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Amazon Patents Annotating Books, Digital Works 125

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the my-emate-does-it-better dept.
theodp writes "On Tuesday, the USPTO granted Amazon a patent on its Method and System for Providing Annotations of a Digital Work, which covers 'receiving an annotation of the digital work, storing the annotation, and providing the annotation to a user.' This includes annotations received in a graphical or handwriting format, as well as highlighting of text." I think I smell at least one example of prior art.
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Amazon Patents Annotating Books, Digital Works

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @10:16AM (#39274955) Journal

    I think I smell at least one example of prior art.

    Ughhhh, Unknown Lamer, you're making defend an Amazon patent. The earliest timestamp I can find for Okular is August 27th, 2006 [kde.org] while the patent in question was filed a year and a half earlier on January 19th, 2005. I'm not saying that there is no prior art, I'm just saying I couldn't find any hard evidence of Okular being conceived prior to Amazon's patent. Now I have to go take a shower ...

    • Yeah I would have mentioned the annotation features in Word, Excel and Adobe Reader.

      • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @10:23AM (#39275023)

        Hell even the Newton [wikipedia.org] could even do that, just not very well.

        • So you're saying you had a Newton and were displeased with it? Or are you saying you read what some people wrote and are going with repeating their opinion(s)? I had (and still have and it still works) a Newton. It worked (and still works) fine. I really like my old Newton. Lots of people complained about the Newton but their expectations considering the technology of the day were a bit much. I wasn't as pleased with a "small toy" until I got an iPhone 4 (which is, in essence, derived from the Newton).
          • by geekoid (135745)

            their expectations where based on what Apple told them. The Newton was a marketing flop.

            • Many good ideas from many people and companies have flopped over the years due to marketing and other reasons. Many bad ideas have done very well such as VHS over Beta. I was just checking. You obviously never owned one so you don't know how nice Newtons were for their day. It lived up to my expectations and more. As to "...what Apple told them..." - All advertisements are that way. That is the nature of advertising. Apple does it. Microsoft does it. The people who make Charmin bathroom tissue do it. Politi
          • by Anonymous Coward
            Did you know ...?

            ... that a product review of the Newton wasn't the point of this article, the summary, nor was it the point of anybody who happened to mention a Newton?
          • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @10:59AM (#39275363)

            Now, see, this, ladies and gentlemen, is a textbook, museum-exhibit-quality example of a Standard-Issue Classic Model Apple Fanboy. Note the stark contrast between his call to consider the technology of the time when the Newton was released with his primitive, volcano-god-worshiping fervor with which he rushes to defend what he perceives to be a slight against his master. Observe the immediate, hostile defensive stance taken by the poster, a reaction typically reserved for personal verbal attacks, generally not for negative remarks, no matter how factual or innocuous, against shiny, overpriced gadgetry. And, as is frequently the case with this sort of person, the attempt to dismiss any further criticism (including evidence to the initial claim, in this case including the fact that nobody bought the Newton) by likening this device to something popular today, hoping to change the subject before things get less-than-perfect for the history of the Cupertino company.. Simply marvelous.

            Next up on our tour, an Amiga Persecution Complex sufferer and the closely-related N900 User...

          • by equivocal (655448)
            I still own an MP2K.1. It lost the ability to set the date sometime in 2010. It reverts back to the 1970's. If Apple wants to patent something, they should patent that.

            The tablet gadget I use now is a Nokia N810. Best tablet Apple ever made.
        • Hell even the Newton [wikipedia.org] could even do that, just not very well.

          From the first claim:

          --receiving multiple annotations from different authors for particular content in a digital work; --storing the annotations in association with the digital work; --providing a list of abbreviated versions of the annotations to a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations, wherein the list presents the annotations in an order determined by reference to a criterion; --receiving an authorization credential from a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations; and if the authorization credential is valid, --providing a full version of one or more of the annotations of the digital work to the user in context with regard to the digital work

          I had a Newton, and I don't remember it doing any of those.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Now now, we know that prior art doesn't matter anymore. Remember our awesomely wonderful patent reform? http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/09/09/0042242/patent-reform-bill-passes-senate [slashdot.org]. Amazon is the first to file, so obviously they retain all the rights!

