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Pick Your Brain: Any prior art on Apple's patent application on wifi ordering by iPhone? - Updated
Friday, January 04 2008 @ 06:40 PM EST

We have another request to pick your brains regarding prior art. I guess I should set up a new subcategory just for prior art searching. It looks like we'll be doing more and more of it. This time, the request is regarding the new patent application that Apple announced for wifi purchases over an iPhone. Journalist John Oram believes he's found someone who has some prior art. Can you please take a look and if you know of other examples, comment on them here?

The article shows me why education about patents and the patent process is important, as I see some misunderstanding about how it works. As you'll see, the article includes a complaint about the USPTO, that when someone with prior art to offer contacted the USPTO, he was more or less turned away. There's a reason for that, and the explanation will help you to understand the purpose for setting up the Peer to Patent project.

In defense of the USPTO examiners, they are not normally allowed to chat with you about prior art. You can't just call them up and tell them you have some or write to the examiner and explain why the patent application is dancing baloney, although you can submit documents, but without any explanation as to why they are prior art. There is a process, one that currently leaves quite an information deficit at the USPTO, and that's what the Peer to Patent project, in cooperation with the USPTO, is trying to fix.

But it's a test project. And at the moment, unless Apple submitted its patent application to the Peer to Patent project, it won't be possible to submit prior art that way. If you think it would be better if patent applications could be commented on and prior art submitted before the applications issue as patents, then you'll want to help the project find prior art so as to convince the USPTO that this is worth doing permanently and across the board. Of course, if your best hope is that the process falls and breaks to smithereens, you may not want to lift a finger. It's up to you. If I thought that could happen, I'd join you, but I don't think it's realistic. And this Apple patent application is a very clear, real-life situation where I see the value of a system where those knowledgeable about prior art have a way to tell the USPTO before another stupid patent issues and ruins someone's business or life.

Here are some tutorials on how to find prior art. Most of you have life experience with the tech, so it's not like a pop quiz or anything stressful. Just tell what you already know. Others can tie it all together. Here's a FAQ in case you have questions about the project.

By the way, this is a good time to remind you that there are some new patents in that project I'm guessing you want to take a look at and knock down with prior art, if you can. Here's one new one, Automatic tracking of user data and reputation checking. Ugh. Microsoft, naturally. No prior art listed yet. Here are two more of Microsoft's entered in the project, if you wish to focus, and I hope you do. As you can see, you can search by name of company.

Here's a patent application by HP, System and method for managing virtual collaboration systems, and after the LANCOR suit against OLPC, I suggest taking it seriously and knocking it out. Not that HP would do the same thing, but hey, you never know. Companies go out of business, sell their patents, things happen. Corporate types are forever telling me that corporations can't be ethical because they have to care about shareholder value. So let's believe them and make sure nothing that could stop the OLPC project slips through.

The other new one is Method and apparatus for determining the switch port to which an end-node device is connected. Um. Say. Anyone know anything about that? There are older ones there too, some with only 5 days left.

After the LANCOR business, I'm thinking patent applications are like mosquitos. You have to swat them any time you see them. You can't leave even one buzzing around the room, no matter how tired you are. If you do, you'll regret it later.

And with that, here's the article on Apple's new patent application.


Apple's new patent application ignores prior developments

iPhone coffee ordering isn't a new idea

EXCLUSIVE to Groklaw

By John Oram in California

Last Thursday, Forbes in an article titled, Apple's Piping Hot Innovation trumpeted Steve Jobs’ latest iPhone variation claiming soon you will be able to order a cup of coffee at a local Starbucks or a fresh burger at the nearest fast food restaurant from your iPhone.

Apple applied for a U.S. Patent #20070291710 on December 20, noting about seventy-five items, including a statement their iPhone idea of a graphical interface and wireless POS (point of sale) for ordering food in a restaurant is original.

Odd isn't it, that a February 2004 article in the USA Today TECH section explained how ViewTouch, an Oregon POS developer, already had a fully operational system doing everything Steve Jobs’ patent application seems to claim. ViewTouch sells the complete package of equipment, software, and support services that make up a comprehensive front-to-back turnkey POS solution for restaurants.

I asked Gene Mosher, the owner and developer of ViewTouch software and hardware, how it all works. He said, “By 1979, I had proved, in my own restaurants, that it was possible to take a restaurant order on a PC from a customer entering the front door and get the food on the table before the customer sat down."

Mosher explained the ViewTouch system this way: “Anyone can record their order by pressing the screen of a handheld electronic tablet. The order is then sent via wireless radio to the restaurant's main computer, where a ticket prints out in the kitchen. Then a cook grabs it and gets to work. The orders are accurate. There's no need to decipher a waiter's handwriting. Plus the orders arrive instantly at the kitchen in a consistent, readable format.”

