims.

:-)


2. if something doesn't make sense in the claims, you can refer to the description for clarification of what the scope of terms encompass within their scope.

Also, as an ademdum to 1., specifically read the independant claims (the ones which don't mention other claims) for the definition of the broadest scope they're seeking to claim.


I'm not aware of any existing examples of websites that let you pay for comment bling on individual comments, letting you preview your bling to get the style you prefer as described in section (b) of claim 1. So yes, it does seem novel (which is different to "inventive" but is the criteria required for patents).

There are plenty of comment engines that offer avatars or paid subscriber adornments but few of these are per comment, none are pay-per-comment, none offer different prices depending on the chosen style (the "dynamically adjustable" in the claim) and none let you preview the adornment at upgrade time (instead of at comment time).

The question is not whether the idea is good, whether the idea is radically different -- but whether you've seen this specific set of steps used before.


The idea doesn't need to be radically different, but it does need to be non-obvious.


Tumblr has "promoted posts", which do essentially this, but which were only introduced in 2012, after this patent was filed.


I can remember a number of marketplaces, including ebay and a number of forum/bulletin board based sites promoting certain postings to have a different border, background color, etc. I do not think that applying the same kind of filtering to include comments instead of topics is that inventive.


Fwiw, one of my relatives built a press release site. You could post press releases for free, and pay to put stars next to them. The more stars you buy, the higher it sorts. He sold the business for seven figures.

It's a little different from this patent because the "comments" aren't related to particular articles.


Still doesn't seem like a very novel idea worthy of a patent.


Novelty requires proof through a single disclosue (read document) which discloses all the features of the claim. It is not, as with most things in the law, left up to a weak oppinion or a feeling of "Hmm, I'm sure someone must've done that before!"


I think the novel part of it is the on-posting-comment payment. Which I certainly haven't seen implemented anywhere.


It's not. Prior art is newspaper advertisement. You can't patent something as new just because it's done with a computer, as everyone knows.

I bet this will be invalidated as soon as someone tries to enforce it. Easily.

But this viral market attempt suggest they will try to get money from some sucker troll before, which I'm all for.


This is not equivalent to a newspaper advertisment because a newspaper isn't online content (though it's close enough that an argument could be made on the inventive step). However, there is definitely potential that this is novel.

I was going to say that there is also no method of changing a user comment on a newspaper after it has been created, but on a second inspection of the claim, there's no requirement for this within the claim. And based on that, I think you may well be right that there is a good chance of invalidation, because the system boils down to a system where one can place advertisments on specific parts of a piece of online content and being able to pay more for a better looking ad.


Ok. I'll grant you the patent is slightly less hilariously stupid then the title suggested.


...which still should never have been granted a fucking patent. That is absolutely block-headedly idiotic.


wow, axman6, it's like you're the patent holder or something.


Specific scope? Like hell! This could apply to any Internet content.


Do you know how to read a patent document and assess the scope claimed? Because with a comment like that, it's pretty clear you don't. The scope is both quite clear and narrow/specific and most definitely could not apply to almost anything at all on the internet.


It's a far, far smaller scope than "Making money on the internet". Which would imply, for instance, eBay or World of Warcraft. Neither of those cases could be considered prior art for this.


A massive subset of everything is still very large.


Like the way Livejournal lets users with paid accounts choose which userpic appears next to a comment? I believe they've been doing this for years...


No, because that's not paid per comment.


right, I should file a patent based on each comment _line_ or _character_.


What I find confusing: This is not a technical invention. It's not a device or process. And where is the "inventive step"?

It's a monetization strategy, and not a particularly clever one at that. Since when is the idea of charging money for something a patentable invention? Absurd.


Interesting how much of the commentary here is on the patent being silly, rather than the implications of the monetization technique that the patent describes. We are allowing people to pay a fee to have their expression privileged over others. We are monetizing the salience of information, a betrayal of the very spirit of the Internet (or, at the least, the techno-utopian ideal of the Internet).

So yeah, patents are silly. But perhaps what's in the patent is equally troubling.


If you're troubled by the idea of some private website ranking comments by payment, something they can do whether this patent exists or not, you should be happy that patenting one process for doing so makes it more (difficult|expensive) for future sites to do that.