          Of course I didn't RTFAs

          • by Epimer (1337967)

            The change from first to invent to first to file doesn't have anything to do with the consideration of prior art.

        • by DdJ (10790)

          It's true. In the mid-1990s, I was using a Newton connected to a phone line to receive faxes, annotate them, and send them back. It was crude, but extremely valuable to me at the time.

          The devices running the General Magic software, "MagicCap", were a bit better at it, since it was almost all they could do!

          (They were pen-based devices like the Newton, but unlike the Newton, they did not attempt handwriting recognition. So when you wrote a mail message to someone, you sent them a drawing, not anything a co

      • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @10:29AM (#39275081) Journal

        Yeah I would have mentioned the annotation features in Word, Excel and Adobe Reader.

        Hmmm, I wasn't aware that these products allowed you to connect to a centralized server for storing/receiving annotations as far back as 2005. Are you sure you're not confusing the functionality to store them on the documents themselves? The first line of the patent summary reads:

        Methods and systems for receiving and distributing annotations of a digital work include receiving an annotation of the digital work, storing the annotation, and providing the annotation to a user.

        Emphasis mine. I remember being able to save notes and annotations on documents in Word but if those are changed or updated or added to, they wouldn't get these changes until they got my new version of the document.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You're doing it wrong. When there's a story about a patent filing, you're supposed to post about anything you can think of vaguely related to the patent in question's field, regardless of how it relates to the actual patent that you obviously didn't read, and scream PRIOR ART!!!!!! You get bonus points for every year after the patent filling that your "prior art" was released. 2X modifier if you manage to mix up trademarks and patents, 3X if you refer to the trademark as a copyright while doing so.

        • by JobyOne (1578377) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @11:18AM (#39275581) Homepage Journal

          So sending and receiving a digital file (after all, that's what the annotations are, at the end of the day) from a server is non-obvious? You can't say "well, nobody ever sent and received *this particular type* of file before, so I'm inventing!"

          Fuck that. A file is a file, and syncing it with a server is syncing it with a server, regardless of the content of that file.

          I think Wikipedia could count as prior art. After all, it's nothing but a system for storing/receiving annotations to a digital work, and then distributing them to users depending on various criteria. Annotating text is annotating text, whether that text is hypertext or an ebook...FFS most ebook formats ARE hypertext in a stupid wrapper.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I receive annotations in word files all the time. Then I edit the file, adding annotations, and distribute the file back to the group.

          So you're saying that SVN / e-mail / ... all ought to qualify as prior art? Interesting...

        • by wireloose (759042) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @12:14PM (#39276347)
          The patent's main features, from what I can see, are that it allows for authentication controls to limit access to the annotations, and for compensation methods as well. Most of the abstract describes these features.

          Methods and systems for receiving and distributing annotations of a digital work include receiving an annotation of the digital work, storing the annotation, and providing the annotation to a user. The user may be required to submit a valid authorization credential for the annotation. Annotations may be textual or graphical, and may be associated with particular content in a digital work. Indicators may be displayed to identify content in the digital work for which annotations are available. A user may exchange compensation or perform a specified action for access to an annotation. Some or all of the compensation received for an annotation may be distributed to the author of the annotation. Multiple annotations may be listed in an order based a criterion, such as ranking, price, or date of receipt. Users that purchase a digital work may automatically receive an authorization credential to receive annotations of the digital work.

          Also, annotations for MS Office documents are stored in the documents themselves, not kept seperately. Authentication in MS Office documents is limited to encryption passwords, if you have the password to the document, you also have access to the annotations.

          The focus here is on e-commerce related to the annotations. I can see it being used for educational e-texts. Certainly, an engine could also be sold to businesses of all kinds for sensitive document development and review.

          I can also see it being used to patent troll against Microsoft and anyone else that has annotation and comment abilities in their applications.

          • by chrismcb (983081)

            I can also see it being used to patent troll against Microsoft and anyone else that has annotation and comment abilities in their applications.

            While I hate the "now we are doing on the internet so it is new" patents... When you use a patent, to protect the device you are making, you are NOT a patent troll. That is the whole point of a patent process.

        • Hmmm, I wasn't aware that these products allowed you to connect to a centralized server for storing/receiving annotations as far back as 2005.