ViewTouch's website says it is the original point of sale software company. I asked Mosher to back up those claims. He told me: “I built and/or operated several restaurants -- six of them, in the period between 1973 and 1983. We invented the graphic touch-screen point of sale, virtual point of sale solution for eating establishments.

“Our story began in 1977 with the development of order-entry POS software on a PC, using an Apple and Apple floppy disk. Next came the development of remote printing in the kitchen using an Apple Silentype in June, 1979.

“Our major step forward was originating a color, graphical user interface and touch-screen in POS, with an Atari 520ST, which we unveiled at ComDex, Las Vegas in 1986. We were the first to develop the same system for UNIX in 1995, Linux in 1997, and FreeBSD in 1998. In 2003, we began working with wireless, touch-screen, handheld devices. We are in our third generation of these small form-factor devices. Each of our restaurant installations is more profitable because of ViewTouch POS solutions.”

Mosher went on to say this about Apple's announcement: “It really saddens me when Steve Jobs claims in his U.S. Patent Application #20070291710 that there was no prior art, because since early 2003, ViewTouch has been doing all of it.”

Mosher claims: “If you accept the idea that a restaurant 'manufactures' its food, then the intent of this patent is amazingly comparable to what I set out to do 30 years ago, and was able to achieve 23 years ago.

“The big problem I see with the Patent Application is Apple has a 'closed API' for all their products, including the iPhone. So a developer is restrained from porting their existing applications to the Apple product line. Thus, Steve Jobs and Apple can develop their own in-house POS application and snag the profits from the software.

“The sneaky part of this scenario with Starbucks/iPhone/unnamed hamburger joint will be advertising sales 'spiffs' for preferential POS placement on the iPhone network. That will be an ongoing revenue stream to Apple and the mobile telco carrier.

“Compare Apple's restricted environment to Google's Android open source environment which will change every mobile application developer's game plan. Someone like us (ViewTouch) could port their existing POS application directly to Android. The customers would gain the use of software with over twenty years experience in solving the problems of POS. Conversely, I know Apple's iPhone software will be just like anyone else's Version One Point Oh software: buggy, long on promise, and short on delivery.”

I asked Gene if he plans to challenge Apple's iPhone GUI application patent, and if so, how. Mosher said this about the U.S. Patent Office process: “When we called the Patent Office they told us we cannot do anything now that the Application is published. What a bunch of weasel words. The patenting of a user interface is an abomination. The only winners are the giant corporations who have on staff patent attorneys to litigate forever.

“How can the U.S. Patent Office give preferential treatment for something like how you hold and use a tool? If that were tried today with a hammer, they would be laughed out of town. Yet corporate lobbyists rewrote our patent laws to allow exorbitant fees for an obvious.”

Mosher believes there is ample published prior art to question the assumption in U. S. Patent Application# 20070291710. The Abstract says:

A processing system is described that includes a wireless communication interface that wirelessly communicates with one or more wireless client devices in the vicinity of an establishment. The wireless communication interface receives a remote order corresponding to an item selected by at least one of the wireless client devices. A local server computer located in proximity to the establishment generates instructions for processing the remote order received from the wireless communication interface. The local server computer then passes the processing instructions to an order processing queue in preparation for processing of the remote order.

“Just read that abstract," Mosher said, "and look at their first claim. They are talking about a graphical touch screen interface to POS with wireless communications over to a server. We are now using our third generation wireless device. This one is an ARM-powered handheld with our POS program embedded in its internal flash. As with all our handheld devices, it sits on the wireless network as a network-attached application.

“What we have been doing since 2003 is really everything that Apple is claiming in their patent application. But what can I do? The advice I got over the phone from the USPTO last Friday,” Mosher said, “is I will have to pursue this as an individual under 37 CFR 1.99 unless/until I can get some other parties interested. So for starters, I'll be submitting the newspaper article and photograph to the USPTO. I'm allowed ten exhibits. Clearly there is prior art and I'll find it.”

We asked Mosher if he had explored any other options. He confided, “This weekend I started the process with Peer-To-Patent. They look like a very direct and efficient means of getting involved in the patent pre-review process with my specific intention of being able to have my knowledge given a 'fair' exposure.

“I also spoke with our corporate attorney who said we will probably need assistance with patent counsel. I hope we can generate some interest from the open source community from places like Electronic Frontier Foundation like they did with the Internet test-taking method patent.

What’s a small businessman to do against a corporate giant? Is this another case of David and Goliath? How will our David, Gene Mosher of ViewTouch, find a slingshot big enough to topple the patent applied for by Steve Jobs?


More on Apple's iPhone Patent Application and prior art discoveries
By John Oram in California

New information has jumped up since I first wrote about Apple's iPhone Patent Application and ViewTouch's claim of prior art. Bottom line: there appears to be prior art which brings into question many, if not all, of Apple's POS (point of sale) Patent Application claims.

