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How Far Is Too Far In Encouraging Healthy Eating
Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 08:00 AM EST

Every once in a while (okay, actually way more often than most of us would care to think about) a patent issues that gives one pause. One reading of the patent may suggest a plausible, worthwhile invention that is well-intentioned. But a second reading of the same patent invites a far more concerned reaction.

Such is the case with U.S. Patent No. 8,078,492 recently issued to IBM. The title of the '492 patent is "Providing Consumers With Incentives For Healthy Eating Habits," but when does a system move from merely a personal incentive for which one can opt in to a system that may be imposed by the government or an employer? Do either have the right to enforce a particular diet with sanctions?

Consider this statement from the Detailed Description section of the patent, emphasis mine:

Consumption of healthy food may be monitored, for example, according to food purchases, food discarded, and food indicated by a consumer to have been eaten.
Is someone going to dig through your trash to see what you have eaten?



Let's start with a first premise that we could all be healthier if we ate healthier foods, and knowing the health value of foods is a helpful and critical step in that direction. That is why some governments, like New York City, have imposed reporting requirements on restaurants. (See, Fast-Food Calorie Law Goes Into Effect in New York City) That NYC law does not dictate consumer behavior; it is only about assuring that consumers are informed. There have certainly been advocates who have seen the benefits of the law with respect to informing consumers, but there have also been opponents who have questioned the effectiveness of the availability of the information in changing eating habits. A personal attestation since I spend a fair amount of time in NYC - it has certainly influenced me in making menu selections at restaurants.

The broader public health discussion centers on how to encourage people to adopt better eating habits, and one vocal proponent of such change has been Sam Palmisano, former CEO of IBM. In a July 2010 address to the National Governors Association Palmisano described incentive provided at IBM:

A key dimension of patient-centered healthcare is wellness and prevention. Within IBM, we have also substantially reshaped our own healthcare programs—for the 450,000 employees, retirees and family members we cover in the United States, at a cost of more than $1.3 billion annually.

In 2004, we pioneered the concept of wellness incentives for employees.

IBM has several wellness rebate programs available to U.S. employees that focus on such issues as exercise, healthy eating and weight loss, smoking cessation, health risk appraisal and children's health.

This strikes me as a good thing, not a bad thing, i.e., an employer providing incentives, such as rebates, to employees to live and eat healthier, since it still provides the employee the choice to opt in or opt out.

There have been articles suggesting that the '492 patent goes too far, e.g., IBM Granted Your-Paychecks-Are-What-You-Eat Patent. The author of that piece is suggesting that in IBM's world view IBM would have the government imposing a healthy eating system on us. That may read too much into this patent; you be the judge. Let's look at what the patent claims.

Independent claims 1, 10 and 19 talk about a system that stores a variety of "health index values" associated with foods that may be called upon by a consumer based on a grocery purchase, a restaurant order, or a home recipe. The claims specifically provide:

1. A method for encouraging healthy habits by an individual, said method comprising the steps of: tracking, using at least one computer system communicatively connected to a network, an actual purchase of a particular consumable item from a vendor by an individual for potential consumption; determining, at said at least one computer system, a plurality of separate health index values each associated with a separate one of a plurality of health index components for consumption of said particular consumable item; selecting, at said at least one computer system, a monetary electronic incentive for said individual based on said plurality of separate health index values matching at least one health index value requirement specified in a database of electronic incentives specified for said individual according to at least one factor from among food intake by said individual based on at least one of an ordered meal and a recipe for a meal previously reported to said at least one computer system and exercise performed by said individual previously detected by said at least one computer system; and automatically transferring said monetary electronic incentive via said network from said at least one computer system to an account provider system which stores said monetary electronic incentive in an electronic account for said individual.

...

10. A system for encouraging healthy habits by an individual, said system comprising: a plurality of server systems communicatively connected via a network; at least one first server system from among said plurality of server systems operative to track an actual purchase of a particular consumable item by an individual from a vendor for potential consumption; said at least one first server system operative to determine, from at least one second server system from among said plurality of server systems, a plurality of separate health index values each associated with a separate one of a plurality of health index components for consumption of said particular consumable item; said at least one first server system operative to select an electronic incentive for said individual based on said plurality of separate health index values matching at least one health index value requirement specified in a database of electronic incentives accessed from at least one third server system from among said plurality of server systems and specified for said individual according to at least one factor from among food intake by said individual based on at least one of an ordered meal and a recipe for a meal previously reported to said server system and exercise performed by said individual previously detected by said server system; and said at least one first server system operative to automatically transfer said monetary electronic incentive via said network to at least one account provider system from among said at plurality of server systems which stores said electronic incentive in an electronic account for said individual.

