Will Amazon Win “The Most Undefendable Patent Award” of 2014?

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Amazon Patent Drawing for “Sudio Arrangement”. source: USPTO

On March 18, 2014 Amazon was awarded a patent simply called “Studio Arrangement”.  The patent is for a particular type of photography studio setup that involves taking pictures of any kind of object in front of a cyclorama.  I would agree that its definitely not novel at first look.  I doubt you’ll find anyone saying what Amazon has patented was previously unattainable or not obvious to anyone of ordinary skill in the art of photography (read: any experienced photographer).

Predictably, some writers seem aghast, and are expressing surprise that such a thing could be patented in the first place.  The  agbeat.com article  questions whether or not the USPTO process used to evaluate patents is even sane.  The and the Puget Sound Business Journal article on the same subject simply asks why Amazon would choose to do so in the first place.  They may have a valid point, but now that the patent has been issued it’s for the court to decide if/when Amazon has to defend or prosecute their patent.  The fact is, US law requires the USPTO to award a patent to any invention that meets certain criteria.

Whether or not the USPTO violated statute in issuing the patent aside, it’s fun to look at what Amazon may have set itself up for:  the loss of a lot of money defending such a patent.  If you think about the concept of prior art, you’ll see why.

Ex-Parte Examination

The USPTO has a way that anybody can require the USPTO to re-examine a patent to determine whether or not a mistake has been made.  Once the application is approved, my understanding is that it’s not possible for Amazon to stop the process. This is one way Amazon’s $20,000+ in costs to get the patent could be at risk.

Prior Art

There are no prior art references in the Amazon patent.  Now that IS curious. Prior art is important here.  Basically, anyone who files a patent is wise (or perhaps has a duty) to identify prior art to the patent. Failure to do so means that prior art can be used to invalidate a patent.

Prior art, according to lusmentis.com, is basically any public disclosure that shows that the claims of Amazon’s patent are not novel. Given that Amazon has no prior art claims, and that the patent is for something so basic, it stands to reason that the patent may be declared invalid.

Did Amazon Buy a Lemon?

If you look at the patent you’ll notice four inventors, and Amazon is simply the assignee.  It’s fair to assume that Amazon paid some sort of fee, or benefit to the inventors to get this patent filed.  Whatever the situation is, Amazon may have procured the rights to a patent that is not enforceable.  The worst case for Amazon: they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars paying for and defending this patent only to discover that the patent is invalidated.

That’s a lot of risk to take over this kind of invention.

Long Story Short

Long story short: the patent may be a failure of Amazon to exercise discernment in what it tries to patent.  It may be the USPTO falling down on the job.  Or, a bit of both.  Time will tell.

Endgame

Endgame: the lawyers win in the end, especially if this patent goes in front of a judge.  If that happens we can thank Amazon for supporting the legal profession at the end of the day.

 

Know what Oso Needs? BEER!

The mudslide disaster in Oso, WA is tragic.  Upstanding citizens have responded by giving what they can and now it looks like the effort has more shovels, pick-axes, food and fuel than people know what to do with.  Snohomish county has also been slow in the uptake on asking for help, according to The Seattle Times.

So, what are we told will help? Cash, according to mynorthwest.com.

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Jesus. Patron saint of beer. Source: FreeWilliamsburg.com

The people who have perished in that tragedy have already passed on.  What’s left is supporting those who are trying to help save anyone miraculously alive still alive.  So, I have a great idea.

Send BEER!

Those hard working people deserve it. Take it from me, a guy who grew up in the outback of Washington’s Olympic Penninsula.  Beer is worth a lot.

Patent Announcement: Segment Based Cellular Network Performance Monitoring

An approach to monitoring cellular networks by specific segments.

I’m happy to be able to finally share a patent of mine that is in process:

Mechanism for facilitating dynamic and segment-based monitoring of cellular network performance in an on-demand services environment

As always feel free to comment and ask questions.

Government To People: You’re Fired.

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Donald Trump.  source: nbc.com

October 1st of 2013 marked the U.S. Government’s start of a nation wide shutdown for many services.  It’s like the entire nation was called in to see Donald Trump on a bizarre episode of “The Apprentice“.

It’s a very serious thing.  Lots of people have gone home and I feel for them.

But at the same time it’s worth seeing what can be done with mobile technology to save costs. Forbes reports how Missouri is doing just that to cut costs by about $500 million.

It begs the question, when the shutdown ends, will it be necessary to put offices back to their old funding levels, or can this kind of approach make that un-necessary?

Kayak Point Official 1.0 Release

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image source: Amanda

Persistence.  Making data persistant in your mobile applications without writing a custom SQLite query engine has been a goal of mine for a while.  I finally got around to writing a library that will take care of that work for you:

Kayak Point

This is an ORM Library for Android written from scratch. This library has the following goals:

  • be built for Android primarily
  • be fast and lightweight
  • support SQLite at first, and other data stores in the future.
  • stick to a simple architecture and design
  • use as little code as possible.
  • experiment with different approaches to persistence on Android.

I was originally using ORMLite, and I quickly realized that library is built to support multiple platforms, Android being one of them.  That means the library is big.

So I decided to take a stab at writing an ORM library for Android that is more optimized for persisting Java objects to SQLite on that OS.  But I also wanted to create a library that would let me add on additional kinds of data storage later (e.g. noSQL).  The end result is Kayak Point.

Pend Oreille Official 1.0 Release

Celebration

Happy to announce that version 1.0 of the Pend Oreille library has now been released.  You can check it out here:

Pend Oreille Library on Google Code

This project contains some simple utilities to perform operations Java primitives, like data marshalling. It also has some utility functions to work on the Java class model using reflection. This is compiled against the Android 1.5 platform so it will work on Android as well as J2SE.
The Pend Oreille library is very simple and small (under 20kb in size) and has a few basic features that I have always wanted to have:

  • serialize Java primitives and primitive arrays to byte arrays.
  • deserialize java primitives and primitive arrays from byte arrays.
  • box and unbox primitive arrays
  • serialize an array of boolean values into a packed bit field.

See the file READE.md in the source directory for a developer’s guide on how to use the library.