Groklaw readers are a wonderful source of hands-on knowledge and common sense. A great Groklaw comment came from 'bwbees0' on Saturday, January 05 2008, ”As I read this article, I am left wondering how obvious does something have to be before it is so obvious that it is not patent-worthy. I am not a lawyer, but I thought patents were reserved for new ideas.”

The Groklaw community shared their own experiences. Especially enlightening were the links to non-USA examples of “prior art”. A comment on Groklaw Sunday, January 06 about Helsinki Vaanta Airport, Finland:

“... during 1997 or 1998 Nokia installed a soda vending machine where you ordered a drink by dialing the phone number listed for each slot from your mobile phone.”

I have been sending emails to others asking if they knew of prior art on this one. Robert X. Cringley substantiated Groklaw's story, pointing me to his video "Electric Money – Bills to Bytes", produced by David Davis for PBS. In the segment about purchasing with a mobile phone, Bob Cringley and Seppo Vihinen of the Finnish Telecom company Sonera are shown demonstrating, in 1999, the then-advanced applications of the mobile phone, including purchasing products and services.

Bob said this about making his video:

“I ordered coffee with my cellphone at a coffee shop in Helsinki. Sonora, the Finnish mobile phone carrier, has thousands of things you can order and pay for by phone, from car washes to soft drink machines, but most are unmanned. The coffee shop was an exception in that I ordered by phone something that was made and delivered by hand."

Below are time stamp references from the beginning of his "Electric Money" video, with the audio in quotes and the video action described in brackets:

  • 6:04:min.: “Once the cell phone becomes a wireless computer it can be used to access your bank account or to replace your credit cards. In some places your phone is already as good as money. [Video shows a vending machine dispenses a drink after activation by a cell phone.]
  • 30:00 min.: “So let's buy something. How do we do it? The cell phone has become a wireless handheld computer, sending and receiving payment information either directly or over the Internet. It can charge something to your phone bill or your credit card or directly debit your bank account. [Video shows a mobile phones touch screen with transaction detail. There are choices showing that can be made using the mobile phone. A mobile phone user enters their pin code and the vending machine gives a printed receipt, while the mobile phone user has an electronic receipt displayed.]
  • 31:30 min.: “Now because their customers are such proficient users of the mobile phones, a Finnish company, Sonera, has seen a wonderful opportunity to turn those phones into payment machines, into a substitute for cash.” [The mobile phone is shown being used to purchase a car wash.]

That reminded this author of past experiences with wireless vending machines. In the late 1980's, we were a VAR for PoqetPC which was bought by FPSI (Fujitsu Personal Systems Inc). We sold FPSI touch-screen, tablet/laptop into several vertical markets along with Motorola's two-way alpha-paging and Proxim wireless 802.1x communications. In 1994, we got a call from Tom Stutzman, FPSI-Santa Clara's techy guru, to come watch him demo a rudimentary POS approach which used Proxim's 802.1b wireless communications to “buy” a can of soda from a vending machine. Back then we didn't call wireless 802.1x hardware, WiFi.

The patent office's ability to even judge the uniqueness of a software product application has come under fire. As PJ previously pointed out, the Peer to Patent Project opens the patent examination process to public participation for the first time. From their press release:

Peer-to-Patent is giving the public the opportunity in a pilot program to contribute information to the patent office in order to help the examiner make the determination about whether in fact an application or the invention deserves this enormous grant of 20 years of monopoly rights. Basically, it's very hard for the patent office with a million applications -- soon to be a million applications on backlog -- and only about 18 to 20 hours to examine each application, an application that may turn into the next Blackberry or the next iPod, to get all the information that it needs to make that important decision.

The criticism of the patent office's lack of knowledge about prior art in the computer industry has been fermenting for a long time. In March, 2000 the New York Times had an extensive article about the Amazon 1-click ordering scheme, U.S. Patent No. 5,960,411, a "method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network." They concluded, “For better or worse, the struggle [over patenting of software] will redefine our understanding of what an invention is in our complex, technocratic age.”

Gregory Aharonian, a consultant and publisher of a widely read patent newsletter, in the same article said, "The U.S. Patent Office is just not competent to examine software patents. Eighty percent of software patents effectively cite nothing from the computing literature. To me it's a kind of contempt." He contends that the patent office has neither the time nor the expertise needed to distinguish good patents from bad. "It's a cold war," he says. "It's just people playing legal games."

In the previously mentioned New York Times article they say that “recent court decisions and patent-office rule-making have made software the fastest growing patent category, and companies are rushing to patent the most basic methods of doing business."

"This is a disaster," says Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford Law School professor and cyberspace law expert. "This is a major change that occurred without anybody thinking through the consequences. In my view, it is the single greatest threat to innovation in cyberspace, and I'm extremely skeptical that anybody's going to get it in time.

