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23 October 2006

Karma Catches up with

IBM sues

Several years ago, a lot of hoopla was made over Amazons "single click checkout" patent. Many people thought it fell into the realm of "obvious," and thus out of the scope of patentability. The USPTO obviously thought otherwise, and so did Amazon too.

The only case I remember Amazon using this patent against another company was with rival bookseller Barnes & Noble ( I also recall reading that Apple Computer is a licensee of this patent.

Since then I have realized that many companies own patents over process that currently seem very obvious, especially in a technical sense. Acquiring patents has become a corporate arms race that I think will leave a mark on the early 21st century. Company A will amass a patent portfolio in hopes that it can be used against company B if company B ever decides to claim patent infringement against company A. It's like saying, "we won't launch our nukes if you don't laucnh yours."

The thing that I wonder about is this: what did do to IBM that ticked them off enough to sue? IBM is well known for their IP lawyers and portfolio of patents (just ask SCO). IBM also has a history of tolerating patent infrigers who stay out of the way.

To me it is all nonsense. I think that IP patents are worthless and do more harm than good. The sweet irony is that Amazon is finally getting a taste of the medicine they helped brew years ago.