Question: If I build a start up here in Bolivia, it gets big among Latinamerican users - can I take a huge giant shit on the US patent system? Or does the patent system apply if my website application code is hosted on US servers?


From what I learned from a WIPO course a decade ago, every country that signed the Paris Convention[1] (like the Berne Convention, but for patents) must treat patents filed in another signing country as valid in their own.

    when an applicant files an application for a patent or a trademark
    in a foreign country [...] the owner benefits from the same protection
    and the same legal remedy against any infringement as if the owner was
    a national owner of this right
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Convention_for_the_Prote...


The PCT relates mostly to claims for priority of patents, so if a document is files in say the US, the applicant may then later (within a specified time period) file an application in another PCT country and claim the same priority date as the US application (ie, the date of filing). All patents are applicable within a single nation only, so just because company X has patent Y in country Z down not mean you can't use the invention in country W unless X has a patent to the same invention in country W as well. However, if they've filed using the PCT they will by default designate they wish for all member countries to examine the patent, so until that patent has lapsed in each country, there is a possibility that the inventor may persue protection and you may then be infringing that patent. Fun stuff.


I'm curious about this too. Do patents only apply to US owned/registered companies or can companies/people from other countries get in trouble for hosting patent-infringing code on Amazon/etc


From Title 35 US Code section 271 (35 USC 271)

>>>>>

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent.

(b) Whoever actively induces infringement of a patent shall be liable as an infringer.

(c) Whoever offers to sell or sells within the United States or imports into the United States a component of a patented machine, manufacture, combination or composition, or a material or apparatus for use in practicing a patented process, constituting a material part of the invention, knowing the same to be especially made or especially adapted for use in an infringement of such patent, and not a staple article or commodity of commerce suitable for substantial noninfringing use, shall be liable as a contributory infringer. <<<<

So host your site abroad and don't induce US customers to use your software within the USA. Running your software abroad and soliciting US customers to run your software on your servers abroad would seem not to be covered. Check with your lawyer; laws are often interpreted to mean the opposite of the plain meaning of the text.


For the courses I took, you cannot care less. Just keep your server away from USA. The patents are national. They protect the "import" of infringing merchandise, but as you can see by all the chinese rip-offs that's a waterloo. In the worst case scenario they can block your website. Or bomb your country ;)


Good question.

And if I'm running a small startup in the US that gets sued by a troll, can I disband my corporation and set up shop under a foreign corporation outside the US (if that's feasible in my personal circumstances)?


Do you buy from or sell services to the American market, or a market that recognizes and enforces American patents?

If no, then you're probably okay. Remember "services" can mean anything including DNS, registrar services, or hosting.


I should get a patent on "making money by asserting patents". Then I would only grant myself a license and hence have the only patent left that can make money.

Seriously. The way out is a blanket "No software patents" statement from congress; or along the line of what Twitter is doing where all inventors have to agree if their patent is used offensively (although lawyers at my company tell me that such a restriction actually has no legal standing).


Too late (https://www.google.com/patents/WO2004095226A2?cl=en&dq=%22pa...). Dude beat you to it by several years.


Does that really matter? It apply for a patent and you can patent stuff that is clearly not patentable and sue people left and right. :-/

It is sad this serious problem has been so poorly addressed for so long. If we are lucky in the next couple of years at least the most egregious attacks on business using a broken patent and legal system will be reduced, though even that may fail to be done :-(


Too late!? Never! Just change the wording slightly and they'll issue it to you again as well. A few well aimed s///g's is about all it takes these days.


Aww man! I had this idea too.

Are they doing anything with this patent?


They should start using that against patent trolls.


What if they acquired a license? We would have come full circle, proving the idiocy of this system and, implicitly, that the intelligence of those who administer it is quite limited at best.


IBM has already applied for a patent on patent trolling: http://www.google.com/patents/US20070244837



<sarcasm>

Oh yeah! I'm gonna get a patent on making patents on asserting patents. Then when your patent on asserting patents gets tried in court, I'm gonna claim prior art on your patent and get all the monies. Them I'm gonna get a patent on granting patents and sue the patent office and get royalties everytime they grant a patent.

</sarcasm>


Do you realize that a patent on "making money by asserting patents" wouldn't be a software patent? Please realize that the patent system is flawed in more ways than that, and simply disallowing all software patents is not going to fix the problem.


