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...
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Filed Under: business methods, computing usage, jeff bezos, patents, predictions, software
Companies: amazon


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  1. icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), 28 Jun 2010 @ 10:01am

    Re: USSC

    Morning again, TAM,

    You gonna hate this, I know, but here it goes. If you check back in the history of computing you'll find out that your complete list, except for the web, existed in a research project called Xerox Park. Indeed the whole issue of icons for all the "important" technologies of our time was decided on there and much earlier. Just who do you think "stole" it all when the first Mac came out???

    Multi-tasking has been with us since the 1940s, btw, when the computers used in WW 2 were using vacuum tubes and such.

    The most important technologies of our times have not come encumbered by patents. The web itself exists in the public domain. The internet itself and the technology behind it is public, as are the protocols on which it runs. The notion of signalling transmissions using light either voice or data is ancient and using some form of "wire" to accomplish that goes back to Alexander Graham Bell, at least.

    The reality is that people, universities and companies will do research whether or not patents exist and always have.

    If, by some miracle/disaster patents ceased to exist at midnight tonight they still would, after all the crying and whining was over, because humans are simply curious, that companies do want to get a leg up on their competition even if that leg up doesn't last long and universities would continue because that's what they exist for.

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