Did Amazon.com just patent Christmas?

Not quite, but the company has just received a patent on what has become a common method of giving presents — a system for selecting digital gifts such as movies, music or e-books, sending an electronic notification to a recipient, and allowing them to download the gift.

There is one unusual twist: The patent describes the ability for the giver to delay payment until the recipient has accepted the digital gift, or cancel the order (and avoid payment) if the gift hasn’t been accepted and downloaded by the recipient after a certain period of time.

However, rest of the patent describes ideas that will seem less than novel to most people who use the Internet. Maybe this stuff seemed innovative back in 2008, when Amazon applied for the patent. But four years later, it reads like a case study in the obvious.

For example …

The prospect of electronically transferrable items offers an alternative to conventional methods of giving gifts that might include music, movies, television programs, games, or books. For example, instead of giving a gift certificate for a retail store that would allow a recipient to select a gift of the recipient’s own choosing, one can give a gift certificate for electronically transferrable items. Using the gift certificate, the recipient can conveniently access the desired electronically transferrable items. However, when a giver presents a gift certificate for electronically transferrable items, the gift may be considered impersonal because the giver did not take the time to choose a specific gift for the particular recipient. Also, it is not unusual for a gift certificate not to be redeemed by a recipient, wasting the money the giver spent on the gift certificate.

Broad patents like these have become a lightning rod in the tech industry, helping to fuel criticism of the U.S. patent system.

In this case, it’s too bad we can’t hold the company to the approach it describes in the patent. Amazon today charges people who give Kindle books when they place their orders, but now that Amazon brings it up, it sure would be nice to wait to see if the recipient accepts the gift before getting hit with the charge. We’ll be watching for it in a future product update.

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  • JigDaWig

    This makes a lot of sense dude.

  • GreyGeek77

    This patent is more than stupid.  It is obscene.

  • Guest

    The claim says:
    1. A system, comprising: an electronic gift component, including: a processor configured to: enable a selection of a specified digital media item from a network resource, wherein the specified digital media item is electronically deliverable from the network resource to be presented as a gift to a recipient; generate a gift notification to be presented to the recipient, wherein the gift notification includes an access mechanism to enable a recipient to access the gift; wherein in response to the access mechanism, the processor is configured to enable acceptance of the gift and to make the gift available for electronic delivery; determine whether the gift has been accepted using the access mechanism; when the gift has not been accepted, enable the giver to cancel the gift such that no payment is processed; and when the determination is that the gift has been accepted, initiate payment by a payment mechanism associated with the giver; and a payment processing component configured to process the initiated payment.  

    You need to do ALL of that to infringe. 

    If you think it is obvious find an article or publication on the Internet, published before the filing date of the patent that shows this. Link to that article here. 

    • This is not new

      Merely adding the words ‘digital’ and ‘electronic’ does not make this novel or non-obvious. Consider this scenario:

      You go to a restaurant and say that you want to buy dinner for a friend. You give the proprietor your credit card and say charge my card for whatever he buys. The proprietor gives you a gift card to give to your friend (I mean gift ‘notification’). Your friend goes to the restaurant and hands the card to the maitre d’ (the access mechanism). Afterwards, the restaurant charges your credit card. If your friend hasn’t redeemed the gift card yet and you have a falling out and no longer feel generous, you can call the proprietor and cancel it.

      This isn’t hypothetical. What has Amazon invented aside from doing this electronically?

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