“Even under traditional patent rules, many of these software patents will turn out to be bad patents," says Lessig, "but in the meantime they create these little mafia monopoly holders who can go around demanding, with a federal court behind them, that you pay up or we'll shut you down. We're not talking about Thomas Edison inventing the light bulb," says Lessig. "We're not talking about Monsanto spending tons of money on some chemical whatever. We're talking about people taking ways of doing business and, because they put it into software, they say, 'This is now mine.'"

A telling comment from the New York Times article points out, “Patents legendarily protect the lone inventor, the pioneering genius in a garage, against the predation of big companies. In reality the opposite has usually been true. As basic industries like electricity, telephony and broadcasting developed in the 20th century, the great corporations learned to create arsenals of interrelated patents to use as sword and shield. The wise people, with good patent lawyers, patent a whole system," says Thomas P. Hughes, a historian of technology. He continues, “Although small companies can get patents, the big companies can afford to litigate -- when it comes into court, guess who's going to win? Absurd patents can be fought and overthrown, but to challenge a patent costs, on average, more than $1 million.“

"We like to say [a patent is the] right to exploit," then commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, Q. Todd Dickinson, said cheerfully in the aforementioned Times article. The catalyst for this discussion, Gene Mosher at ViewTouch, told us he didn't attempt to patent his ideas way back when because “the common advice in those days, 1985-86, was that you couldn't patent software that performed business processes. Besides it is expensive because you not only have to pay an attorney to help you get the patent, you must pay an attorney to defend your patent.

“For example, early on I paid a lawyer $1,000 to write a letter to a company to tell them that they were using my trademark -- ViewTouch -- without my permission,” Mosher continued. “The cost of developing the product is one part of the big picture. The cost of marketing it is another. The cost of patenting it and defending it is yet another. Even if you have all the money to do these things you can still fail to succeed. It's daunting, to say the least.

“The one thing that was for sure, though, was that if my software designs and ideas were good enough, everybody would copy them, and that was not a small achievement in itself. In 1997, we started using Linux and I became a believer in the free software model because I regard Richard Stallman as really the guy who brought that idea into our daily vocabulary.” One of this author's issues with Apple's iPhone Patent Application is they are patenting an OSI layer 7 application and making claims of uniqueness at OSI layers 2 and 3. After reading their Patent Application's seventy-five claims, although I'm not a lawyer, I really can't see a specific reference to something that is truly unique.

If Apple clearly said their iPhones were now going to use a newly developed security protocol over the mobile telephone networks, then I would say they might really have something which is new and different. But, Apple's latest iPhone Patent Application, unless I'm missing something, simply indicates their layer 7 application does restaurant-style POS, which is clearly neither new nor unique. Yet I worry that Apple's goal for U.S. Patent Application # 20070291710 is to attempt collecting a licensing royalty from every mobile phone which uses any restaurant-oriented POS application and/or to prevent others from being able to make use of that functionality.


Pick Your Brain: Any prior art on Apple's patent application on wifi ordering by iPhone? - Updated | 279 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Off topic here
Authored by: jplatt39 on Saturday, January 05 2008 @ 06:45 PM EST
Make links clickable. Post in HTML-formatted mode and read
both what is in read and the important stuff under the
comment box. And remember, Preview is your friend.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections Here
Authored by: jplatt39 on Saturday, January 05 2008 @ 06:46 PM EST
If any.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Newspicks here
Authored by: jplatt39 on Saturday, January 05 2008 @ 06:48 PM EST
Please add a link to the news story and/or use the title
of the RSS feed.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Pick Your Brain: Any prior art on Apple's patent application on wifi ordering by iPhone?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 05 2008 @ 08:03 PM EST
I could see how Apple could have trouble finding examples of prior art.


Wireless pos

Hand-held restaurant system

a retail wireless pos

[ Reply to This | # ]

Pick Your Brain: Any prior art on Apple's patent application on wifi ordering by iPhone?
Authored by: bwbees0 on Saturday, January 05 2008 @ 08:27 PM EST
As I read this article, I am left wondering how obvious does something have to
be before it is so obvious that it is not patent-worthy. I am not a lawyer, but
I thought patents were reserved for new ideas. Let me explain.

The idea of a wireless point of sale device was probably very novel when
ViewTouch came up with their application in the 70's to the point that it was
patentable then. It is even more laudable that a very effective business
thrived around that tool. I find it hard to believe that anybody would even try
to patent this idea now. After all, how many people have ordered things over a
wireless connection since radio was invented or even since 802.11 came into
broad use? I don't recall the exact date (it was a long time ago), but I
remember the hubbub when Pizza Hut launched their on-line pizza ordering
capability. Soon after that wireless connections were possible to the internet
and people could order their pizzas over a wireless connection then. The idea
that an iPhone (or any other modern cellular phone for that matter) can be used
as a wireless internet connection does not change the fundamental concept that a
radio link or some other sort of network connection can be used to place an
order. (The idea that some sort of communication network can be used to place
an order has been around for a very long time.) To reduce this to a simple
form (at great risk of oversimplification), this concept appears to be an
extension of a vending machine interface--press the button for what you want and
it gets delivered to you. The notion that you could use an iPhone or any other
wireless device as an interface to a vending machine to place an order seems
very obvious to me.