...

19. A program for encouraging healthy habits by an individual, residing on a non-transitory computer readable storage medium comprising instructions which when executed on a computer system cause said computer system to: enable tracking of an actual purchase of a particular consumable item from a vendor by an individual; determine a plurality of separate health index values each associated with a separate one of a plurality of health index components for consumption of said particular consumable item; select a monetary electronic incentive for said individual based on said plurality of separate health index values matching at least one health index value requirement specified in a database of electronic incentives specified for said individual according to at least one factor from among food intake reported by said individual based on at least one of an ordered meal and a recipe for a meal and previously detected exercise performed by said individual; and automatically transfer said monetary electronic incentive via said network to an account provider system which stores said monetary electronic incentive in an account for said individual.

[emphasis added]

The word tracking shows up, tracking how much the person exercised and what he or she bought from a vendor. Are they talking about an employee tracking his or her own exercise and purchases or employers tracking such things in employer provided cafeterias and exercise rooms? Makes a big difference (at least to me), and that's one of the problems with broad, ambiguous language in patents.

Maybe that doesn't seem too over the top to you, in that the employee could avoid eating in the cafeteria and exercising there. But what if their company-provided health insurance penalizes them for not participating? Or worse, if you don't have time to take a lunch break you get penalized for eating a candy bar? There just is a creepy factor in that, particularly in that computers going by "standards" might not realize that someone with diabetes, for example, ate a candy bar in an emergency blood sugar event. Who decides what is stored and who has access to it. Computers can't think, you know.

Again, given the broad language of the patent, what if the patent gets really popular with insurance companies. Might they do deals with supermarkets to track everything we buy? They could do deals with MacDonald's, in theory, also. Where are the four corners of this patent? What is beyond its reach? IBM might be thinking only in the context of an employer, but that doesn't mean the patent couldn't be used more broadly. There is often a certain blindness which afflicts patent holders where all they can see is the potential for good, not the potential for bad.

Given that this patent was filed for back in 2001 and only issued in December 2011, it's not surprising that there are any number of applications, including smartphone applications, that do some of this already. For example, I used a smartphone app called "Lose It" to help me lose about 20% of my body weight a year ago. My choice, and the only incentive I needed was a desire to feel healthier. Nobody else had access to my information unless I chose to share it.

To say there is no cause for concern with the '492 patent is all well and good. Certainly, some of its provisions could be useful. But then you start to read things like the various iterations expressed in a number of the dependent claims, for example:

6. The method for encouraging healthy habits according to claim 1, said step of selecting, at said at least one computer system, a monetary electronic incentive for said individual further comprising the step of: assigning, at said at least one computer system from a separate authority server system via said network, said monetary electronic incentive from at least one authority from among a plurality of levels of government and a health care insurance provider.

7. The method for encouraging healthy habits according to claim 1, said method further comprising the step of: specifying said monetary electronic incentive for said individual within said database of electronic incentives according to at least one of a health history and a current health condition of said individual.

8. The method for encouraging healthy habits according to claim 1, said method further comprising the step of: specifying said monetary electronic incentive for said individual within said database of electronic incentives according to a particular incentive standard assigned to a type of group, wherein said individual meets a characteristic of said type of group.

[emphasis added]

Incentives are one thing; but the reference to monitoring food discarded takes it to a new level. How would that be implemented? Could insurers partner with apps developers to capture and share information? Why not? What is to stop them? Keep in mind that U.S. privacy laws pale in comparison to those of other jurisdictions, especially Europe.

I have to admit, some of this come across as a bit (okay, a lot) "Big Brotherish." But the claim statements are no more disconcerting than the accompanying drawings ('492 Drawings) which reference an employer payroll server, a government server, and a health insurance provider server. I never get warm fuzzies when I see those three all talking to each other.

By the way, the only reference to the FDA in this patent is to the FDA being one possible source of standards for healthy food ("Healthy food, in the present invention, may be designated according to standards provided by an authority, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)."). Not everyone agrees that FDA standards are in fact healthy. They certainly are not for everyone, for example those on particular diets for health issues, such as those who must avoid gluten, or suitable for those who like to follow alternatives they believe are a healthier diet, like vegetarians.

