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.

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Companies: ibm

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Comments on “IBM Patents 'Paper Or Plastic'?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Chuck says:

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.

Enrico Suarve says:

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

some random guy says:

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.

MLS (profile) says:

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”.

mobiGeek says:

Re: 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.

MLS (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Bob Wyman (profile) says:

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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