          Yes. We called them file servers and it predates 2005.

          In the early days this functionality was marketed as "workgroups" where people could create a document and put it on a centralized server. Coworkers would open the document and make annotations or even modify the document itself (a.k.a. redlining) and save the new version. It was a selling point for Microsoft Offi

          • In addition to my previous post, my office been doing group work and saving the modified documents using subversion for long while.
        • It is not supposed to matter if implementation is trivial. Let me guess: they send some kind of TCP/IP messages between nodes and a server. Let's make this clear right now; "receiving" and "distributing" information between nodes and servers should not be patentable. It is the number one use case of the server-node system. It does not matter if they are working with annotations, instant messages or email. If they have developed some novel method of message passing that deserves a patent (unlikely) then
        • You are correct.  It is profound genius, and should be patentable.
      • by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @12:19PM (#39276405) Homepage Journal

        Barnes & Noble should be able to squash this one.
        Their Reader, formerly Fictionwise ereader, formerly Palm Reader, formerly PeanutPress has annotation with highlighting (on both DRM'ed and non-DRM'ed content).

        I used it to annotate stuff back in the late 90s, and I still use it.

        • I wrote Weasel Reader for Palm OS (http://weaselreader.org [weaselreader.org]) starting in 2000 mostly because I was dissatisfied with Peanut/Palm Reader as well as the program from Adobe. From early on, I had included an annotation feature because it was asked for and because most of the other readers did not include one. Annotations were anchored to a particular location in the text, had a title and body, and you could view a list of all annotations in a document. Aside from general thank yous, I probably received more s

      • by Bigby (659157)

        How about Mr. Patent themselves: IBM

        IBM Content Manager has had annotation layers on documents since at least version 7.0. They even created a format to store it (this was before SVG). I don't have any idea when 7.0 was released, but they are currently on 8.5 and 8.1 was release before 2003. My guess is that they have had it since at least 1999.

      • by nedwidek (98930)

        This sounds just like IBM eReview (internal project). I was on the development team in 2001 and the architect from 2003-6. It's still used internally to review many of the external products' documentation. Amazon's patent goes beyond what we did, but many of their dependent and independent claims would have been covered.

        While we never did follow through on making it an external product, it was shown to Adobe and others.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Doesn't matter. We're a first-to-file country now, and there's no such thing as "obvious".

  • Bogus summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by dtmos (447842) * on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @10:17AM (#39274965)

    . . . which covers 'receiving an annotation of the digital work, storing the annotation, and providing the annotation to a user.'

    No, it does not. It covers A PARTICULAR METHOD of 'receiving an annotation of the digital work, storing the annotation, and providing the annotation to a user.' Specifically,

    A computer-implemented method for providing an annotation of a digital work, comprising:
    --under control of instructions that are executed by one or more computing devices:
              --receiving multiple annotations from different authors for particular content in a digital work;
              --storing the annotations in association with the digital work;
              --providing a list of abbreviated versions of the annotations to a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations, wherein the list presents the annotations in an order determined by reference to a criterion;
              --receiving an authorization credential from a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations; and if the authorization credential is valid,
              --providing a full version of one or more of the annotations of the digital work to the user in context with regard to the digital work.

    The patent covers a method that includes all five of the listed elements (receiving, storing, providing, etc.). Your favorite method must include all five of these elements, and be published before the filing date (19 January 2005) to be classified as disqualifying prior art. Not include one (or more) of these elements? Then it's not disqualifying prior art. (I'm speaking in generalities here, and ignoring other independent claims, apparatus claims, and lots of special cases. See your attorney if it matters to you.)

    The Okular annotation method, while no doubt earlier and better in every way, seems not to include many of these elements, and so would not be disqualifying prior art.

    Can we become better educated on patents -- maybe just a little -- so that we can not panic every time somebody patents something? By that I mean, can we start quoting Claim 1 in the summary, instead of the abstract?

    I note in passing that the Patent Examiner reviewed (approximately; I counted by hand) 184 US patents and patent applications, 6 foreign patent documents, and 80 other references, looking for art, and that the examination process took more than seven years to complete. Whatever else one may say about this patent, it wasn't rubber-stamped.