This leads me to wonder if this patent would intrude on other well established
technologies such as the wireless devices installed in the seat backs of
civilian airliners that are used by passengers to make phone calls or
conveniently order goods from the "Sky Mall" catalog while at 33,000
feet and flying at 0.767 Mach, or those hand held devices used in warehouses and
grocery stores etc to order new inventory based on shelf stocks, or even digital
wireless dispatching for fire departments, ambulances, police responses etc.

If I am missing something here, please set me straight.

Happy New Year


[ Reply to This | # ]

This is exactly why "FIrst to File patents" is a very bad idea.
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 05 2008 @ 08:56 PM EST
Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (both inventors, and Ben it might be said, as
the host of the congress in Philly, might have had an affect on the whole
direction of the country due to his manner and methods of selling an arguement,
one success of his was the French, who he single-handed convicned to fund the US
revolution vs the Brits). ...Both, Ben and Tom, designed the patent system with
a lot of thought and it is obvious that they rejected "first to file"
(lawyers like this as it is paper work and it will cause an increase in their
ranks in order to handle the paper work that this will cause = employement and
money for lawyers) in favor of "first to invent" (that inventors

Why would an inventor like "first to invent"? Because every invention
is a number of inventions and out of 40 version, #20 might be the one that
works. They don't want to be tied to the USPTO for all 40 versions. Very
expensive (of course larger corporations, with on-staff patent lawyers, might
love first to file, as then they would just churn out the paper and would own it
all due to being the best at paper work.

There are many backyard and garage inventors, that are protected by "first
to invent". First to file, means that what they invent, that someday they
might be "infringers" because someone else filed the paper work

Changing the US system to "first to file" would be a big mistake.
And it might just be opposite of the "intent" of the founding
inventors (who invented this country in the first place).

[ Reply to This | # ]

Another clueless patent
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 05 2008 @ 09:05 PM EST
One of the purported tests is that of obviousness to someone skilled in the
respective art yet the patent application avoids that issue. This is a simple
Point of Sale product in networking terms it runs at the application layer,
these layers are very well known to anybody skilled in the art of computer
programming involving networks. Networking theory teaches that the varying
layers can be stripped away at each end without changing the application. Why
the patent mentions WiFi when it is just the physical layer and inconsequential
to the application beats me.

The patent examiner should be well versed in the neworking layers and strip them
from the patent leaving just the POS application. The reason for removing the
networking layers is that they are obvious to anybody skilled in the art and
have little if any consequence to the application. This sort of stupidity would
bring about POS over ADSL, cable, ethernet, packet radio, etc patents which are
all identical except the physical layer which is abitrary anyway.

Even rubbish like mentioning the device has a screen, that is pretty much a no
brainer these days, punch cards and printouts have long gone from computers.

The mind boggles that it is even necessary to find prior art to invalidate this
poor excuse for an invention.


Pity I couldn't help with the prior art, I would love any opportunity to bury

Globularity not logged in

[ Reply to This | # ]

penalties for lack of due diligence
Authored by: brindabrain on Saturday, January 05 2008 @ 09:06 PM EST
I believe that less frivolous patents would be filed if we had penalties for
filing patents without doing due diligence when searching for prior art.
And when does the patent examiner's job begin, this one should have been denied
at the starting line.

Groklaw Polls would be a cool feature. How does the Groklaw community feel?

just my 2 cents...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Pick Your Brain: Any prior art on Apple's patent application on wifi ordering by iPhone?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 05 2008 @ 09:21 PM EST
Hmm... Has anyone used there cell phone to download ring tones or games to their
phone? My daughters have been doing this for several years. Point of sale
right there and is wireless also. Am I missunderstanding something?


[ Reply to This | # ]

This is just so odd
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 05 2008 @ 09:29 PM EST
In Apple stores they use a windows CE based wireless payment system - maybe they
can even do order on it I don't know. But teh two applications arent that far

And even before I saw this in the Apple store, I saw something similar
implemented in the local Staples/Offie Max store at the start of the school
year. Again, it is not clear if teh system could take "orders", but it
certainly could certainly scan the items and ring them up remotely. When you got
to the register you just had to hamd them the "receipt" or in some
cases - CC transactions I think, you where done and could leave without seeing
the cashier. I do not know how long this sytem has been in place at
Staples/Office Max.

I wonder if this is enough to make it similar. Since these where Windows ce
based systems, they certainly had touch screen capabilities, but they may not
have been involved in the process - though i suppose they could have tapped in
the UPC code instead of scanning.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Pick Your Brain: Any prior art on Apple's patent application on wifi ordering by iPhone?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 05 2008 @ 09:45 PM EST
Is this very similar? -
COPYRIGHT 2000 Business Wire

Business Editors, High-Tech Writers

SEATTLE and REDMOND, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 19, 2000

Leading online retailer ( in conjunction with Amazon
Anywhere announced today that customers can shop at via the new
Pocket PC through Pocket Internet Explorer at

In addition, customers can buy or place pre-orders, while supplies last, on
Pocket PC devices from Casio, Compaq, and Hewlett-Packard in the
Electronics store.

