by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 5th 2007 8:57pm
While Netflix has done a great job building up its business and competing with players who were much bigger and more well established, could it be the US Postal Service that finally does the company in? It turns out that those patented funky red DVD mailer envelopes are a pain for the postal service. They "sustain damage, jam equipment and cause mis-sorts during automated processing," and the postal service has had enough. The Inspector General is asking to charge an extra $0.17 per DVD mailer if adjustments aren't made to make the envelopes more "machinable." While $0.17 may not sound like a lot, a research analyst at Citibank cranked the numbers and found that it would likely cut Netflix's monthly margin per customer from $1.05 to $0.35 -- basically killing 67% of its margin (ouch). Now here's where the situation gets fun. It turns out that Netflix's main competitor, Blockbuster, does not have this problem with its DVD mailers. Remember that Netflix sued Blockbuster over its patents last year. The two firms reached a settlement earlier this year, but could this be a chance for Blockbuster to strike back at Netflix? Anyone know if Blockbuster patented its "working" design for the DVD mailers? I'm sure it would be thrilled to license it to Netflix... at a reasonable fee.
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