    • Re:Bogus summary (Score:5, Informative)

      by jabuzz (182671) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @10:19AM (#39274979) Homepage

      Sure but it should have failed the "obvious to someone skilled in the art" test.

      • Sure but it should have failed the "obvious to someone skilled in the art" test.

        Sadly, there is no such test.
        The USPTO is fine with granting you a weak patent as long as you've dotted your i's and crossed your t's. It's essentially up to the courts to decide. Unfortunately, they're more expensive and even less skilled in the arts.

        • by Rolgar (556636)

          The obviousness standard in place should be replaced with this:

          Press Release: USPO announces that Amazon has filed for a patent on annotating digital books. This patent will be considered obvious if somebody else can provide a working model of this within the next two months. Any submissions after the end of the second month 1 month for every 2 business days before the alternative submission is submitted. When the patent length has reached 10 years (on date XXX-XX approximately 1 year from today's announcem

          • by Rolgar (556636)

            Correction for a mis-edit: Any submissions after the end of the second month shall grant the filer a patent for one month for every two business days before the alternative submission is submitted.

            To explain: If a patent is filed Jan 2, on March 2+4 business days, if nothing has been submitted, then every business day that no solution is found will make the patent good for 2 weeks/half a month. Since there are 520 weeks in 10 years, 10 years of immunity will be reached after 240/260 business days (depending

          • Re:Bogus summary (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @11:50AM (#39276007) Homepage Journal

            The obviousness standard in place should be replaced with this:

            Press Release: USPO announces that Amazon has filed for a patent on annotating digital books. This patent will be considered obvious if somebody else can provide a working model of this within the next two months.

            By definition, your proposed standard relies on hindsight, since you're showing something is obvious only after looking at it. Any engineer these days can sketch out a simple internal combustion engine on the back of a napkin. Does that mean that in the 1800s, internal combustion engines were obvious? No. Hindsight has no place in patents.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Rolgar (556636)

              Of course somebody over a hundred years after the original invention of a device could have a complete understanding of the device in question. But the point of the obviousness standard should be to determine if an invention is something that multiple inventors could have come up with today, or if one person came up with the invention and that person is the only one who could have done it. If the industry was at a point where the invention were inevitable because dozens or more engineers could come up with

            • by Fishbulb (32296)

              Go watch Connections (the original 10 episode series) with James Burke. Free on YouTube:

              Connections Ep01: The Trigger Effect [youtube.com]

            • by sjames (1099)

              The idea is to disclose only the capability, not the method in the patent. If THAT results in one or more viable designs in short order, the invention itself was obvious. You can't patent a need or desire for a functionality, only a method of providing it.

              • The idea is to disclose only the capability, not the method in the patent. If THAT results in one or more viable designs in short order, the invention itself was obvious. You can't patent a need or desire for a functionality, only a method of providing it.

                That makes no sense... Your "capability" won't be what's claimed, but just a broader, unpatentable concept. Say I'm Toyota and invent a new gas-electric hybrid engine... Would you just say "gas electric hybrid"? Sorry, that's not patentable - prior art exists for that going back a hundred years. You'd have to disclose not just the capability, but the specific implementation... at which point, anyone following is using hindsight.

                • by sjames (1099)

                  I don't think you understood properly, the capability is disclosed BY THE PATENT OFFICE based on the patent being examined. The purpose is to see if others will submit ideas resembling the not yet disclosed patent. If they do, the patent is denied for obviousness.

                  • I don't think you understood properly, the capability is disclosed BY THE PATENT OFFICE based on the patent being examined. The purpose is to see if others will submit ideas resembling the not yet disclosed patent.

                    But only the claims would be sufficiently specific to name the capability claimed by the inventor - since that's exactly what they are there for. In other words, if the Patent Office discloses the claims, then others are using improper hindsight. If the Patent Office instead paraphrases the claims, then the paraphrased version isn't what the inventor is claiming. Either way, it'd violate due process.

                    • by sjames (1099)

                      Where does due process come into this? Put out summary, get replies. Compare replies to submitted patent. If similar, reject patent. If not, patent at least has some minimal amount of non-obviousness to it.

                      The claims do not name the capability, they name the methodology to fulfill the capability.

