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Books Patents Your Rights Online

Amazon Patents Annotating Books, Digital Works 125

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

  • by flatulus ( 260854 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @12:32PM (#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?

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

    by Theaetetus ( 590071 ) <theaetetus DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @12:50PM (#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:Bogus summary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rolgar ( 556636 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2012 @02:10PM (#39276979)

    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 it, then it's obvious and shouldn't be granted a patent. That's what we are trying to figure out. Here is an invention. Is it worthy of a no-competition protection for the inventor for a while to reward them for their work that they've done but haven't made any money off of yet? Or is it something new, but not really worthy of a patent?

    If many people could come up with the same invention, then patenting the invention is unnecessary in the public's interest, because there is no real risk of the invention being lost should the inventor pass away and his records are hidden on his hard drive undiscovered when the machine is wiped. I expect half a dozen other companies are able to come along and compete based on quality, cost and customer service. I don't care if I get my copy of the invention from engineer A or X. They are both good engineers, but since the thing they are selling is something that half a dozen different guys could have come up with, I'd rather them compete than having to buy from A because he was the first to file with the patent office. So lets say we're talking the self-driving car that is being worked on by dozens of different groups. Different groups are working on various designs, with different software, but probably using off the shelf sensors and computers to make everything work. I don't think this is going to be something that is really patentable, because every group is working on the same thing that I don't know that it will be worthy of a patent if group 3 is a couple of months ahead of group 6 on filing an application. This is pretty much a case of everybody waiting for all of the necessary component technologies being advanced enough to make the solution easy, but nobody doubts that the problem is a mix of inputting a location, the computer determining current and desired locations, calculating a path (all done), then talking control of the vehicle and safely navigating the selected route.

    On the other hand, if the invention is something really unusual, say a worm hole device that will allow a space ship to travel from Earth orbit to any star in our galaxy in a few minutes. Sure somebody a hundred years from now would be able to give the detail on how the machine works, and it would be common knowledge. But the guy who invents it next year? He probably would have found something unique in space time, and be deserving of a patent. So when the device is submitted to the patent office, the patent office releases info that a patent has been filed for a worm hole device. Odds are it gets a full 10 year protection because it's not currently obvious how to make a worm hole. Buy the time the device is removed from patent protection, the science and device are well known and several groups could then compete on producing the best worm hole drive.

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