Amazon Granted Patent on Social Networking

I first saw this news on Groklaw.

[PJ: The USPTO and Amazon strike again. Amazon has gotten a patent, No. 7,739,139, on “Social networking system”. Dear US Supreme Court, Please do something before nothing new and innovative can be done by anyone except large companies, because if you don’t help, pretty soon every inch of the Internet will have somebody’s flag on it, and software will only be written by large, well-funded companies. And that blocks a person like Linus Torvalds from being able to create the next Linux, and it harms the one we have. Thank you if you are willing to help. In Re Bilski gives you a wonderful opportunity.]

Mike Masnick expands on the story a bit more, relating it to the initial concern over Friendster acquiring a similar patent. What he explains is that what was granted was a continuation patent for which Amazon applied in 2008. The date of concern, however, stretches back to the late nineties, potentially putting just about all of the networks we know and use at risk.

I am with PJ, I think this is a strong signal to the SCOTUS to step in and at least uphold the machine or transformation test. Give my non-lawyerly ways, it seems to me that would open the way to invalidating this patent. Or at least give purchase to those contesting it by allowing consideration for the question of exactly what this patent transforms and how.

The other question I have is whether Amazon had a choice here. What I mean is, they applied for this patent over a decade ago. Was there some point, and I know this would not have been their thinking, where someone with a clue could have abandoned the patent? Or was it fire and forget, whether they thought better of it later? It is hard to see how Amazon could do anything with this patent without once again uncorking the backlash their notorious 1-click patent did. Maybe for that reason, if someone thought better of it, could they have undone the damage before the continuation was granted?

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