      • Re:Bogus summary (Score:4, Interesting)

        by pruss (246395) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @10:44AM (#39275229) Homepage

        Something I've wondered about, as a non-lawyer, is how exactly the obviousness test works. Some solutions are obvious once you formulate the problem with sufficient specificity. Here the problem is something like: "How to make dynamic annotations by multiple authors, with different preferences about the distribution range for their annotations, usefully available to the user of an electronic work?" Given this formulation of the problem, the solution in this patent is pretty obvious.

        But the problem itself isn't obvious. And there is an art to formulating a problem in such a way as makes a solution obvious. One could, after all, formulate the problem in a way that doesn't make this solution obvious: "How to do something really useful with an electronic work?" or even more specifically: "How to make an annotation system more sophisticated?"

        And I know that when I implemented initial annotation support in the Plucker e-text reader for PalmOS in March, 2004 [plkr.org], nothing as sophisticated as this patent occurred to me.

        So, is the obviousness test a test of the obviousness of a solution or of the problem or both?

        • by skiflyer (716312)

          Also curious - but on patents like this one I'm always struck by the fact that there's nothing interesting except for the "put it on a computer" part. Yes, there was a time when digitizing was non-obvious, but now it seems to me that adding "on a computer" would fit with just about everything. Certainly everything media related.

          Margin notes have worked this way for hundreds of years, though they've fallen out of favor recently. Authorization to receive the annotations seems like a pretty weak addition, but

          • Margin notes have worked this way for hundreds of years, though they've fallen out of favor recently. Authorization to receive the annotations seems like a pretty weak addition, but I guess you could cite a library card if you wanted to take my analogy too far.

            Not really... Say you pick up a book - do you get to see only abbreviated margin notes until you show the book your library card, at which point you can then see the full margin notes?

            • But we already have many methods of implementing credentials and privileges. They are trivial to make and very obvious as soon as "over the internet" is added to anything. Patents are not supposed to be a permutation game.
          • by chrismcb (983081)

            Also curious - but on patents like this one I'm always struck by the fact that there's nothing interesting except for the "put it on a computer" part.

            It isn't the concept that is being patented. You can't patent ideas. It is the HOW that is being patented. So yes the "put it one a computer" part IS the interesting part. Or do you propose to take your pen out and write in the margin on the screen?
            What kills me is the "on the internet part" because that really isn't interesting. Distributed computing, client/server computing yes, "on the internet" no. Doing distributed computing, doing multiple user is more complicated than interacting with a single user

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Epimer (1337967)

          I have to start with a disclaimer: it depends from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and I'm much more familiar with European and UK standards of obviousness.

          The brief answer is that there has been precedent to suggest that identifying a technical problem to solved can itself be inventive. Put very broadly, something like "I want to make product X be better" isn't an objective technical problem to be solved, it's a desired outcome. But identifying a way in which to make product X better, followed by a means to

        • by chrismcb (983081)

          Something I've wondered about, as a non-lawyer, is how exactly the obviousness test works. Some solutions are obvious once you formulate the problem with sufficient specificity. Here the problem is something like: "How to make dynamic annotations by multiple authors, with different preferences about the distribution range for their annotations, usefully available to the user of an electronic work?" Given this formulation of the problem, the solution in this patent is pretty obvious.

          What?
          The solution to the patent isn't obvious at all. The formulation of the problem does not make the patent. There are lots of concepts out there, how do you do X. They aren't patentable because no one knows how to do X. In this case you state "blah multiple authors blah" Who, right there you have just made the problem very complicated. How do you handle multiple authors, with different preferences. It isn't simple, just because you've given a better "formulation."
          Obviousness is about a single person

      • Re:Bogus summary (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @10:47AM (#39275251) Homepage Journal

        Sure but it should have failed the "obvious to someone skilled in the art" test.

        That's not the test, that's the conclusion. The test - whether something is obvious - is whether one or more prior art documents, publications, or products, alone or in combination, teach or suggest each and every element of the claimed invention. So, for example, if the claim recites "A+B+C+D" and you have one piece of prior art that teaches A+B, another that teaches C, and another that teaches D, then in combination, they teach everything in the claim, so the claim is obvious. If, on the other hand, no piece of prior art teaches D, then the claim is not obvious.