In the end, I find the '492 patent to embody thinking from 2001 (or 1984 if you wish) that is, to some extent, out of sync with where we, as consumers and healthcare clients, are in 2012. Information and choice are good things. Incentives can be good. Someone looking over your shoulder or forcing you to participate or to eat a particular way - not good at all. And the monitoring is simply creepy. Computers can do a lot of things, but that doesn't mean they necessarily should.

The one silver lining I take out of all of this is that a patent does not give the patent holder a right to practice the claimed invention, only the right to exclude others from practicing it. Let's hope IBM recognizes there are aspects of this patent that no one should be practicing.


  


How Far Is Too Far In Encouraging Healthy Eating | 193 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Please place corrections here
Authored by: nsomos on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 08:15 AM EST
A summary in the title may be helpful.
meestake -> mistake

[ Reply to This | # ]

barking patent stupidity...
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 08:28 AM EST


I can't see what this does other than add technical terms (like databse and
such) to an obvious system that Weight Watchers (tm) have been doing for donkeys
years.

The debate shouldn't be the dichotomy between a plausible useful invention and
an overarching big brother conspiracy as is suggested above.

The debate should be firmly grounded in what idiotic system doesn't slap this
stupidity right back in the face of the dumb lawyers who allow it to happen.


Happy New Year.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Chips with Everything
Authored by: elderlycynic on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 08:35 AM EST
Arnold Wesker said it first :-)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Discovery HealthyFood
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 08:37 AM EST
There's at least one case where
something very much like this is already
in effect - a South African health
insurance company called Discovery has
a deal with a local supermarket group.

More details here: http://
www.picknpay.co.za/picknpay/content/
en/vitality

In short, though; the customer ops in to
the program, and obtains a card. This
card is swiped when making purchases
(if it is not swiped the insurer knows
nothing about the purchase). The
consumer then receives a discount on
the purchase, which depends on what
percentage of the food is healthy.
"Healthy" is defined as "The product
appears on our list of officially healthy
foods", and said list is available to the
customer (can be downloaded from the
website).

This has been going on for a couple of
years now - does that make it prior art?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Food? Is inherited genetics from various regions of the world, any consideration -patent-wise?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 08:43 AM EST
American Indian - dairy products not usually can be consumed.
Northern European - more wheat allergies
etc.

What else do we know, or don't know about regarding food?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Not far enough to be useful
Authored by: soronlin on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 09:11 AM EST
I have an allotment; theoretically I grow a significant fraction of my food
intake. I also have a compost heap; I compost as much as possible. I don't grow
or compost chips or hamburgers, therefore everything I grow and compost is more
healthy than foodstuffs I acquire by trackable means. If this patented
technology was applied to me, it would find me to be significantly less healthy
than I actually am, and potentially force me into less healthy alternatives.

[ Reply to This | # ]

News picks
Authored by: feldegast on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 09:40 AM EST
Please make links clickable

---
IANAL
My posts are ©2004-2012 and released under the Creative Commons License
Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0
P.J. has permission for commercial use.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off topic
Authored by: feldegast on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 09:46 AM EST
Please make links clickable

---
IANAL
My posts are ©2004-2012 and released under the Creative Commons License
Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0
P.J. has permission for commercial use.

[ Reply to This | # ]

How Far Is Too Far In Encouraging Anything
Authored by: DBA_Dave on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 09:49 AM EST
Sad fact is most companies have "incentive" programs that penalize
those who practice the intended behaviours.

The common failure is mismeasurement , both of the causal activity and the
results.

The diversity of individuals makes determining the benefits that they can
provide themselves and their company so complex and involved that errors will be
made. In many cases not to the extent that the program is completely
invalidated, but often to the extent that the ecosystem is disrupted.

cf. overgrazing/"rain follows the plow" / monocultures / asbestos


Can we afford to allow industry to forge ahead with their "well
intentioned" plans and hope to avoid the next great dustbowl / blight /
health crisis.

Bad enough that we allow them to mess up the economy with “maximizing
shareholder return”.


---
DBA_Dave

[ Reply to This | # ]

How Far Is Too Far In Encouraging Healthy Eating
Authored by: benw on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 10:26 AM EST
Why is this a Groklaw article? This is just conspiracy-theory foolishness and
fantasy and has nothing to do with anything.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Comes Transcription Goes Here
Authored by: artp on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 11:00 AM EST
We needed this thread.

