Discovery Channel Sues Amazon Over Ebook Patent

from the aren't-patents-great? dept

Because it’s quite obvious that no one would ever have come up with copy protection on an ebook reader without the Discovery Channel’s CEO coming up with this patent, the entertainment company has now sued for patent infringement, claiming that the Kindle infringes on the patent. Of course, Amazon could avoid all of this if it hadn’t put DRM on the Kindle… but then how would it use the DMCA to block interoperability? In the meantime, is Discovery Communications so hard up these days that it needs to sue companies in entirely different businesses over a patent on a concept in a field it’s not even close to being in? In the meantime, perhaps some patent attorneys could weigh in, but reading through the claims on the patent, I’m wondering how this patent is valid in a post-KSR/Teleflex world, which supposedly noted that patents that simply combined two obvious ideas should be obvious as well. The patent in question certainly looks like “DRM + ebooks,” both of which were rather well-known and widely discussed at the time the patent was filed.

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Companies: amazon, discovery communications

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Comments on “Discovery Channel Sues Amazon Over Ebook Patent”

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Ima Fish (profile) says:

As far as I’m concerned, the more patents on DRM the better. If manufactures want to make it more difficult for paying customers (which is the only result of DRM), why shouldn’t patents make it more difficult for manufactures who want to implement DRM.

And to anyone who thinks I’m incorrect about my assertion that the only result of DRM is to make it more difficult for paying customers, please name one example where DRM permanently stopped pirates. Just one. Thanks.

Weird Harold (user link) says:

Discovery paid the time and effort to design and come up with these methods for ebooks, with not one but actually 8 or 9 different patents on various aspects of the Ebook world. Most of them date back a fairly long time as well, this isn’t stuff that would have been so obvious even 10 years ago.

Everything is obvious in hindsight.

:Lobo Santo says:

Re: Re:

Wow, this guy has an answer for everything!!

Hey Harold, what the sound of one hand clapping?

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

How many pins can dance on the head of an angel?

If tin whistles are made of tin, what are fog horns made of?

If a group of running pygmies is a “bunch of cunning runts”, what’s a girls high school track-team called?

R. Miles says:

Re: Re:

Discovery paid the time and effort to design and come up with these methods for ebooks
Patent and software. Hypocrisy. It’s stupid, no matter how insightful the idea is, to patent anything regarding software.

The claim is bogus. The lawsuit is even more so.

Hell, does this mean all the ideas I have I should patent so I can sue everyone who uses them?


Quit defending this bullshit system, please.

John says:

I looked at the patent. Its from 1999. It pretty much describes the kindle, not just adding DRM to ebooks, but the actual on demand delivery to a book like reader. It says:

A method for encrypting, sending and receiving electronic books upon demand, comprising:

creating a list of titles of available electronic books;
transmitting the list of titles of available electronic books;
selecting a title from the transmitted list of titles;
communicating the selected title to an electronic book source;
supplying a selected electronic book corresponding to the selected title to be encrypted;
supplying an encryption key;
encrypting the selected electronic book using the encryption key;
supplying the encrypted selected electronic book;
supplying a decryption key; and
decrypting the encrypted selected electronic book using the decryption key.

Willton says:

Re: Re:

I looked at the patent. Its from 1999. It pretty much describes the kindle, not just adding DRM to ebooks, but the actual on demand delivery to a book like reader.

Agreed. Discovery’s patent is not simply “DRM + ebooks” as Mike would have you all believe.

Come on, Mike, do your due diligence. You really should be better than this.

Jane Jonson says:

When I was younger, I had a diary that I would write things in to it on a daily basis. This diary also had an old-fashioned style lock across the two hard-cover ends of it.

The way I see it, my diary may not have been electronic, but it sure was only ever unlocked and shared with only those who I wanted to share it with – unless some person had wanted to circumvent that “lock” without my permission. This sounds mighty similar to DRM on an E-Book… but using technology that was available in the 50s.