        This is necessary because it creates an objective test, limited to what was known to those of skill in the art at the time the patent application was filed, which is required for due process. A purely subjective test of an Examiner saying, "without any evidence, I have a gut feeling this is obvious" would be almost certainly be improperly based on hindsight.

        • by forkfail (228161)

          The problem, as I see it is that if A+B+C exists, you are still allowed to patent A+B+C', where C' is an extremely small incremental advancement over C.

          Pretty much everything we do is built on the shoulders of previous works at this point. And some ideas are definitely innovative and novel. The problem is actually qualifying what the difference between C and C' needs to be for it to be a non-obvious solution and non-trivial advancement.

          • by click2005 (921437) *

            Yeah, its like adding the words "on the internet" to something people have done for decades makes something a new invention.

            • Yeah, its like adding the words "on the internet" to something people have done for decades makes something a new invention.

              No - go back and read my earlier comment. If [something people have done for decades] is known and [the internet] is known, then the combination of [something people have done for decades] + [on the internet] is, by definition, obvious. And no patent has ever been granted on such a claim. People may describe a patent as "X, but on the internet," but you have to go to the claims, not the title, the abstract, the summary, or a Slashdot article about it. Only the claims have any legal weight.

          • The problem, as I see it is that if A+B+C exists, you are still allowed to patent A+B+C', where C' is an extremely small incremental advancement over C.

            Pretty much everything we do is built on the shoulders of previous works at this point. And some ideas are definitely innovative and novel. The problem is actually qualifying what the difference between C and C' needs to be for it to be a non-obvious solution and non-trivial advancement.

            The benefit to the objective test I mentioned above is that it removes the subjective question of whether the change is C' or D. If it's really a minor incremental advancement that legitimately has never been done before, then maybe it's not obvious. Particularly if it's commercially valuable - say moving from C to C' gets you an additional 1% efficiency. If that were obvious, then people would have already done it - the fact that they haven't means it isn't obvious.

            • by forkfail (228161)

              Hmmm.. I see your point, but. I don't know how many times schedule has prevented developers from making the obvious improvements to get something working and out the door.

        • by chrismcb (983081)
          Obviousness != prior art
          Obviousness IS a test. It means "Person having ordinary skill in the art" would know how to solve the problem. That is it, that is all there is too it. Notice how there is no mention to prior art, publications or products.
          Prior art is another prong to patents.
          Notice that it refers to "ordinary." Which means you can't go to all of the top experts in the field, to see if they know how to solve the problem.
          • Obviousness IS a test. It means "Person having ordinary skill in the art" would know how to solve the problem. That is it, that is all there is too it. Notice how there is no mention to prior art, publications or products.

            Yeah, sorry, you're wrong. Go read the MPEP chapter 2100, or read KSR v. Teleflex, or read the PTO's post-KSR guidelines for examination.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Sure but it should have failed the "obvious to someone skilled in the art" test.

        Care to explain why? You might be right, but you can't just say that something is obvious and leave it at that.

        To show that something is obvious, you must:

        • Examine the scope and content of the prior art - what does your base reference teach
        • Examine the level of ordinary skill in the art - what could one of ordinary skill in the art have done at the time of invention in 2005
        • Examine the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art - Find one or more references to combine or modify your base ref
      • It's fscking software... and it shouldn't be fscking patentable in the fscking first place...

        Jesus H fscking Christ...

        When will you fscking Yanks just fscking get it fscking together...

        I don't give a flying fsck about the "Obviousness Test" when it shouldn't be patentable subject matter in the first place...

        Kill fscking software patents NOW... and stop putzing about trying to defeat individual patents... just kill them ALL now... ONCE AND FOR ALL... for the benefit of ALL humanity...

    • Re:Bogus summary (Score:4, Informative)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @10:41AM (#39275185)

      Can we become better educated on patents -- maybe just a little

      OK, let's start here:

      http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/documents/2100_2106_02.htm [uspto.gov]

      Then here:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_re_Bilski [wikipedia.org]

      Then here:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church-turing_thesis [wikipedia.org]

      Then, if we are all still paying attention, we can ask how any software patent is valid.

    • Can we become better educated on patents -- maybe just a little -- so that we can not panic every time somebody patents something?

      On the one hand, you're correct, people make this mistake in understanding just about 100% here at Slashdot.

