Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
blurbs, patents


Amazon Patents Blurbs; Google Patents Snippets

from the patents-patents-all-the-time dept

theodp writes "On Tuesday, was granted a patent for Personalized Selection and Display of User-Supplied Content to Enhance Browsing of Electronic Catalogs, which the three inventors note covers authoring and posting pieces of content, referred to as 'blurbs,' for viewing and rating by other users. The patent claims cover blurbs generated using a blurb authoring pipeline ('internal blurbs') as well as those obtained from external sources via RSS feeds ('external blurbs')." The details show that the patent is for personalizing these "blurbs," but it's difficult to see what's patentable here. Reading through the claims, there doesn't seem to be anything that's new here. All it's really doing is creating personalized blogs based on a combination of external blog content, catalog content and user reviews. In other words, it's aggregating a personal feed of content from a variety of sources. There are plenty of solutions out there that do this already -- it's just that they don't all refer to the content as "blurbs" as Amazon does, and they don't make it as explicit that it will include catalog content. But, aggregating content in a personalized manner is aggregating content in a personalized manner -- and it's been done by plenty of people well before Amazon bothered to patent the idea.

In the meantime, anyone else find it funny that Amazon has patented "blurbs" at about the same time that Google has patented "snippets"? Now wouldn't that make for an interesting patent infringement lawsuit? Google's patent appears to be about taking a document and coming up with an automated summary "snippet" that can be displayed with search results. Again, it seems like a stretch that this should be patentable, but the patent office clearly feels differently. So, let's see... if both blurbs and snippets are patented, what's next? Clips? Who wants to patent clips? Yahoo? Microsoft? eBay? Anyone?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Borko, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 5:46am

    I Know! Let

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Alan, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 5:47am

    blurb and snippet of this article

    I think the snippet is "Yahoo and Google giving their middle finger to common sense" and my blurb is "Me, giving mine, right back to them".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Borko, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 5:48am

    Let's patent the way information is organized! I'll patent paragraph.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Not sure, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 6:04am

    Amazon's is crap, not so sure about Google's

    I think Mike is right about Amazon's patent. Aggregating news and blogs, even if it is for catalogs, I think has prior art.

    Google's patent seems a bit more of a gray area. They are automating the summarization of content to present as search results. I don't know of any AUTOMATED service that summarizes document content for you. I don't know if that deserves a patent. It seems as if the patent office doesn't understand it, bang, you get a patent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Iron Chef, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 6:26am

    Irony of the current system

    Sorry for the candor here, but who the hell at the USPTO stamped an approval for a blurb as an invention?

    Is that the key to speedy approval-- give it a name similar to a bodily function?

    Sorry, I just blurbed...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Barrenwaste, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 6:34am

    And some people wonder....

    ....why intelligent people are so violently against the current patent and copyright laws. And I do mean violently. Every time I see one of these I end up ramming my head into the wall for a half hour screaming "What Moron allowed this?". It'd be more effective to ram thier heads into the wall, but apparently beating the stupid out of someone has already been patented and I don't want to infringe. Maybe if I keep ramming my own head into the wall I can lobotomise myself and finally be able to accept it. Or am I being to optomistic?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    angry dude, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 6:45am

    yeah right...

    ...And some dude in Georgia patented musical pooper scooper


    Sell T-shirts instead, LOOOOOOOOOTS of t-shirts

    Mike Masnick, Pres and CEO of Techdirt

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    beernutz (profile), Dec 21st, 2007 @ 7:34am

    How about Clipmarks?

    They use clips.

    At least in this case it is actually something useful!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    barcodexpert, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 7:39am

    not for nothing, but

    amazon certainly doesn't need me to defend their filing, but it was filed in august of 2003, with references to prior art. i can't say how 'obvious' is was four years ago, and they were prescient enough to take a shot and file for 'personalization algorithms', and it was granted. I would like to think that all the heat on USPTO not to grant 'obvious patents' would have certainly applied the 19th of December 2007 when it was granted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    B, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 8:25am

    monkey business

    won't these stupid patents drive businesses (especially internet start-ups) to more sensible countries?

    maybe that's why I see more people are getting out of the states and are not proud to be an American any more.

    to be dumb is not a problem; but being dumb and passing judgments is no cure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Alfred E. Neuman, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 8:37am


    If I combine them, I get a snilurb.
    It's really very similar to a turd.

