I was never a patent attorney, but I think that the USPTO is going too far in granting certain "business method" patents. Case in point: According to this InternetNews article, Amazon was recently awarded a patent covering the collection of user reviews.
Huh? Come again? Apparently, yes …
Here's how the article describes the patent:
The third patent is the real kicker. It covers methods for encouraging consumers to write reviews of items they've purchased by determining the optimal times to send them e-mails or reminders.
In one embodiment of the patent, the system sends consumers a message inviting them to write a review in a predetermined amount of time after the purchase. It's a method widely used by online retailers, including Yahoo (Quote, Chart) Shopping. The patent also covers the method of tracking who returns to rate products by asking them to click on a unique link in an e-mail.
But the patent even covers collecting reviews by letting visitors to a Web site fill out a form.
This patent is both absurd and a sure-fire recipe for litigation. It's also just wrong, wrong, wrong! It rises to the level of being morally wrong. And this aspect of the patent should never have been granted. It comes very close to granting a patent on an idea, which is legally impossible under U.S. law.
Amazon should not be permitted to prevent others from collecting the opinions of their users and the community (or be allowed to profit from that). The implications are significant for a range of companies, including (as the article mentions) Google, Yahoo!, eBay and a host of others.
It makes me, as a private citizen (as opposed to a responsible analyst), angry.
Did I mention I thought it was a bad idea?