See "Comes v. MS" link above for instructions and list of
available Comes documents that need transcription yet.

---
Userfriendly on WGA server outage:
When you're chained to an oar you don't think you should go down when the galley
sinks ?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Social engineering
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 11:06 AM EST
The phrase 'you are what you eat' is the key to understanding this. Changing
what we eat means changing who we are.
Call it Gastroaltering(R).


[ Reply to This | # ]

A patent filing is not remotely an intent to use
Authored by: Doghouse on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 11:07 AM EST
It's always interesting to see what patents people come up with, but no-one
should ever confuse a patent filing by a company such as IBM with any intent by
that company's management to try to use the patent in question.

Until not all that long ago (and for quite a few years) I worked for IBM in one
of their technical labs, so I've seen aspects of their patent process in action.
Basically, IBM (or, more accurately, the IBM process) will apply for a patent on
just about any idea, business-related or not, that someone comes up with that
stands a decent chance of being granted (and that no-one reviewing throws their
hands up in horror at). If it's actually directly and immediately useful to the
company, that's a bonus. Many ideas obviously come out of peoples' work, but
that's definitely not required, because the company understands that a big
patents portfolio has significant value in its own right. IBM is, broadly, happy
to take just about any idea that boosts that portfolio and doesn't actually
tarnish the IBM brand, even if it's not remotely related to its business,
therefore; you simply never know what may be useful in the future (or, come to
that, what people may try to use against you). So the company has a very visible
internal incentive scheme to encourage everyone to put potential patents
forward, and a process supporting that to screen submissions and help people
polish the ones that have a good chance of being granted (and, indeed, to put
quality "near misses" into the public domain so that they can't easily
be successfully filed later by someone else). (I'd be very surprised if many
other large companies aren't doing basically the same, but the number of such
stories I see on the web about IBM patents suggests that they're probably
leading the field in the way they go about it.)

But what all that implies is that any story about "IBM attempts to patent
xxxx", simply means, more or less, that someone, somewhere in IBM has
spotted that something related to xxxx is probably patentable - and a few other
people with patent filing experience agree. And it's long been IBM's strategy
that, having spotted that xxxx is probably patentable - whatever xxxx may
actually be - it's in the company's business interests that any such patent be
owned by either IBM or no-one.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Who are they to decide what is healthy for me
Authored by: hAckz0r on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 11:26 AM EST
I have severe food allergies. I can eat approximately 2% of what a normal person could eat without complications, and those things I can eat I must eat through a strict rotational diet, regardless of what I may want to eat. If I were to be held to 'their interpretation' of what is healthy for me I would either be dead, or at the very least wish I were so. On top of that, they would be penalizing me financially? IANAL but I smell a lawsuit coming on. I can tell you now, I won't be working for IBM in this life time.

That issue aside, my current employer has had incentives for healthy living for years, including food/diet which I can not participate in. They earn credits which help pay for the health care. Those credits are indirectly equivalent to monetary reimbursements, and thus do reflect in the paycheck to the extent that the money for the healthcare goes farther towards helping the family before out of pocket expenses begin. Those that use the company health plan on a pre-tax basis and participate in the credits programs do see those monetary benefits, but my salary is not being reduced due to not being able to participate.

---
DRM - As a "solution", it solves the wrong problem; As a "technology" its only 'logically' infeasible.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Food Indicated by a Consumer to Have Been Eaten
Authored by: DaveJakeman on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 11:48 AM EST
Never mind "discarded food", this one's way more scary. What are they
going to do? A rectal examination? Analyse your poops? *Boggle*.

---
When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over
generations, the truth seems utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving
lunatic.

[ Reply to This | # ]

This is a poorly written patent.
Authored by: Ian Al on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 12:01 PM EST
I enter into evidence,
Consumption of healthy food may be monitored, for example, according to food purchases, food discarded, and food indicated by a consumer to have been eaten.
None of the above allows the consumption of healthy food by an individual to be monitored. Food purchased might be for the dog or for the whole family or for the next door neighbours.

Food discarded is no guide to food eaten. The consumer may have seen the healthy food light and discarded the unhealthy food. Alternatively, the consumer may be consumed with rage at the stupidity of IBM and decided to discard all the healthy food.