"We want to provide customers with the convenience of shopping at through a variety of mobile devices, helping them to find and
discover anything they may want to buy online," said Joe Galli,'s president and COO. "The Pocket PC puts the power of the PC in
your pocket, providing mobile individuals with the ability to shop at
from anywhere at any time. There is tremendous potential for a more robust
mobile shopping experience at via the Pocket PC, including digital
music, software, and book downloads."

Windows-powered Pocket PCs, the next generation PDAs from Microsoft and its
partners, give customers the freedom to manage their...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Pick Your Brain: Any prior art on Apple's patent application on wifi ordering by iPhone?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 05 2008 @ 10:03 PM EST
Outside of the retail restaurant industry, there are a number of other
examples where the same technology is used to accomplish the same types
of things.

In 1998 I worked for HBO&Co, a Georgia corporation later acquired by
McKesson Corp. HBO&Co created applications to deliver healthcare point of
service in hospitals, clinics and labs. One product sold throughout North
America was a wireless nurse station which included a rolling cart, a touch
screen personal computer, locking cabinets, an IV pole, a bar code reader and
space for clipboards and documents. The nurse would take the cart to the
patient's room and record their vital signs, dispense medication and take
notes. HBO&Co had software which ran on the touch screen laptop (Fujitsu
touchscreen with Windows) which allowed touch screen entry of vitals and
recording of medication dispensed by scanning the bar code on the
medication. The patient could be rapidly identified by scanning the bar code
on the clipboard in the patient's room.

A second example is from about the same time frame from Symbol
technologies. Symbol had a DOS based wristwatch form factor computer
which would be worn by a forklift operator. The computer was capable of
receiving information and displaying it on a simple 2 line LCD screen from a
central computer, and it was capable of capturing input from a bar code
scanner which was attached to the wristband form factor by a wire and was
worn on the index finger. The operator would point at the package to be
picked and the wristwatch form factor computer would transmit that same
information to the central computer. In this way, when the forklift arrived at

the loading dock, the contents of the forklift would already by known as the
pallet was loaded onto a truck. I have been unable to find a link to the 1998
DOS version, here is a <a
wt4000-series-wearable-computer/">link</a> to the current Windows

based product.

Other vendors in the warehouse logistics space besides symbol include LXE
who also has wearable computing devices.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Lottery Tickets via wireless terminals
Authored by: DodgeRules on Saturday, January 05 2008 @ 10:44 PM EST
I used to work for the largest lottery supplier in the world. One of the
projects I worked on for many years, starting back in the mid 1980s, was
developing a wireless system to connect the terminal to for selling lottery
tickets, and in some jurisdictions, fishing licenses and whatever else the
Lottery Commission was contracted to sell.

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Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 05 2008 @ 10:55 PM EST
My skimming of the Apple patent app made me see the application differently.

* Unlike self-service order terminals, it's not just order placement but
ordering and paying (via credit card).

* Unlike calling to place an order on the phone or drivethru you don't need to
make a separate queue. The entry is queued with
the current orders placed but ahead of orders not yet given.

* Unlike the phone or web, It's location dependent. You can't be in your office
and deliver the order; you need to be in the

* Unlike systems that require bulky self-service machines or vibrating coasters
to call the customer when the order is ready,
the customer provides their own equipment. No user interface to break or
maintain; the communication is via the cell network
or wifi network.

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Pick Your Brain: Any prior art on Apple's patent application on wifi ordering by iPhone?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 02:00 AM EST
I remember at Helsinki Vaanta Airport (in Finland) sometime during 1997 or 1998
where Nokia installed a soda vending machine where you ordered a drink by
dialing the phone number listed for each slot from your mobile phone.

I.e. You wanted a coke, it is slot 12. Dial the number listed for slot 12 from
your cellphone and a coke was dispensed.
Then something like 1 or 2$ were charged to your phonebill.

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Automatic tracking of user data and reputation checking
Authored by: jacks4u on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 02:12 AM EST
I guess Ebay might have a bit of prior art for this pattent application!

I'm not a Lawyer, this is my opinion only. I may be wrong, but I don't think so!

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Pick Your Brain: Any prior art on Apple's patent application on wifi ordering by iPhone?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 02:36 AM EST
“How can the U.S. Patent Office give preferential treatment for something like
how you hold and use a tool?”

How? The same way a robber robs a bank. By doing it. It's not like it's
difficult to be a criminal scumbag. Just look at any dishonest person. They can
easily commit crimes everyday without even thinking about it. They can do so
while drunk, and often are drunk, in fact.

