Amazon Patents Predicting Computing Resource Usage
from the prior-art-anyone? dept
Slashdot points us to the news that just last week, Jeff Bezos and Amazon were granted a patent (7,743,001) on “Dynamic Pricing of Web Services Utilization.” Much of the Slashdot writeup compares this to old computer timesharing, but if you look at the patent, that’s not really what it’s about. Instead, it’s about effectively predicting computing utilization, and then doing dynamic pricing based on those predictions. Obviously, this is an attempt by Amazon to do more dynamic pricing for its web services offerings.
As you go through the claims, however, it’s difficult to see how any of them pass the non-obvious test. If you know anything about predicting usage and/or dynamic pricing, all of this seems to simply repeat all of that. Oh, and if you’re looking for some prior art, how about this paper from the 1968 Communications of the ACM by Ivan Sutherland — no slouch on these sorts of computing issues. Actually, if you compare that paper from over 40 years ago to the patent issued last week, which one actually teaches people how to do something useful? And which is a jumble of words that doesn’t teach anything? Every time we hear patent attorneys claim that patents are important because they help teach people how to do stuff, I think of patents like this one which clearly do no such thing.
Either way, later today many people expect the Supreme Court to finally rule on Bilski (today is the last day of the term, and the Supreme Court is expected to finally issue rulings on all of its remaining cases — though, technically, it doesn’t need to). The Supreme Court has taken its sweet time on deciding Bilski and I’ve heard compelling arguments for how this is good or bad no matter where you stand on the issue. My guess (based on little more than what was said during the oral arguments) is that the Supreme Court will try to craft a narrow ruling that wipes out some really weak business method patents, but leaves software patents mostly legit. Where this Amazon patent falls since it’s basically a business method patent with software hooks? That may depend on where the Justices draw the line. We shall see soon enough…