Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Cendant Publishing sues Amazon over US 6,782,370

Dow Jones:

In a lawsuit filed Oct. 29, 2004 in the U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del., Cendant Publishing asserts that Amazon is infringing claims of US Patent 6,782,370 entitled "System and Method for Providing Recommendation of Goods or Services Based on Recorded Purchasing History."

The application for the '370 patent, which issued August 24, 2004, was filed September 4, 1997.

The first claim of the '370 patent is a business-method claim and recites:

A computer-implemented method for the recommendation of goods and/or services to potential customers over a distributed network based on customer buying history utilizing an information processing system containing processing means having transmission means for receiving and transmitting data, and database storage means for storing information in database files, the method comprising the steps of:

receiving customer commands specifying a particular good or service to be used as filter data;

storing information pertaining to goods and/or services purchasing history of previous customers;

comparing said filter data with said stored information and determining whether, for said filter data, corresponding entries exist within the stored information; and

if corresponding entries exist, displaying the identity of other goods and/or services purchased by said previous customers who have purchased the good and/or service used as said filter data.

Independent claim 7 recites:

A computer-implemented interactive system for assisting a potential customer in purchasing decisions from among a plurality of goods or services, the system comprising:

an operator interface for enabling potential customers to input requests to said computer, including requests for:

the purchase of goods or services,

information concerning goods or services,

recommendations of goods or services based on operator input;

a database maintained in said computer, containing information pertaining to goods and/or services purchasing history of previous customers;

means for processing inputted requests and for filtering relevant history information regarding said inputted requests from said database;

a distributed network for transmitting requests from said operator interface to said computer and for transmitting responsive information from said computer to said operator interface;

interface whereby goods and/or services identification information corresponding to goods and/or services purchased by previous customers who have purchased the goods and/or services requested by said potential customers are transmitted to said operator interface for use by said potential customers.

Independent claim 16 recites:

A computer program product having a computer readable medium having computer readable code recorded thereon for the recommendation of goods or services in response to user input, comprising:

input means for receiving user commands specifying a particular good or service to be used as filter data;

database storage means for the retention of data concerning goods or services purchase decisions of prior users; and

means for filtering said database storage means using said specified particular rood or service to obtain recommendations of other goods or services to a user based on said inputted user commands.

The Cendant patent cites to two Amazon publications:,, no date known.*
" Catapults Electronic Commerce to Next Level With Powerful New Features", Sep. 23, 1997.

***UPDATE from Jim Rapoza of eWeek:

As soon as I read about this [Cendant] patent, I remembered a conversation I had in the mid-1990s with a group of developers who were starting a company called Net Perceptions. These guys were touting a technology that would come to be called "collaborative filtering," a capability that Amazon has made classic with its product recommendations. (For example, "People who bought this book also bought ... ")

I distinctly remember one of the developers saying that this was a big step forward because, before that time, Web sites based their recommendations only on an individual buyer's purchase history. I didn't dispute this because it's the plain truth. I mean, it didn't take a genius to figure that out.

Like all of the worst patents, the Cendant patent reaches well beyond its main target. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find an e-commerce site that doesn't provide recommendations a la Amazon. So, now, the entire online commerce business has to hold its breath because the patent office isn't concerned with doing things the right way.

But as bad as the Cendant patent is, it isn't even the worst or most potentially damaging one to make itself felt recently.

Dell is currently facing patent claims from a company called DE Technologies, which holds a patent in the innovative, completely nonobvious and never-been-done-before process of "patent covering international transactions handled over the computer."


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