      On the other hand, it's still just a series of very vaguely described but fairly obvious actions â" sort of like describing how to skip across the street.

      Now, if they had a truly unique programming method. But then we get into the ratâ(TM)s nest that is software patents...

    • by Amouth (879122)

      http://www.zoomify.com/enterprise.htm [zoomify.com]

      that product has been around a wile (before 2005) and in different forms - it does what list for images/images of documents.

    • Re:Bogus summary (Score:4, Informative)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @10:46AM (#39275245) Journal
      It strikes me that the available prior art might hinge on whether you think that the distinction between the 'annotations' and the 'work' is terribly relevant(from the perspective of the patent, obviously the distinction between text and margin notes is relevant to the user).

      If it is relevant, the only real possibilities are the document markup features in some of the PDF/publishing related stuff, or Office and similar.

      If the distinction isn't materially relevant, practically any revision control system going back to the dark ages provides a superset of the features described:

      Support for multiple users and multiple devices, with authentication and permissions? Check.

      Stores 'annotations' in association with the digital work? Storing revision information in relation to the digital work being revised is only the entire point of revision control systems...(the revision control use case assumes that most changes checked in will be changes rather than comments; but, architecturally, comments and annotations are a proper subset of the sorts of revisions one can check in, and programmers certainly do check in code comments as well as changes to the 'work'

      Provides abbreviated versions? Any of the 'friendly-display' mechanisms for a revision controlled repository will provide for some sort of 'here be diff by user Foo. click to expand?' function.

      Access control? Yup, revision control systems do that as well, some only to file level of granularity, some more.

      Provide full version of one or more annotations? Check out SVN checkout...

      For my information(since I'm honestly not too much up on patents), does the expected use case of a tool count as a suitably weighty factor in determining validity? In this case, it is certainly fair to say that the expected use cases of Amazon's "digital margin notes" patent places it firmly in the same camp as other text annotation systems from Adobe, MS, and some more specialty vendors. Architecturally, though, the 'invention' is essentially 'partial re-implementation of a revision control system under the assumption that the base file(s) will always be treated as canonical, and the diffs as merely incidental'. Their implementation is likely to be a better fit than a straight revision control mechanism if you are, in fact, highlighting your way around an etext; but the underlying architecture will be equivalent to, or a mere subset of, revision control...
    • by forkfail (228161)

      --under control of instructions that are executed by one or more computing devices:
      --receiving multiple annotations from different authors for particular content in a digital work;
      --storing the annotations in association with the digital work;
      --providing a list of abbreviated versions of the annotations to a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations, wherein the list presents the annotations in an order determined by reference to a criterion;
      --receiving an authorization credential from a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations; and if the authorization credential is valid,
      --providing a full version of one or more of the annotations of the digital work to the user in context with regard to the digital work.

      Seems to me that this very web page does these things. As does SVN.

    • --receiving an authorization credential from a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations; and if the authorization credential is valid

      You have attempted to access LUVD4TA55's annotations for the work "Advanced Python in Web Development Back End Environments" by Catheryn Smalls entitled "XXX I FOIUND PIX OF THE AUTHOR SHOWIUNG HER "BACK END" LULZ"

      The author of these annotations has set a price of $69.69 to view these annotations. Please enter your credit card info below if you.......

      • by readin (838620)
        Did the patent say anything about "selling" the annotations? My friend I believe you have the makings of another patent!
    • by readin (838620)

      A computer-implemented method for providing an annotation of a digital work, comprising:
      --under control of instructions that are executed by one or more computing devices:
      --receiving multiple annotations from different authors for particular content in a digital work;
      --storing the annotations in association with the digital work;
      --providing a list of abbreviated versions of the annotations to a user desiring to access one or more of the annotations, wherein the list presen

    • by sootman (158191)

      So they have a patent on "syncing one particular type of data"?

    • However, yes, it is a brilliant work of invention, and should be patentable.

      Have you lost your mind?
  • Digital Handwriting? (Score:4, Informative)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @10:20AM (#39274985) Homepage Journal

    My newton did this decades ago.

    If you want a more current example of handwritten annotation on existing PDF documents, look at the now defunct 'entourage' tablet products.

  • I'm getting a patent on the letter "Q". I see some of you here have been using it. You'll be hearing from my attorney.

