Location Targeted Coupons: Patented

from the oh-come-on dept

I remember over a decade ago, talking with lots of folks in Silicon Valley about the idea of doing mobile coupons — with the typical example being “imagine as you walked by a Starbucks, if it could pop up a coupon on your phone.” Hell, all the way back in 2004, we were talking about this idea as being talked about for “ages.” The problem was not with the basic idea. People were just waiting for the infrastructure to catch up: for GPS to become common in phones, for smartphones to hit the market, for mobile broadband to be available, etc. So it seems pretty ridiculous that, in 2005, some folks from Where Inc., applied for a patent on the concept, which has now been granted, and seems ridiculously broad (Patent number 7,848,765). The challenge was never about how to do this. That was obvious to all sorts of people. The issue was just waiting for the infrastructure to catch up. It’s ridiculous that such an idea that was widely discussed way before this patent was applied for is now locked up via a patent.

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Companies: where

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Comments on “Location Targeted Coupons: Patented”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Is this another example of the patent system at work..?

Hmmm. I’d have to look at what was claimed, but this sounds similar to SMS-CB and a part of the GSM 3.49 (1996) standard, and implemented in the wild as early as 1997.

Back then, SMS-CB was developed to provide create a secondary revenue stream of location-based marketing revenue for carriers. The problem wasn’t the service or determining location. This could be figured using power levels, and existing site location data. The problem was that the marketing people didn’t have lat/longs of their own stores to create a relevant campaign.

So while you’re right– the idea certainly isn’t new. GPS is common in phones these days, it’s also readily available using tools like Google Maps.

You’ll also notice in the patent, the earliest cited patent reference is from 1998 for a “Computer-Aided Mapping System”.

Anonymous Coward says:

prior art must be in writing

If it truly has been widely discussed, then the patent could easily be invalidated either in litigation or a USPTO reexamination proceeding. The issue is that mere discussion is not enough. Someone would have had to commit the discussion to writing and publish it in a publicly available publication/forum/database/etc.

I wrote a very similar patent application in 2008 for a large telecommunications company and remember being surprised that they considered it a novel idea. However, their concept was slightly more narrow because it focused on perishable-type goods whose value changed over time. Even though their idea was more narrow, they definitely thought that the broad concept of location based coupons was patentable.

abc gum says:

Location based targeted ads were discussed ages ago, mostly from an Orwellian point of view. It was not seen as a good thing.

Flash forward to today – corporate dumbasses think people pay outrageous amounts for a cell phone package so that they can be interupted by useless ads targeting their location. You pay them to stalk you, it is more than creepy.

Notorious AC says:

Mike, I know that you feel that I “waste no opportunity to slam anything” you write. However, the way you spin your articles compels me to do so. This article is a perfect example.

You claim that Where Inc. applied for a patent on a concept. I invite you to visit this USPTO page on what can be patented, http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/doc/general/what.htm. On that page the USPTO is clear that “A patent cannot be obtained upon a mere idea or suggestion.” A patent is granted on a specific implementation. Why do you insist on being willfully misleading?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Implementation is not required to obtain a patent. Where did however document the process which is required to obtain a patent. Its not a concept its a process. You need to understand the difference. Nothing is stopping you or anyone else from creating a product around location targeted coupons – there are two ways, license what Where has done or come up with a process that is different that what Where has done. Nothing is stopping you from creating your own unique process.

Tom says:

Idea vs implementation

I know you techdirt authors love to hate patents, but there is a huge difference between talking about an idea and providing a working implementation. Don’t get me wrong, the Where patent is total poo and the examiner seems to have missed tons of actual implemented prior art… but simply “talking about” an idea doesn’t give you ANY claim to inventorship…

By the logic used in this article, anyone that comes up with a WORKING time machine is out of luck on patents because of the 720 BCE reference to time travel in Mahabharata. Similarly, the original StarTrek writers, H.G. Wells, and Arthur C. Clark are going to screw a ton of scientists out of royalties from their life’s work.

Perhaps you should take some time to understand patent law – or at least the difference between an idea and working implementation – before you write tomorrow’s patent bashing article… and while there are certainly USPTO abuses to complain about, saying “I had this idea first” doesn’t fly.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Idea vs implementation

I don’t get it. Did you read the article? Where does Techdirt claim that it was their “idea first”. And where dot hey make “ANY claim to inventorship”?

What the article does, is establish that this idea/concept was extremely common to anyone tangentially familiar with the industry in 2004. Techdirt isn’t claiming inventorship, they are saying that the solution is obvious, no one can rightfully claim inventorship, and patents are a negative value to society in the case of “solving” the lack of mobile coupon offerings, as they now block competition but brought nothing new to the table.

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