Boycott Amazon

RichardStallman wants people to BoycottAmazon.

But see http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/amazon.html -- "The FSF decided to end its boycott of Amazon in September 2002."


The patent has been mirrored at http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/amazonpatent.html. This also has some annotations from RMS. If you want the patent without the annotations, go to http://www.patents.ibm.com/details?&pn=US05960411__.

The tricky part with patents is that a really good idea can almost always be explained in a way that makes it obvious...


On October 22nd, Amazon.com filed suit against Barnes & Noble over a ludicrous SoftwarePatent. It is precisely this type of lawsuit that threatens to halt technological innovation and ruin the Internet for all of us.


[Note - link to a related site removed, as the domain expired and is now used by search spammers.]

History: http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.noamazon.com

Last valid instance of the "noamazon" BoycottAmazon site: http://web.archive.org/web/20031011005053/http://noamazon.com/


I suspect that this is either a hoax or else a poorly researched boycott attempt.

The amazon site has this announcement http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/subst/misc/press-releases/judge-protects-1-click.html about using the patent to prevent Barnes and Noble from using their own implementation that uses persistent cookies to recognize the user for the 1-Click shopping.

The GNU site http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/amazon.html seems to have a reasonably well thought out argument for the request to BoycottAmazon.

In the end I see that it comes down to an issue of how I feel about software patents. If Amazon was licensing their implementation for a reasonable fee, then all well and good. But the way I look at patents is based on my understanding of their origin. You put your ideas in the public domain so that others could learn from them and advance the state of the art. For doing so you got exclusive rights to that particular implementation. Anyone who could be creative enough to make a different implementation of the same idea was free to patent that. If you were not creative enough, you just licensed the original implementation. Either way, the original inventor benefitted and society as a whole moved forward. SoftwarePatents do not seem to allow this. -- PeteMcBreen

from http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/amazon.html -- "The FSF decided to end its boycott of Amazon in September 2002."


I'll put it this way. When I first saw 1-Click, I thought it was pretty neat, and I didn't (still don't) think it was "obvious" how to do it. Just as Graham Bell got his patent by mere hours, the patent system lets you milk your innovation by marketing it. Copycats pay licensing fees. I don't see the difference with 1-Click.
I don't see how the statement "Just as Graham Bell got his patent by mere hours" supports the original intention of patents. This implies that someone else had independently come up with the same idea, but because the patent system does not allow for this, only one inventor was allowed to profit from their invention. Even the NobelPrize committees allow for multiple recipients if different groups working independently come up with the same ideas.

My objection to patenting ideas (as opposed to a particular implementation or realization of the idea) is that ideas arise in a context, and when the context manifests itself, the ideas will be generated independently. JamesBurke? wrote a book called TheKnowledgeWeb? that talked about this kind of thing.

The really hard part about SoftwarePatents is knowing when you are infringing. Take the GIF patent, after many years of use, and widespread incorporation of the file format into lots of tools, suddenly the patent holder wakes up and wants to start charging the users for their GIFs. The AmazonBoycott? comes from the same idea. Cookies are widely used to remember information about "visitors" between visits. Saving your customer number in a cookie so that they can retrieve your details when you submit an order is a fairly obvious use of cookies (assuming that your customers are happy to have their personal details saved on your server). Two years after the patent was granted, Amazon decides to assert it's patent rights because a competitor uses the idea they had patented. How many other sites have unknowingly infringed on this patent? (Luckily none of my designs have because I try to avoid the use of cookies, but the sites all have a GIF somewhere or other). -- PeteMcBreen
Pete, what are you alluding to above? Has patent law changed so that ideas rather than implementations are patentable? -- MichaelFeathers
Yes, it is very hard to do anything in hw/sw these days without infringing on someone's patent ... hw/sw is so intertwined with ideas.


(p.s. I found the following patent much more scary, in terms of being obvious: Secure method and system for communicating a list of credit card numbers over a non-secure network

Inventor(s): Bezos; Jeffrey P. , Bellevue, WA Abstract: A method and system for securely indicating to a customer one or more credit card numbers that a merchant has on file for the customer when communicating with the customer over a non-secure network. The merchant sends a message to the customer that contains only a portion of each of the credit card numbers that are on file with the merchant. ...The customer can then confirm in a return message that a specific one of the credit card numbers on file with the merchant should be used in charging a transaction.)
Some bozo got a patent on the XOR-cursor trick used by countless VDT's. If that's not prior art, I don't know what is.
Occasionally, I wonder how many patents the WikiWikiWeb is violating, and how many of them were filed after 1995. (Anyone want to patent a remote database update procedure using a simplified language convertible to HTML, with an innovative method of linking database entries?) -- CliffordAdams
Michael, Although ideas are not supposed to be patentable as such, more SoftwarePatents are written such that it is the idea that is being patented. After all, if all Amazon did was to patent their implementation, they could not claim that anyone was infringing since nobody else has a copy of their code :-) The site http://www.freepatents.org/ has a good set of documents referring to the HazardsOfSoftwarePatents? -- PeteMcBreen

They have now patented the way their AmazonAssociate program works.

-- DrewMarsh


What annoys me (and I guess others) is that the patent is for something that is obvious (what else are cookies for?) and that has been done before. We did basically the same thing (although not for buying stuff) in a web application back in early 1997. One of our guys proposed this method and said that "he had seen it a couple of times" in other software. The patent is ridiculous.


Business methods are also patentable. There is a company which thinks up such methods and patents them. As an example, they have patented the method of accepting fast food drive through orders sent from a PDA through a wireless modem. Also the US Patent and Trademark Office has announced they are going to review the whole issue of software patents. -- RobertField


I don't BoycottAmazon because of the patents. I BoycottAmazon because they're unrepentant spammers. A google search for "amazon spam" gives plenty of reliable evidence. Make sure you hit the "Groups" tab too. -- MarkSchumann
For one alternative to Amazon, see BookPool.
BoycottOnceAndOnlyOnce? -- Boycott Boycotts

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