    • "A method for representing words beginning with the sound 'kuh-yoo' or ending with the sound 'kuh' in electronic or printed media..."
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Too late, not only did Paramount [wikipedia.org] patent that, the patent ran out in 2007. However, they still hold copyright to Q. I'm sure you'll be hearing from their lawyers.

    • by flatulus (260854)

      Don't be so uick to try that stunt, you ueer! I won't go down uietly!

      ??? Hey! Who did that?

  • The concept of annotation on digital works has been around for a while.
    http://gramlich.net/projects/public_annotations/authoring.html [gramlich.net]

    While this specific patent is fairly particular about the method of doing and storing it, sooner or later someone is going to sue sombody else with an overly broad accusation, and want billions of dollars in damages, simply to shut them down and put them out of business.

  • Didn't Eric Drexler and a bunch of other people use Crit Link [zesty.ca] or something similar to do this on a website my memory says it was edge.org in the late 90s/early '00s?
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Xanadu

  • For as much as this crowd wants to bash Adobe on occasion for 'proprietary' formats, closed source products, etc. PDF is ISO'd* along with information on how to create/modify/remove the annotation COS objects in the file. Annotations were added in the PDF specification in 1.2 (circa 1996) and into the Acrobat / Reader product lines in the 3.15 update which came out, roughly, 1999.

    http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/product.jsp?product=1&platform=Windows [adobe.com]

    * You can get the current PDF spec free of cha

  • by flatulus (260854) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @11:32AM (#39275763)

    With the recent change to U.S. patent law (i.e. first to file now, vs. first to invent previously), is there still such a concept as prior art? If "first to file" rules, then doesn't that mean that one could patent an invention which had been around for decades, in common use, but for which nobody ever thought to file a patent?

    • by wireloose (759042)
      Good point. I just filed a patent for the wheel.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The change from "first-to-invent" to "first-to-file" basically affects 35 USC 102(a). All the other provisions of 35 USC 102 will still be in effect, as will 35 USC 103 and the disclosure requirements of 35 USC 112. So prior art will still be alive and kicking.

      See US Patent Laws [uspto.gov]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Epimer (1337967)

      NO!

      This is another of those hugely common misconceptions on Slashdot around how patents work (right up there with what the term "prior art" actually means).

      The only difference between a "first to file" and "first to invent" system is what happens when two (or more) parties come up with the same invention (near-)simultaneously. Under "first to invent", you would enter into costly interference proceedings and the rights would be awarded to the person who demonstrated that they were the first to conceive of an

  • I was under the impression 'prior art' referred to an actual already-existing patent, not that it existed somewhere else before.
    • Ha ha ha, good joke. Yeah, it's easy to get this impression nowadays so broken is the patent system...

  • There is nothing new about annotating electronic documents. This has been a part of document management systems for decades. I've been at this company (http://www.mindwrap.com/ [mindwrap.com]) for over 15 years. It's been part and parcel of our product since before I arrived. Before that, in 1993, I worked on a FileNet document management system installation. FileNet already had an annotation capability for Windows clients. I wrote a Macintosh implementation for the project.
  • Another example of prior art may be Safari Books Online [safaribooksonline.com]. Of course, IANAL.
  • ...you abused the patent system for WAY too long. We the public need to take your toy away from you...
  • There are many digital annotation systems with distribution means prior to 2005. Just for a example is the very general-purpose Annotea RDF vocabulary and support implemented in the W3C Amaya web browser. 2001 http://www.w3.org/2001/Annotea/ [w3.org]
  • Let's say you have free text, and you annotate it with inline xml tags.
    If you had to build an Information System where you could search a set of documents based on annotations, the only feasible way is to have these documents in some kind of repository, with tags indexed.
    An xml database for example.
    It would be easy to include author information into these annotated xml tags (in an attribute for example), and also to make a search function available where multiple users could search the repository based o
  • patent for human input system for symbolized information AKA reading

  • I wrote an Activity for the One Laptop Per Child project that does this:

    http://activities.sugarlabs.org/en-US/sugar/addon/4035 [sugarlabs.org]

    I don't claim to be the first one to do this. Who would? It is such an obvious idea that you would think it could not be patented.

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