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

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 6.35.05 PM

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: 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.


The REAL Apple iTunes 11 Release Notes

It’s 3:48 AM, and I’ve spent the last hour trying to get a simple thing done on iTunes.  It’s not working.  Reading the release notes didn’t help either, but I thought I would at least re-write them for people who are faced with the same thing:

About iTunes 11.0.2

The new iTunes includes a dramatically simplified player, a completely redesigned Store, and iCloud features you’ll love (if you can actually use the product due to us leaving out the obvious usability use cases) — despite all our hard work and stunning design, this is the most useless best iTunes yet.

  • Completely Redesigned. We left out the part where we don’t make it obvious how to download all your iCloud purchases at once. Some of you can expect to spend a good hour trying to find a simple “Download all purchases stored in the iCloud” function.  You’ll probably give up in complete frustration.
  • A new opportunity to rant on the Apple forums, and A New Store.
  • Play purchases from iCloud, but just don’t download them all at once to your new overpriced Mac you spent good money on. We would prefer you click on the little cloud icon on EACH and EVERY song you’ve purchased. Your music, movie, and TV show purchases in iCloud now appear inside your library. Just sign-in with your Apple ID to see them. Double-click to play them directly from iCloud or download a copy you can sync to a device or play while offline.
  • Up Next. It’s now simple to see which songs are playing next, but it doesn’t really matter because that’s useless until you go through hundreds, perhaps thousands of songs to click that cute little cloud button to download each one.
  • New MiniPlayer. You can now do a whole lot more with a lot less space, except download all your iCloud purchases at once.
  • Improved search. That little cloud next to each song is a great reminder that you get to click on it hundreds or perhaps thousands of times to download each and every song – one at a time.  We hope you don’t go crazy in the process, but it’s never been easier to find what you’re looking for in iTunes. Just type in the search field and you’ll instantly see results from across your entire library. Select any result and iTunes takes you right to it.
  • Playback syncing. iCloud now remembers your place in a movie or TV show for you. Whenever you play the same movie or episode from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple TV, it will continue right where you left off.

This update adds a new Composers view for music, improves responsiveness when syncing playlists with a large number of songs, and fixes an issue where purchases may not show up in your iTunes library. This update also includes other stability and performance improvements.

For information on the security content of this update, please visit: support.apple.com/kb/HT1222.

Windows SHA1= c247ece76d06101867ec11191aead1cebc46ea32

Windows 64 SHA1= 14ccca67b9ba181bfb126de028d3e6aa4df3b684

Mac SHA1= e8eba6c2b83b9e24116a9944c808525bed260aa0

Android apps running on RIM’s Playbook?

The RIM press release says it all … that developers will be able to repackage and resign existing Android apps to run on PlayBook.

Yeah … That’s what the developer community needs … more undocumented RIM SDKs to add to the existing, poorly documented and cumbersome family of RIM development SDKs!

The cost of writing mobile apps for RIM devices is already about (I estimate) 30% higher than any other device just due to the challenges of dealing with the RIM SDKs and hardware.

Is adding another build step really going to help?