IBM Patents 'Paper Or Plastic'?

from the patent-examiners-apparently-don't-shop-much dept

Slashdot points us to the latest absurd patent to get approval from the USPTO. IBM has been granted a patent on the concept of storing your packaging preference information on your customer card. Yes, basically, the act of storing whether or not you like paper or plastic bags on your customer loyalty card is considered such an original idea that it deserves a monopoly.

We've been having some debates over the last few days in the comments on the question of "obviousness." This patent hopefully demonstrates the point that many of us are trying to make. The defenders of the patent system will claim that this is a perfectly reasonable patent because no one has done it before (where's the prior art, etc?). But that doesn't get into whether or not this is actually obvious. Customer cards store all sorts of information. Should we give someone a patent on each and every one? The implementation isn't hard at all. If you were to ask your average (or, even below average) techie, how they would go about storing and retrieving such information, they would do so in an instant. It simply makes no sense to award a long-term monopoly on adding just another bit of info to your customer card. And, yet, that's the system we have these days.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Another AC, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 2:39pm

    TFO

    Totally F**king Obvious
    Figures it's from IBM

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 3:12pm

    Way to difficult

    I guess it's just too hard for the bagger at the grocery to ask "Paper or plastic?" every time, and then remember the answer long enough to actually grab the appropriate bag. They need that information recorded, and then displayed graphically.

    Since baggers don't generate revenue, I don't think many grocery stores are going to jump on this one.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 3:20pm

    Re: TFO

    Don't blame IBM. I hear they have a room full of chimpanzees with typewriters and they just keep sending the output to the USPTO. Most of it seems to get approved!!!

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Another AC, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 3:25pm

    Re: Re: TFO

    I believe that's one of their first patents

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 3:34pm

    What's next, a patent on storing information on your branded community of choice?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Shohat, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 3:54pm

    It's meaningless

    IBM did it pretty much for shits and giggles, and maybe as a defensive patent.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    shmengie, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 4:00pm

    i'll crash the system!

    i bring my own canvas bag. ever seen a cash register have a nervous breakdown?

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 4:10pm

    Re: i'll crash the system!

    yeah, I've seen lots of crummy registers BSoD.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Chuck, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 4:29pm

    Someone show these idiots

    Someone needs to file a bunch of idiotic patents and once they are granted (and they will be granted) walk in to the USPTO knock someone upside the head and say "WTF!".

    Show them, Congress, everybody how ineffective their review process is. Maybe (wishful thinking) someone, somewhere who can kick ass and take names will wake up and do something about it.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Mr. Ed, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 4:36pm

    Here's an idea...

    When's the last time you've seen a paper sack? How long before plastic is done away with?

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Joe Smith, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 5:05pm

    Defense

    Given the state of the law it makes perfect sense for IBM to file this type of patent as a defensive measure.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Vincent Clement, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 5:12pm

    Waiting for MLS to rebut.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 5:49pm

    What's next ?

    Patent application for:
    Would you like fries with that ?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Lawry, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 6:05pm

    Thanks for the laugh. Oh damn. This is for real. God help us all.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Lawry, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 6:07pm

    BTW, the dude in the photo on the right -------> touting the benefits of his peer1 network hosting account, is one freaky scary looking dude. I'm not sure that's what you'd call good target marketing.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    cc, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 6:37pm

    bad news for intro to comp sci students

    now computer science 1 students must pay licensing fees for every time they use the

    boolean paper_or_plastic;

    bit of code in their homework

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Enrico Suarve, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 5:28am

    The eternal sunshine of the spotless mind

    How ace must it be to be one of these USPTO guys

    Every new day must be one huge journey of adventure and joyeous discovery

    "wow I can use either hand to hold my toothbrush"

    "wait a minute - a little brush just for my teeth? wow"

    "cool - using grass to cover dirt"

    .....

    These guys are so special - stop picking on them

     

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  18.  
    icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Aug 8th, 2008 @ 5:32am

    Please tell me

    .. that they filed this just for shits and giggles.
    They did, right? Just because they could?

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Oliver Wendell Jones, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 7:06am

    English or Spanish?

    Now maybe someone can add this same functionality to my ATM card so that I don't have to choose a language every single time I use my card - I want English - just like last time, and the time before that and the hundreds of times before that! Now that would be a useful invention!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Matt, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 7:49am

    Sounds like one more reason not to interact with anyone to me.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    MLS, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 8:28am

    Since I have never expressed an opinion on whether or not a specifically identified patent affords protection for an obvious invention, I am not inclined to start here since I have no idea what is contained in the prosecution history of the application (embodied in what is known as the "file wrapper").

    I do have to wonder, however, just how this subject matter fits into IBMs strategic development plan for its future products and services? My "gut" informs me a "fit" is highly unlikely, in which case I must ask the question "If it does not fit, then why was this application even filed in the first place?"

    As an aside, the application was filed containing two distinct sets of claims, one set for a device and the other for a method. The device claims apparently are contained in another patent application that should shortly issue, so there will likely be more blog "fodder".

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    mobiGeek, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 10:11am

    Re:

    Thing is, see, that "IBM" is a big place. They have many legal offices, many lawyers, many technical and marketing teams.

    There is no saying that this particular application was done as part of overall corporate strategy. I would bet that this actually came out of some IBM Global Services engagement. It is possible that the contract offered them bonuses or whatnot for any patentable "invention" developed during the project.

    But that is simply a guess.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    MLS, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 10:38am

    Re: Re:

    ...and your guess is likely on the money.

    Many corporations have policies that reward inventors at various times during the process of reviewing a disclosure, determining if an application should be filed, and when an application matures into a patent. Monetary rewards are granted at various phases of the process. It is not at all unusual for applications to sometimes be filed simply to ensure that a deserving individual (if not for the instant invention, but for other good work) gets something over and above his/her salary. In some companies this is one of only a few ways for the engineering staff to even qualify for a monetary reward.

    Sad...but much to often true.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    some random guy, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 12:01pm

    Re: English or Spanish?

    > Now maybe someone can add this same functionality to my
    > ATM card so that I don't have to choose a language every
    > single time I use my card - I want English - just like
    > last time, and the time before that and the hundreds of
    > times before that! Now that would be a useful invention!

    The guy who just stole your card might need instructions in Espanol.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    John, Aug 8th, 2008 @ 4:20pm

    Great! So, I can patent the making of human rights speeches at inappropriate (only as far as good manners go - otherwise all times might be appropriate) times, such as just before becoming the Olympic guest of the country I am slamming.
    Then I can sue George Bush. I bet he has more money than me.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Bob Wyman, Aug 11th, 2008 @ 8:21am

    Original 'invention

    The original invention of a method of storing information on the card anticipates and makes obvious the storage of any information on the card.
    If this patent is valid, one assumes that even the original inventor of the information storing customer card would be infringing if they stored such information on a card. This clearly is not right since that undoubtedly, the original invention was intended to provide a means to store *any* customer related info on the card.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Kyle Patrick, Sep 16th, 2013 @ 12:49pm

    Paper vs plastic

    The inventor was from IBM Global Services, but it was not part of a signed engagement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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