August 11, 2006

The Patent Death Spiral [9:33 am]

One more argument against the business method patent — Legal Beat: A Wall Street Rush to Patent Profit-Making Methods

Goldman, viewed by many as a patent leader on Wall Street, has hundreds of patent applications in the pipeline and has received patent rights on a couple of dozen products and systems, according to its chief patent officer, John Squires. He joined Goldman in the new position in 2000 after being a patent lawyer with Allied Signal.

“I think there will be increased filings as the convergence of banking and technology is irreversible,’’ he said. “As people spend more and more building systems and deploying technology, they’re going to want to make sure they have the rights available to them.”

For now, all the big firms seem to be playing nicely with one another. Many lawyers involved in patenting systems and products on Wall Street label the patents as defensive in nature. They say Wall Street banks are trying to patent products or software systems in an effort to protect themselves from claims or litigation brought by individuals or small companies whose primary business is holding patents — those known to their detractors as patent trolls.

But some warn it is merely a matter of time before the patent activity turns from defensive to offensive. Wall Street firms will eventually look for ways to license the technologies or products they have patented, hoping to earn a high-margin revenue stream, or they will begin to litigate against each other, lawyers say.

See S. 3818 and H. R. 2795. Although they seem to want to tighten the scrutiny that patents receive, I don’t recall that there’s much in there on eliminating business method patents; or software, for that matter. Just an effort to increase consideration of previous art and non-obviousness, as I recall.

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Tracking, Collating and Using The Digital Detritus Of Your Life [9:20 am]

Although this is really too little, too late, it illustrates just how long it is taking the public to figure out what’s already going on behind the scenes at the leading online sites these days: Your intimate details on the line - pdf

Amazon.com is developing a system to gather and keep massive amounts of intimate information about its millions of shoppers, including their religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity and income.

The database, which would combine information disclosed voluntarily by customers with facts gleaned from public databases, conceivably would give Amazon a larger or more detailed profile of its customers than any other retailer.

The Seattle-based company, with 59 million active customers, said it has no immediate plan to implement such a program. Its ability to do so emerged in a detailed patent application with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, disclosed Thursday.

A privacy expert said customers should be wary about Amazon having the capability to gather such a large amount of detailed information.

[...] Customers already willingly disclose some personal information on the site — to create a “wish list” of desired products, for example. The larger potential database would go beyond that.

“Even if a customer does not know demographic information or interests of a possible recipient, the system may be able to access such information from a user profile for the recipient, from past ordering patterns of the recipient, or from publicly accessible databases,” the patent application said.

Patent Application Document #20060178946 - Providing gift clustering functionality to assist a user in ordering multiple items for a recipient

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Part V in LATimes Entertainment Poll [8:24 am]

Kind of a letdown, although a picture of just how difficult entertaining the “MySpace” generation will be; but I have faith in the Merchants of Cool:

  • They Do It All While Studying - pdf
  • Girls Just Want to Be Plugged In — to Everything - pdf

    To Hollywood, these kids are among the most coveted demographic because of their insatiable appetite for entertainment. And yet they’re the most difficult to corral, with elusive, often unexpected tastes and a penchant for ever-evolving technology. They’re sophisticated, demand authenticity and bristle at even the slightest hint of condescension.

    [...] While Julia and her peers have more access to more content than any group of teens in history, they’re also more carefully monitored by their parents. Sixty-eight percent of girls ages 12 to 14 say their parents know how they spend their time online; a third say their parents check their social networking sites; 31% say parents check their e-mail; 58% know the content rating of their video games.

    For the most part, Julia follows her mother’s house rules: No computer before school. No text-messaging in the car. No TV before 5. Julia even voluntarily deleted her MySpace.com page after her mother showed her a TV news segment about sexual predators who stalk teens online. But even with these restrictions, Julia stays plugged in most of the time.

    “My computer is almost always open,” she said. “My music is almost always on. My cellphone is almost always on.”

Find all the LATimes articles here; earlier Furdlog posts - part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4

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