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User reviews are a hot new content area, being used by Google (Quote, Chart), Yahoo (Quote, Chart) and MSN to sweeten their local search results. But as of Thursday, such consumer reviews could put search providers, as well as thousands of e-commerce sites, video rental or review sites and online booksellers, in the sights of Amazon.com's (Quote, Chart) lawyers.
Much of the patent talks about incentivizing the consumer review process.
However, this portion seems to cover how any review would easily make it's way onto the web:
the patent even covers collecting reviews by letting visitors to a Web site fill out a form.
One of the cornerstones of local marketing is the ability for users to write reviews of businesses that help other users and eventually grows these properties into communities.
How Amazon attempts to enforce this patent could have some wide ranging effects.
Amazing. I have no problem with genuine patents being granted but it seems that the USPTO will grant almost anything.
I'm off to patent a device that facilitates the oxygenation of blood using the passage of a common gas mixture over organic membranes traversed by a matrix of blood transport devices. I think I'll make a mint from it as I'm pretty sure most people would use such a device!
Do we have some patent-savvy members who can elaborate on this?
yes, sorry... reviews of things were certainly going on online in a variety of formats before amazon.
but to my knowledge, amazon was the first to implement a structured review system as a core part of their business.
I just read the patent, and one thing reassures me a bit:
This seems to be a patent on the ENCOURAGEMENT of reviews, and not consumer reviews themselves.
The entire patent talks about ways that Amazon links customers who have purchased a specific item with solicitations for reviews.
Every claim in the patent begins with:
"a method of encouraging customers to provide reviews of purchased items, the method comprising...receiving over a network an order from a first customer purchased from an electronic catalog."
So, it would seem to my non-legal mind that pure play review sites wouldn't run into trouble with this (as there is no "receiving over a network an order from a first customer...").
It's impressive how shrewd Amazon is at business process patenting. Even if they are ultimately overturned, like the one-click buying suit against BN, the existence of the patents and their persistence in aquiring them is like dropping land mines on the road behind them.
The shameful part is that the quick patent button stifles the growth of the whole and isolates the few.
I'll be sitting on the side with popcorn waving my Yahoo flag and Foam Yahoo #1 hand, watching this Y vs Amazon battle.