You're correct.

I used the term "Software Patent" in a broader sense to include patents "Business Methods".


It would fix most of it.


Couple of years back I'd proposed a cure for patent trolls: Large tech companies form a non-profit group and preemptively attack patent portfolio of companies that they mutually agree to be trolls. The entire business model of trolls hang on a fact that they will be the first attacker so their litigation expenses are small. If a patent troll gets spammed with 100s of lawsuits for bad patent grants at the same time, they will go out of business just from the expense of litigation or at least trolling would not be as much lucrative. Obviously this plan has its own risk: this non-profit group can start attacking legitimate patent holders to keep them out of the game. But even bigger issue is that lot of large companies are already in bed with largest trolls themselves such as IV. I don't see other great ways to curb trolling. The effort like Ask Patent can prevent some bad future patents but it would be very hard to get law in place that cancels bad patents that have already been granted.


Part of the definition of "patent troll" is that the troll undertakes no economic activity other than launching lawsuits. Therefore, a troll cannot be sued preemptively.


One can certainly file preemptive law suits to seek declaratory judgement that any granted patents are invalid and/or unenforceable. This had been done by some companies who felt there was risk to their business from certain patent owners.

A troll typically holds 100s of patents and always on look out for opportunity to cash them out. If they are preemtively slammed with 100s of lawsuits for each patent they hold, their legal resources would be overwhelmed without possibility of huge rewards. It would be hard to imagine that they would be able to keep shop open for long time when everybody is attacking them for no apparent reason.


For me the most interesting part in this patent was a "PATENT CITATIONS" section. Most of the patents in this section are quite obvious as well. Like Amazon's "Method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network" basically describes every E-Commerce site on the internet.


I'm confused about how something like this actually affects us in the startup world. Should I stop trying to innovate because everything I could possibly think of is already patented.. or simply disregard the existence of these patents?


Disregard, then fight it later if you grow big enough to matter.

That said, it can seriously screw you over if you get unlucky: http://www.k9ventures.com/blog/2011/04/27/modista/


Or just be based in a non-US jurisdiction without any US offices or employees!


Only tangentially related: from the story,

> I told them then that “Whatever you do next, I’m ready to back you anytime.”

Except, you know, when it actually requires backing them up? Specially this paragraph:

> the lawsuit torpedoed Modista’s financing. And since they didn’t have the money to hire lawyers to defend themselves, they had to accept a default judgment against the company

The guy gracefully pushes to the side that the reason they couldn't afford lawyers was because he personally pulled funding from them when his goose that laid the golden eggs turned to be just a very, very good goose.


> Apparently a corporation can only be represented by an attorney in a litigation and cannot be represented by the founders or officers

Stuff like that is enraging. Free country, huh? You're not even allowed to represent yourself.


No, you're not allowed to represent the corporation, which is a separate and legally distinct entity from yourself. Since the corporation is a legal person, but cannot represent itself (not being an natural person, it cannot operate pro se), it must be represented by an attorney. That, then, brings in regulations on who may act as attorney (which is not always synonymous with lawyer or barrister) in litigation in a given jurisdiction. If you wish to represent yourself, then you need to be personally party to the litigation, which is what the legal personhood of the corporation protects you from (to a degree).


It's important to note that this specific dispute has been resolved and modista is working again.


That said, Modista is back up!


Sometimes I think that obviously ridiculous patents like this are a good thing. They're so absurd that they're nearly satire, and satire is often an excellent critical weapon. How out-of-control does the system get before judges and lawmakers clearly see that it's not operating as intended? Not much further.


This is hilarious, actually. I like that the same guy also has pending action on the lucrative "methods for making slip resistant file folders" market.

https://www.google.com/patents/US20120217211


So they are patenting the 'just my 2 cents' ?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_two_cents

Although I didn't properly RTFA, there are may ways in which one can hook narcissistic gamblers in forums or news sites. The price of the comment can be set in a bid-like fashion with people raising their bids and paying more and more to keep their comment first. They can also pay to upvote or downvote comments or plain remove them. You can have comment wars with real money in no time :).

Bitcoin sounds like a perfect fit for such a system, allowing anonymous comments as well. But haven't I seen something like this somewhere already - reddit tips , for instance ?



