Posts Tagged ‘amazon’

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The USPTO just gave Amazon a patent on the giftcard.

Not quite. But almost. Amazon received a patent on “customizing gift instrument experiences for recipients.” Amazon can keep its gift instrument away from me. The patent is basically for a gift card that allows the purchaser to (1) restrict items available for purchase, and (2) get a report of items purchased with the card. I can think of some really fun uses for this, if you want to give someone a crappy gift. More practically, it could be used instead of a credit card, maybe by restricting purchases to groceries only. Others have suggested that it works like parental controls. No doubt about that. But let’s dig deeper.

What’s a gift card? The authority of our time says:

A gift card is a restricted monetary equivalent or scrip that is issued by retailers or banks to be used as an alternative to a non-monetary gift . . . The recipient of the gift card can use it at his or her discretion within the restrictions set by the issuing agency.

Really, all Amazon did was give the purchaser of the card more discretion. The discretion was always there, since buying a gift card immediately and inherently limits the unlimited discretion afforded by cash. And stores and restaurants often have restrictions on which items may be purchased with gift cards, even within the store.

As to the second part, which reports items purchased with a card, this option is sometimes available now, albeit in a more clandestine way. The purchaser of the gift card could just write down the card number and look up the balance and probably even request a statement from the vendor. Gift cards are, after all, mostly freely transferable from user to user, although Visa has introduced personalized gift cards, with your ugly mug on card itself.

Amazon thought of this idea back in 2008, and was just granted its patent. They included all kinds of twists on the same theme, allowing the purchaser to recommend items (whoopee!), directly censor purchases (nothing but Chuck Mangione records!), limit delivery to digital or physical shipment, notifying the purchaser by voice, text, or email of what awesome schlock the recipient Bought Now.

So, we’ve all been doing, or, with minimal forethought, could have done, everything this patents allows. I can’t wait to buy my wife a gift card allowing her to purchase this and this alone.

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Scott Nyman


I know that tablets have been all the craze lately. Consumers have been very receptive of the iPad, purchasing the device in droves. Android-based tablets, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, have also found  some success in their markets around the world. However, I  haven’t caught tablet fever just yet. Enter the Kindle Fire.

I consider myself a pretty tech-savvy guy. I have more computers than rooms in my house, more televisions than people to watch them, and more gadgets than I could possibly need. Still, I haven’t been able to find a place in my daily life for a tablet. If I want to do computing, I have a laptop or desktop. If I want to quickly look something up, I have a smartphone. If I want to consume media, I have a number of screens and paper-based publications to choose from.

But, for some reason, Amazon’s Kindle Fire interests me.

Sure, a price point lower than its competition helps, which can better allow for an impulse buy. The beefy hardware specifications are also nice. But, the thing that really grabs my attention is the focus on offloading much of the processing and content accessing duties to servers connected over the cloud, to Amazon’s own Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). I’ve been saying for years that consumer computing is moving away from individually processing data on powerful personal computers, and migrating to networked processing and storage that may be consumed by less powerful consumer devices.  The Kindle Fire takes a significant step in that direction.

However, it seems that I’m not the only person that has taken notice of Amazon’s new darling. SmartPhone Technologies LLC, a likely candidate for patent troll status, has recently added Amazon to its list of patent infringement defendants, which presently includes Apple and Research In Motion. SmartPhone Technologies alleges that Amazon infringes upon four Plaintiff owned patents. As an example, one of the patents-in-suit includes U.S. Pat. No. 6,956,562 filed on May 18,2000. I have included the abstract below:

A method for software control using a user-interactive display screen feature is disclosed that reduces stylus or other manipulations necessary to invoke software functionality from the display screen. According to the method, a graphical feature having a surface area is displayed on a touch-sensitive screen. The touch-sensitive screen is coupled to at least one processor and the graphical feature is generated by an operating system and uniquely associated with a particular software program by the operating system. To control software executing on the processor, a user-supplied writing on the surface area is received and the software is controlled responsive to the writing. In alternate embodiments, the method further controls data stored in a memory device responsive to the writing or further controls transmission of data from a radiation emitter, which may be coupled to voice and data networks.

I haven’t dug into the claims of the ’562 patent, but I seem to recall touchscreen interfaces existing prior to May of 2000. However, Amazon will have to spend at least some money defending its honor, or at least proving SmartPhone Technologies’ dishonor. Depending on the price to make this suit just go away, we may see this issue settled soon.

Credit for the image goes to:

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Big tech companies see mobile devices as their future.  I can reach no other conclusion, given the recent patent buying-sprees. Every big tech company has gotten into it: Google, Apple, and Microsoft (among many others) have spend tens of billions buying tens of thousands of patents, most of which are related to mobile devices. The sellers are mainly has-beens, including Verizon, Nortel, Motorola, Rim, and Novell. IBM also sold a trove of patents to Google, but they’re no has been.

Another big tech company has recently broadened its business model — Amazon. With the Kindle (whose success perplexes me), Amazon dipped its rather large pinkie toe into the mobile device waters. Now, Amazon has released the Fire, a tablet device with which Amazon is has inched closer to competing with the vaunted iPad.

Now, make no mistake, the Fire is no iPad, but I don’t think Amazon wants it to be. These days, once you compete with Apple, you lose. There’s no such thing as an Apple, except an Apple. But if you’re on the periphery, or somehow create a new niche, you have a chance. Enter, the Fire. But mobile devices need intellectual property protection to stand a chance when billion dollar IP lawsuits are being tossed around.