Willton says:

Re: Prior Art

Excuse me but DRM infested e-books were is distribution years prior to 2007; i.e. Acrobat, e-Reader, etc.

2007 is not the date of invention. This patent was filed in 1999, and it has a priority date of 1992, as it is a child of numerous continuations-in-part that date back to 1992. At the very least, you better start looking for “DRM infested e-books” that were around in 1999.

jqpublic says:


“Discovery paid the time and effort to design and come up with these methods for ebooks, with not one but actually 8 or 9 different patents on various aspects of the Ebook world. Most of them date back a fairly long time as well, this isn’t stuff that would have been so obvious even 10 years ago.”

Actually, it was obvious 10 years ago. In the Open E-book Forum (now IDPF) we were discussing DRM on e-book readers, openly, and publicly. Discovery had no members present at that time, but nearly every other hardware and software vendor at the time did.

Read from the OEB Standard Version 1:

“Reading System

A combination of hardware and/or software that accepts OEB publications, and directly or indirectly makes them available to readers. Great variety is possible in the architecture of reading systems. A reading sytem may be implemented entirely on one device, or it may be split among several computers. In particular, a reading device that is part of a larger reading system need not directly accept OEB publications, but all reading systems must do so. Reading systems may include additional processing functions beyond the scope of this specification, such as compression, indexing, encryption, rights management, and distribution. “

Available here:

By 2003, a complete statement on DRM had been made by the Right and management working group. But, as I was present at the meetings in 1999, I can assure you that DRM was brought up in _every_ meeting in 1999.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

The Patent's as Lame as the DRM.

By the “patent horizon,” twenty years ago, the notion of a network stack was well established. D. Del Corso, H. Kirrman, and J. D. Nicoud, _Microcomputer Busses and Links_ (1986), pp. 46-50 gives a description of the OSI seven-layered stack network model, citing two sources from 1983. The OSI model was in the process of progressive standardization in the 1980’s, with new editions adopted at four-year intervals. Baha Hebravi, _OSI Upper Layer Standards and Practices_ (1993) is a compendium drawing mostly upon the 1988 standard, and only secondarily on the 1992 standard. Most of the substance, as distinct from the precise detail of implementations, is, however, to be found in D. W. Davies, D. L. Barber, W. L. Price, and C. M. Solomonides, _Computer Networks and their Protocols_, (1979). This last book covers a wide range of topics, including the notion of network layer transparency, packet switching, routing, virtual circuits, flow control, packet radio, transfer protocols, file transfer, virtual terminals, network optimization, public-key cryptography– all this, and much, much more! In the aftermath of Davies, et. al., fitting a high-level application out to use the mobile internet had to be considered a routine process, more rather like ordering something from a catalog than like a invention of unique genius.

In a previous comment, I cited the capabilities of Wordstar 5 and ProComm.

I might add that, circa 1988, the Wordstar package included an integrated telecommunications program, Telemerge. ProComm had file viewer, and its own DOS shell. Both had various capabilities competing with the regular DOS shell. This was normal for the time, as every application program was pushing and shoving to become the dominant application program which would contain all others. As for hypertext per se, Apple had developed HyperCard (see: Carol Kaehler, _HyperCard Power: Techniques and Scripts_, 1988). There was a competing product, HyperPad, produced by Brightbill-Roberts, which, failing in the primary market, was relaunched as shareware. Taking all of these together, the emergence of the full-blown web browser was little more than an act of consolidation and standardization. About the only thing which makes the Kindle noteworthy, from a software standpoint, as distinct from the cheapness of the hardware, is the decision to prevent the user from freely copying and printing things. The decision to use DRM amounted to locating the cipher machine inside an application program in order to hide its decrypted output from the user.

Of course DRM existed in 1989. It was called Copy Protection. It was applied to software, rather than media, and it tended to work out badly for all parties. The difficulties which legitimate customers have been having with DRM’ed music did not surprise me one bit– because that was exactly what had happened last time, twenty years ago.

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