Do We Really Need A Patent Battle Over Group Buying?
from the seriously? dept
Back in the early dot com days there were a couple different “group buying” sites. I remember Accompany (whose name confused people when employees called them on the phone: “Hi, I’m calling from Accompany” “What company?” “Accompany”) and Paul Allen’s Mercata. There were a few others as well, and they all went away. However, in the last year or so, group buying has picked up steam again, with Groupon leading the way and lots of others entering the space quickly. And, of course, as with any “hot” area, you have to expect patent lawsuits to follow, as jealous folks who couldn’t or didn’t execute start suing those who executed better. Earlier this year, we already noted that Groupon clone Tippr bought Mercata’s patents and were threatening Groupon over them. More recently, the small MobGob sued Groupon over some other patents… and now Groupon has responded by suing back with its own (acquired) patents.
I’m really trying to figure out how patents are helping anyone here, so perhaps the regular patent defenders can explain. Here’s a highly dynamic market, where there are lots of competitors entering the space and trying out different things. The general concept of group buying is pretty straightforward and simple. It’s hard to see how or why that deserves a patent. In fact, if you look closely at the space, you begin to notice that Groupon’s success has had very little to do with the idea — but with a few underlying tricks: in particular the fact that Groupon works really hard at good content production. It employs a bunch of writers, which make their deals seem more fun. So, quite seriously, if someone could explain how patents have benefited this market, I’d like to know. Because right now it seems to only be helping out a bunch of lawyers, at the expense of users.