    That being said, I really dread
    it may actually become a word.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Gunnar, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 8:37am

    Are these patents for the actual blurb/snippet, or for the underlying technology?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    D. Himes, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 9:54am

    I hope it's for the technology...

    @Gunnar: You make an excellent point. It's always been a given that you can't patent an idea--only the underlying magic. I sure hope they haven't changed that!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    JTB74129, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 10:03am

    Re: Paragraph

    As long as you can do it without using a "Sentence", because I already got a patent on that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Chuck, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 10:26am


    Obviously, the patent office has completely absolved itself of any responsibility to determine the merit of an application, instead letting entities slug it out it court. I guess that's what happens when you have twits employed there.

    What a disgusting and useless thing patents have become. It's all about the money (i.e. lawyers)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Stephen Arnold, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 10:40am

    Amazon's and Google's extract inventions

    Anyone fine it interesting that Amazon seems to anticipating Google's actions? Google moved toward network services, and Amazon rolled out S3, EC2, and SimpleDB. Amazon invests a fraction of Google's R&D expenditure. Perhaps Amazon is smarter than Google? Maybe Mr. Bezos is unusually prescient?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Sheesh, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 10:45am

    More Patents Here

    Can I patent they way my farts sound while running and passing gas?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Alfred E. Neuman, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 2:10pm

    Re: More Patents Here

    No, I think that would be a copyright

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Bill Slawski, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 1:52am

    Infringment Suit Unlikely :)

    Hi Mike,

    I don't think that there's much likelihood of any type of patent infringement action between Google and Amazon over these patents.

    Google has had at least 5 patent applications published in the last year (April), that cover the creation of snippets for product reviews, to be show in a product search that comes closer. But even then, there are some significant differences in the processes described.

    Google's product snippets selection processes involve crawling the Web, extracting review information, determining reputation scores of reviewers, and creating snippets from those reviews.

    The Amazon process is really less concerned with the creation of snippets from plogs, and more concerned with the personalization aspect of selecting which blurbs to show.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Dirty Old Sock, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 7:12am

    And in other news

    Readers Digest gets a patent on condensed stories.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    You R Morons, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 10:00am

    Nice armchair quarterbacking

    I love how everyone always loves to jump up and down about how obvious patents are until you ask them to actually find some prior art that predates the filing and matches up to the claims. As well, software is far from being the only art that has what people consider, at least in their mind, silly inventions. Additionally, if the invention is just too "silly" to patent then presumably no one else would practice the invention anyway. So I hardly see how that would drive a company to another country (where someone can just steal *their* ideas).

    Amazon didn't patent "blurbs" in itself. If you are going to say it is obvious or not new, provide a citation of prior art from before 2003 that shows all of:

    1. An electronic catalog system, comprising:
    a computer data repository comprising a browsable electronic catalog of items;
    a computer data repository that stores user-specific item selection histories of catalog items selected from the electronic catalog by users;
    a blurb submission component that provides functionality for users of the electronic catalog to author and post blurbs for viewing by other users, including blurbs that include links corresponding to particular catalog items in the electronic catalog;
    a personalized blurb selection component that selects blurbs to present to specific users based at least in part on the item selection histories of such users; and
    a personalized blurb display component that displays the blurbs selected by the personalized blurb selection component to corresponding users in association with the electronic catalog; wherein the blurb submission component, the personalized blurb selection component and the personalized blurb display component comprise code executable by one or more processors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Bah who needs one, Dec 23rd, 2007 @ 8:37pm

    Can anyone spell "prior art"?

    Amazon's patent -> feed readers and other RSS aggregators (2 years or more)
    Google's excerpts with search results -> unix "grep" command (30 years or more)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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