Finally, if a policeman asked me what food I ate, I would lie and tell him what I thought would protect me from an inequitable law. This patent is a tax on the honest citizen.
A method for encouraging healthy habits by an individual, said method comprising the steps of: tracking, using at least one computer system communicatively connected to a network, an actual purchase of a particular consumable item from a vendor by an individual for potential consumption; determining, at said at least one computer system, a plurality of separate health index values each associated with a separate one of a plurality of health index components for consumption of said particular consumable item...
Doing the above failed method on-an-IBM-computer-farm, please.
a monetary electronic incentive for said individual based on said plurality of separate health index values matching at least one health index value requirement specified in a database of electronic incentives specified for said individual according to at least one factor from among food intake by said individual based on at least one of an ordered meal and a recipe for a meal previously reported to said at least one computer system and exercise performed by said individual previously detected by said at least one computer system; and automatically transferring said monetary electronic incentive via said network from said at least one computer system to an account provider system which stores said monetary electronic incentive in an electronic account for said individual.
Prior art: subsidised orange juice and milk for children in Britain, following the Second World War. But, on-a-computer.
A system for encouraging healthy habits by an individual, said system comprising: a plurality of server systems communicatively connected via a network; at least one first server system from among said plurality of server systems operative to track an actual purchase of a particular consumable item by an individual from a vendor for potential consumption; said at least one first server system operative to determine, from at least one second server system from among said plurality of server systems.
Analysing duplicate till rolls on-a-computer, but with worthless duplication of computers that is irrelevant to the invention. Prior art: store loyalty cards.
a plurality of separate health index values each associated with a separate one of a plurality of health index components for consumption of said particular consumable item
Prior art: The World Health Organisation electronically held indices of food values by quantity of different food-stuffs.

There's more, but you're bored. I don't think we have anything to fear from this patent.
A key dimension of patient-centered healthcare is wellness and prevention. Within IBM, we have also substantially reshaped our own healthcare programs—for the 450,000 employees, retirees and family members we cover in the United States, at a cost of more than $1.3 billion annually.
The next US Government are expected to curtail American citizens' liberties at the cost of scaling up the $1.3 billion annual cost to cover the whole of the US. Also, the improvements to exercise, healthy eating and weight loss, smoking cessation, health risk appraisal and children's health would have a devastating effect on US favourite businesses such as the tobacco industry, the pharma industry and the healthcare industry.

Further, the patented invention requires;

using at least one computer system communicatively connected to a network,

a database of electronic incentives,

an account provider system which stores said monetary electronic incentive in an electronic account

a plurality of server systems communicatively connected via a network; at least one first server system from among said plurality of server systems operative to track an actual purchase of a particular consumable item by an individual from a vendor for potential consumption

at least one second server system from among said plurality of server systems

at least one third server system from among said plurality of server systems

A program for encouraging healthy habits by an individual, residing on a non-transitory computer readable storage medium

That's a hell of a lot of on-a-computer cost for something that will devastate the taxation receipts from the major part of US business other than the banks. At a time when the Republicans are campaigning for more liberty from the state, I cannot see this as a major plank in their election pledges. On the other hand, perhaps the Libertarian far right will change their spots, over night!

What, me worry?

---
Regards
Ian Al
Software Patents: It's the disclosed functions in the patent, stupid!

[ Reply to This | # ]

I Am What You See by Benjamin Zephaniah
Authored by: cybervegan on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 12:02 PM EST

I am what you see
I’ve got no bodies inside me
All of me is me
I will not eat nobody else
So I am what you see
I do not plan to eat dead sheep
I will not eat a hen
I’m so proud of what I am
So I will say again
I’ve got no bodies inside me
All of me is me
I will not eat nobody else
So I am what you see


See http://www.benjaminzephaniah.com/

---
Software source code is a bit like underwear - you only want to show it off in
public if it's clean and tidy. Refusal could be due to embarrassment or shame...