The title is obviously overreaching, but the content of the patent seems to be extremely broad, as well. I won't claim to have read more than the brief description, but it appears that this patents paid, user-specific formatting for any type of web content.


FYI, if you want to learn more about a specific patent, you can read the examiner's reasons for allowance at the public pair website (http://portal.uspto.gov/pair/PublicPair)

Looking at that site, the reasons for allowance are the claimed features of:

"...displaying to a reader, who can leave a reader comment in response to said online information, an offer associated with said online information, said offer being an offer to alter a reader comment from said free default format to a distinctive format for a fee"

*with a priority date of 6/6/2009


So, the incredibly ridiculously generic claim 1 has been granted? I really have no more words to express what I think about software patents.


Claim 1 is fairly specific. All points (a) through (d) have to apply.


To spell it out, the precise problem with this specific patent is the ambiguity of the terms used in the claims. "Online information" and "reader comment" can describe the content of any one-to-many data relationship presented on the web.


I would like to patent a method for making money by filing completely obvious and trivial patents, pushing it through the PTO, and then suing everyone in sight. I am almost certain there is no prior art for this, right?


I was expecting John von Neumann to be listed as the inventor:

The system also includes a processor for executing the computer executable instructions, and a memory for storing at least the computer executable instructions.


Bollocks! Ok, if one has to defend against this patent, how to go about it?


So essentially like VIP membership of any dating site out there.

Or advertising in general.

On the other hand, if we implemented this across the board, we could do away with these cumbersome comment voting systems!


Okay, so they own a patent... It takes $ to enforce, protect, and win a litigation for. Once won, they then have to collect... Taken voice - "Good Luck"


I honestly couldn't tell if this was a troll or not


I see a broadly titled patent like this one as a mechanism scaring small companies into settling. I wonder if it is worth building systems anymore.


The title of a patent has absolutely nothing at all to do with it's scope. Any company who was sued would surely consult a lawyer and they would tell them the scope of the patent is defined in the claims.


The title's of patents are often misleading. Also, prior art allows this patent to be easily (and cheaply) fought in a lawsuit


What does "cheaply" mean? One could still buy ramen?


I wonder if there is a patent on robbing a bank?


...providing to said reader a preview of said distinctive format comment...

Said US Patent system is, said, such a, said, bullshit.


That's it! I'm going to finally file that patent on how gas passes through a butthole!


What about a patent to use patent litigation to make money? The you can sue the trolls ;)



Is this funny or sad? I'm more confused after actually reading it.


So this is a patent for self payed advertisement for your own comments?


Or the comments of others. So I could pay to tag your comment with a clever gif or something.


aka reddit gold.


Or Facebook promoted posts


Neither of which has a dynamically generated price, and thus neither of which would be subject to this patent.


Claim 1, the broadest claim, doesn't require that.


It does. 1.b.i.


So it does, my mistake.


Did both reddit gold, or Facebook promoted posts exist before the priority date? If not, they're irrelevant (except to the applicant as a target for infringement).


Cmon guys, this is not a patent on making money on the internet, it's just ONE method of doing it, and to be honest it's a good idea. Don't think it's a good idea, but I bet the 138 upvotes here aren't from readers who understood that.


Question: why doesn't prior art entirely rule these out?


It does. It only costs $1mil to go to court and prove it.


Do you have some prior art? People on HN love to use terms like prior art without knowing what they mean. You actually have to show that a) it's been done before, or at least something similar enough existed that the difference is not inventive and b) the document(s) was available publicly before the priority date of the application.


I don't personally, but I reckon a day with way-back machine may be enough to establish prior art. That's the problem with overly general patents, unfortunately.

Also good to know I've finally become one of the "people on HN" though for having a bit of common sense! It's good folks here, and I'm glad to be part of the community.


Give it a go, see what you can find.

There are some problems with the wayback machine when it comes to patents. One of which is that if their robots are blocked using robots.txt, they will remove all previous content that would also have been blocked (or at least, the content can be removed by the author though some means). This is pretty shitty when the best citation is something from the inventor themselves, and they go and delete all history of the content.


So this is a patent for sponsored comments?


Seems like its easy to find shitty patents. How about we link to ones we think are well-deserved? Are there any well-deserved patents relating to the web?


Is there a patent of patent system yet?




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