Amazon has been beefing up its patent portfolio, including singing a huge and vital licensing agreement with Microsoft in 2010. Now, Amazon may be looking to expand further by buying another tech has been, Palm.

Last year, HP bought Palm for $1.2 billion, but HP has been losing money on mobile device unit for the last year and is looking to unload. Hilariously, an executive VP at HP said at the time that Palm would “create a unique H.P. experience spanning multiple mobile connected devices.” I am now sitting at my laptop, thinking, “I am having one hell of a unique Toshiba experience.” But I digress.

Might Palm be bought at a bargain rate? has reported that Amazon and HP are in “serious negotiations”, that there are other potential buyers as well. Palm is said to have a nice patent portfolio, which Amazon will need to defend against the lawsuits which are all but pending (because when aren’t they?).

Someone named Jordan Rohan (“ . . . a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!”) from some company called Stifel Nicolaus even said:

I don’t think anyone believes that Apple and Amazon will not have significant competitive skirmishes in the future . . .  The value of I.P. related to mobile has gone up—even if there was no palm devices in the future, it would still be valuable.

Yep, he thinks Apple and Amazon will sue each other and that the already high value of mobile IP will continue to rise. Pray that Mr. Rohan didn’t get paid for his prophesy.

It’s all funny money for big tech firms, but Amazon is right to be in the game. If you ain’t got patents, you ain’t got nuthin in the mobile device wars.


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By: Rene Dial

The Verdict, Apple gets REJECTED!

The recap.  Apple filed for the trademark “App Store” on July 17, 2008. According to the Order Denying Injunctionon January 5, 2010, the PTO filed a Notice of Publication publishing the mark for opposition. Microsoft requested an extension of time to oppose, received the extension, then filed an opposition to the mark claiming that the term was generic.  Around March 2011 Amazon launched “Amazon Appstore for Android.”  Somewhere in between all of the posturing Apple filed suit requesting an injunction to stop Amazon from using the “Appstore” name.  Did you get all of that?  

 In one of my previous articles Apple was sending cease and desist letters to everyone that was using the name “appstore/app store.”  In that article a small start up company, Amahi, was getting picked on by Apple over use of the term app store on Amahi’s website. Now let’s jump to the future. 

On July 6, 2011 the Northern District of California issued an order denying Apple’s injunction preventing Amazon’s use of the term “appstore.”  The reasoning…

The order went on to say that Apple did not provide evidence that Amazon will tarnish Apple’s “App Store.”  Well it seems that the court has ruled that “app store/appstore” is more of a generic mark and Apple can stop spending money on sending out cease and desist letters.  As I said before big guys have the money to push around small mom and pop operations but the rubber meets the road when a titan has to stand toe to toe against another titan. (que Rocky theme song)

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By: Rene Dial

Is App Store a generic term?

Apple filed for the “App Store” trademark on July 17, 2008.  Sage Networks filed for a trademark to use the term “Appstore” in August 26, 1998 “providing computer software application hosting services by means of a global computer information network” but was abandoned in November of 2000.

Sage Networks is not in a fight with Apple.  I was just surprised to find an “Appstore” that predated Apple’s App Store.  If you take Apple’s word for it.  A quick search of the USPTO’s database found a number of businesses using the term Appstore by adding various names before it such as Rene’s Appstore.  Apple’s app store is not called Apple’s App Store it is just App Store.  In my mind it is kind of like using the term grocery store.  The only way to distinguish it is to call it by the name of the company that owns it.  For instance Publix’s Grocery Store or Winn Dixie’s Grocery Store.

According to a letter I found on Apple is going after a small start up company called Amahi over their use of the name App Store on Amahi’s website.  Click here for a link to the letter found on TNW.  I can only imagine how many companies are out there using some variation of app store and I can only imagine how much money Apple is willing to spend to defend the mark.  Small start ups typically do not have the capital to take on these giants.  It usualy takes a titan to fight a titan.

Here comes our second titan to the ring, Amazon!  Now we finally get to see how much money and time Apple is willing to spend.  An Article on  says that Apple is currently in a court battle with Amazon for trademark infringement and to prevent Amazon’s registration of “appstore.”  According to the article it seems as though the judge in this case is set to deny Apple’s motion as they have not demonstrated real evidence of confusion.  Okay how many “app store/appstore(s)” can there be.  Are these companies really distinguishing their goods and services? 

Okay now for a little trademark 101.

According to the USPTO “A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.”  Now when I say app store/appstore do you automatically think Apple?  Is Apple the only company that has an app store/appstore?  What draws the distinction of one app from another app?  Does Apple’s App Store distinguish Apple’s apps “of one party from those of others.”

I have a DVR that plays Netflix, news articles, Facebook and many other “apps.”  Apple does not come to mind when I click on an icon.  I do not think of Apple when my brother in law shows me the apps on his Droid smart phone.  If he shows me the Droid “app store” I do not think of Apple.  The only thing that distinguishes Apple’s apps from the other guys is that Apple’s apps are on Apple’s products.  I cannot buy a Droid app to place on an Iphone or an Iphone App to place on a Droid!  So how is the consumer going to confuse the “store” that their apps were purchased from.

According to (15 U.S.C. §1052) Section 2(e) of the Lanham Act states “No trademark by which the goods of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of others shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of its nature unless it–… (e) Consists of a mark which, (1) when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant is merely descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive of them…”  Is “app store/appstore” merely descriptive?

You be the judge.




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