Method is not the issue. The issue is how much longer do we have to put up with
this? When is something going to be done to fix this obvious problem?

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On the Internet ... or on wireless ...
Authored by: PolR on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 04:36 AM EST
There is a trick to make old idea patentable. You just implement the old idea
"over the Internet" or "on a computer" and all of a sudden
you have a brand new invention. Can we say that we may add "on a wireless
network" or "on a cell phone" to the list of options?

This trick has been disabled by the recent judgment on obviousness. How much of
the patent survive if we consider wired self-service kiosks as potential prior

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Just playing the game
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 05:01 AM EST
Tragically, this probably fulfils the patent office's requirement of being novel

(can you get one of their employees to not be bothered to look for a previous
patent with the same idea in it?)

What is amusing is the exponential growth opportunities. Every single patent
ever resubmitted, with the line "using an iPod" added!

Ah well...

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The patent is obvious
Authored by: nitrogen on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 05:18 AM EST
While I haven't read the patent's claims, based on the abstract, this sounds
exactly like what every computer programmer who has ever eaten out during a
lunch break wants. My coworkers and I would talk about putting together a
touchscreen ordering system with wireless devices (either handheld or integrated
into the table) every week while we ate our Thai food. All of us possessed the
skills necessary to implement such a system, and all of us had come up with the
idea independently at some point before we discussed it.

Here's a list of other things that might in some way be useful:

Ordering food via phone: a restaurant in Utah called The Training Table
Ordering food via fake phone: some Sonic locations that have indoor seating
Ordering food via network: Pizza Hut, Papa John's Pizza

Also, most of the "smart-home" and "smart-restaurant" ideas
that are now being released to the public were featured in movies close to 20
years ago, like Back to the Future (wall-mounted flatscreen TV, automated
restaurant ordering system, voice control, etc.) and Star Trek (voice control,
handheld computers, flip phones, possibly touch screen ordering in Star Trek
TNG's Lounge - they had goofy pyramid things on the tables).

My personal opinion is that a general concept shouldn't be patentable, but in
some cases a very detailed description of a novel method for solving a difficult
problem should be patentable, but maybe not for 20 years.

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Here is a working application from 1999/2000
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 05:22 AM EST
Here is possibly a prior art and working application from late 1999, if I
understood it all correctly. I know first hand that a demo was demonstrated in
World GSM Show in Cannes, France in the spring 2000.

They even had a a live demo of music purchase in their booth!

An excerpt from the article

Mobile Payments: Alternative Platforms and Players

Gérard Carat, IPTS

Issue: Wireless phones are becoming an attractive alternative platform for
accessing the Internet, and therefore e-commerce. Thus, they are also starting
to integrate innovative electronic purse functions for both real-world and
online payments. Understandably, telecommunications operators are seeking to
ensure a stronger role by capitalizing on their historical strength in network
billing and supervision and have started numerous payment initiatives over their
mobile networks.

Relevance: In view of the fact that technical developments in telecommunications
could involve non-bank players in some traditional banking functions, regulators
will need to follow progress as it unfolds. Prudential supervision of the new
entrants may be justified to ensure financial integrity and consumer protection,
but this will need to be carried out in a way that does not hinder innovation.

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Changing one layer in a protocol stack - not patent worthy
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 05:36 AM EST
Home Depot has an order entry system where you scan your own products and it
shows pictures.

There is a restaurant call Richmond Sushi in Richmond, BC, Canada that uses Palm
pilots to take your order.

What I find offensive is when they take a protocol stack and replace a lower
layer (e.g. change from using a wired network to a wireless network) and saying
that it is innovative and worth of a patent. Systems are designed as layers
within a stack so that you can change one layer without affecting the entire

Software doesn't need patents because it doesn't take a million dollars to
create a viable business. Now try and start a CPU company or pharmaceutical
with only a million dollars. Patents should be associated with development
costs and not maintaining a monopoly.

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How will any of this help?
Authored by: jseigh on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 08:48 AM EST
There must be thousands of patents on prior art and stuff in the public domain.
Considering how much effort it takes to invalidate just one patent, can you put
a significant dent in the numbers? So you invalidate the Apple patent? There's
plenty more where that came from. And they're valid until proven otherwise.
And it's the cost of proving them invalid that's the problem.

It's an economic problem and patents are part of a form of asymmetric economic
warfare. Until you level that playing field for the public domain and for FOSS,
you're not going to solve anything.

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Pick Your Brain: Any prior art on Apple's patent application on wifi ordering by iPhone?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 09:39 AM EST
"tell the USPTO before another stupid patent issues and ruins someone's
business or life."

If this were to happen / has happened, can the USPTO be sued for incompetence?
That should surely make them act a bit more diligently.


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"Patents" = Slow down progress
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 10:21 AM EST

Why do we continue to allow process technology to be patented so that we all
have to wait 20 years for the royalty to expire, or so that we have to pay a tax
for 20 years to the "inventor".