[ Reply to This | # ]

How Far Is Too Far In Encouraging Healthy Eating
Authored by: tknarr on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 12:20 PM EST

I can see a few problems with implementation. The patent as described would work perfectly well in a clinical setting (eg. a hospital or a research lab). But in the real world there's some barriers to application:

  • The patent doesn't give the patent-holder the right to sort through the garbage recording what's there. Getting access to garbage cans requires the permission of the property owner (who may not be the consumer, think apartment complexes), and in some cases may require the permission of the waste-disposal company as well.
  • The waste doesn't belong to just the consumer. Most families use a single garbage can for the whole household, and in multi-tenant buildings common dumpsters shared by multiple households are common.
  • Not all food waste goes into the trash. In my household most food waste is in small quantities and goes into the garbage disposal and down the sewer line. Less than half the food waste ends up in the trash, and getting access to what goes down the sewer requires not just more permissions but a fair amount of construction work on the sewer line.
Overall the patent's interesting but I don't see it being practical for ordinary settings, especially without the explicit knowledge and consent of the consumer.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Calorific Bulltwaddle
Authored by: DaveJakeman on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 12:24 PM EST
That Calorie Law is a perfect example of a government putting on a show of doing
something to help, whilst doing the opposite.

Calories are irrelevant. Calories are what you get *after* you have eaten the
food and are busy burning it off. Food isn't just energy; it's nutrition. That
is, supplying the body with vital ingredients it needs, not all of which can be
synthesised from feeding it commercially processed nutrition-free junk. It's
not calories that matter; it's *WHAT* you eat that matters (and what you don't
eat). And if you wish, you can control calorie intake by regulating how much of
the nutritious food you eat. But if you are on a healthy diet, your body will
do much of that for you. Eat the wrong stuff and you will likely over-eat
trying to compensate for the missing ingredients (and your body will stuff it
away as fat, "just in case").

Stating that a given food item only has so-and-so calories is like saying the
human body consists of so many grams of carbon, so many grams of calcium and so
many grams of this, that and the other. All very interesting, but what does
that have to do with health?

Listen to your body.

So: misdirect people into counting those ludicrous laboratory-determined energy
units instead of paying attention to what they eat. Neat trick, huh?

---
When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over
generations, the truth seems utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving
lunatic.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Could be a gag...
Authored by: SilverWave on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 02:26 PM EST
You know this could be the team who won the monthly "Daftest Patent"
award, an unofficial reaction to the pressure to patent everything ;-)

---
RMS: The 4 Freedoms
0 run the program for any purpose
1 study the source code and change it
2 make copies and distribute them
3 publish modified versions

[ Reply to This | # ]

Your grocer's "discount card"
Authored by: jpvlsmv on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 02:31 PM EST
Most national grocery chains offer a "discount card" or "rewards
card" or some sort of loyalty program. Scan the barcode, and your entire
transaction is squirrelled off into a database somewhere*.

The grocery chain will send you coupons that are "customized" for your
shopping habits-- "try our store brand next time you're buying peanut
butter, here's $0.50 off".

Wouldn't it be simple... have your health insurance provider match up your
"voluntary" participation in that program with your health records and
"customize" your health care that way? You've been buying a lot of
fatty foods, we'll call cholesterol a pre-existing or limited-coverage
condition.

Or your car insurance... you buy a lot of beer, so you must drive drunk.

<sarcasm>Fortunately, these insurance companies couldn't do this without
violating IBM's patent, which must be why IBM filed it-- to defend
us.</sarcasm>

--Joe
*Frequently a database that's been outsourced to a data warehousing company, who
isn't obligated to abide by the privacy agreement you have with the grocer
regarding your data.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Why is this Delay Allowed?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 04:21 PM EST
Given that this patent was filed for back in 2001 and only issued in December 2011

The patent sat for 10 years before being issued. Why is this allowed? Why isn't there a time limit of a year or less after which a patent must either be issued or rejected?

The problem is that patent trolls will look for promising new areas of technology, and then file patents on their non-existent "inventions" and then wait, sometimes for decades, for other people to actually develop the technology. If this patent was actually issued in 2001, it would be half way to being expired by now.

This by the way doesn't detract from the fact that this particular patent is a stupid idea. What I find most interesting about it is the sort of mind set which thinks of employees as being a sort of domestic animal that belong to the company and which must be herded and fed like cattle.

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Another example of patent insanity
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 04 2012 @ 05:37 PM EST
Well, at least the next time my doctor tells me to watch what I eat I can tell
him I can't because doing that is patented.

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We need copypatents
Authored by: kawabago on Thursday, January 05 2012 @ 04:08 AM EST
Whim protection for every stupid thought you have.

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Surveillance cameras monitor food intake
Authored by: stend on Thursday, January 05 2012 @ 05:57 PM EST
I suspect that a system like the one described here is covered by the patent, but I don't know if IBM is involved in that project.

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  • Whoah there - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 05 2012 @ 06:54 PM EST
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