Forum OpenACS Q&A: We're screwed! Amazon patents General Comments
United States Patent 6,525,747
Bezos February 25, 2003
Method and system for conducting a discussion relating to an item
A method and system for conducting an electronic discussion relating to a topic. The discussion system of the present invention receives a selection of an item that is to be the topic of the discussion. The discussion system then receives comments relating to the selected item and generates a message that includes a description of the selected item and the received comments. The discussion system then sends the generated message to participants of the discussion. The discussion system receives from a participant who received the generated message additional comments that are to be added to the generated message. The discussion system sends the generated message along with received additional comments to the participants of the discussion.
I doubt we'll get sued, but think about poor photo.net!!!
Anyway, you need to read the claims. They may be so narrow when the patent is finally granted as to be useless. The abstract is written when the patent is applied for.
On a related note, Lawrence Lessig exhorts Europe to learn from our example here:
So claim one is very very narrow. First it must apply to an item for sale. Second, the discussion must be be started by the computer method and the participant must provide one or more other participants (names/email) to join the discussion. Those other participants must be spammed with the description of the item, the initial discussion and a link that would allow the other participant to buy the item... But there are still other details in claim one which must all be followed to infringe the patent claim. It looks like the other claims are further limitations on claim one, so they are even more narrow.
So, beware. If you teach using the socratic method, you might need to pay royalties.
Patents are being issued so liberally that companies like Amazon fear an IP company will sneak in patents then sue (as happened to the SDRAM industry and the RAMBUS company, whose only assets are a suite of patents bought from various hardware design companies)
So companies now preempt by filing patents. Feedback loop, oh my!