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something you can do...
Authored by: jig on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 10:36 AM EST

if you can get the prior art into the hands of either the patentee or the
patentee's patent atty, with some sort of proof or certification, then if it is
truly prior art, they have to submit it to the patent office OR their lack of
action becomes fraud on the patent office, which wholly invalidates the
patent.... but that only happens through litigation.

it's expensive, but it's almost a sure thing, so with enough corroborating
evidence, it's a summary judgment win. it might be enough for the patentee to
stop their patent application, or it might be enough to keep them from filing an
infringement suit later on (as is general knowledge of the prior art by the

so, even if you can't block the patent from being granted by the PTO initially,
you can set up a really nice situation for anyone wanting to ignore the patent
ongoing OR who asks the PTO to reexamine, AND to help keep the patent from being
granted elsewhere in the world.

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Switch port end-node detection
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 11:10 AM EST
Enterasys is doing this in the Netsight Management Suit. It's relatively simple, if you have a MAC, query the switches FDB tables via snmp and you get the port where the end system is connected. If you got an IP, the Netsight software will query the next router for the corresponding MAC and then proceed as descibed above. You can do this on your own with freely available tools, via snmp. In fact i know of a german company who did exactly this for the Lufthansa airline. FGN OpenXXX

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Singapore Stockmarket used a similar system from May 1999
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 12:57 PM EST
The Stock Exchange of Singapore used a similar system back in May 1999, buying
stocks directly from their mobile phones. It wasn't a big success as their
traders wanted on the second response time when buying stocks. With delays
longer than 15 seconds it wasn't suitable at the time. That system used pre-WAP
technology on GSM 2.0 phones, but still had 30% of all tradings at one time.

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Pick Your Brain: Any prior art on Apple's patent application on wifi ordering by iPhone?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 08:24 PM EST
How about the fact that "wi-fi", "wi-fi devices" and
"online retail" already exist?

Somewhere, there needs to be a threshold for combining a few obvious and
long-existing technologies to make something else that's obvious.

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Please take it elsewhere
Authored by: lannet on Sunday, January 06 2008 @ 10:11 PM EST
We have another request to pick your brains regarding prior art. I guess I should set up a new subcategory just for prior art searching. It looks like we'll be doing more and more of it.

PJ, I sincerely believe that you should implement your comment that started this article. The patent problems that you suffer in the US are of your own making and most of the rest of the world is fortunate that it does not suffer similarly.

On a purely personal, and selfish, note, I really am not interested in the patent problems on the US and I would prefer that they do not clutter what is, without a doubt, an otherwise excellent forum.

When you want a computer system that works, just choose Linux.
When you want a computer system that works, just, choose Microsoft.

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Prior Art on Microsoft's / Samba Patent list?
Authored by: rsteinmetz70112 on Monday, January 07 2008 @ 10:51 AM EST
The recent agreement between the Samba Team and Microsoft to allow the Samba
Team (and others) access to Microsoft documentation includes a provision for
Microsoft to provide a lits of patents Microsoft thinks are contained in their

Is this list under the NDA?

If not it would seem like a through examination of those patents might be in

Rsteinmetz - IANAL therefore my opinions are illegal.

"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk

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Pick Your Brain: Any prior art on Apple's patent application on wifi ordering by iPhone?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 08 2008 @ 02:44 AM EST
And a patent has to be novel, not an obvious extension to something existing.

What they are patenting is basically the use of an on-line terminal to order
something over a network. It's like using a laptop that's got Skype (same as a
phone with computer functionality) loaded and it's used to order something via a
wireless network.

When are these stupid patents going to be stopped.

Maybe I should patent ordering buy phone using my voice rather than a keyboard?


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Share holder value and ethics. . .
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 08 2008 @ 03:53 PM EST
PJ wrote:

"Corporate types are forever telling me that corporations can't be ethical
because they have to care about shareholder value."

Those cororate types flat out *lied*.

If a public company:

a. manufacturered a good product, or;
b. sold a good service;
c. at a fair price, and;
d. provide good customer service -


(1) the company would be profitable, thus;
(2) creating share holder value, and;
(2) gamblers ... er ... investors would beat a path to the company's door.

But public companies would rather lie, it is easier and cheaper, in order to
separate money from gamblers and put said money into their pockets.

Consider M$. When has M$, and let me put a timeline on this, *ever* created a
good product, provided a good service and provided good customer service?

Never. And what does M$ do? They lie. Just like 99.9 percent of all public

99.9 percent of all public companies give the rest of the public companies a bad


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Gizmodo article re: Precede Apple Patent
Authored by: DodgeRules on Friday, January 11 2008 @ 02:54 PM EST
I just saw this on Gizmodo entitled "iPhone Starbucks Ordering Screens Look Like the Real Thing, Precede Apple Patent". Maybe this will help?

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