Feeds

Mercata wins group-buying Net patent

But it doesn't look as though it will hurt competitors

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

Online US co-op group Mercata has won an attempt to patent its group-buying e-commerce system (US Patent Office number 6101484).

The patent concerns the way in which the company provides its real-time purchasing. Snappily called a "dynamic market equilibrium management system", it ties in the start time, end time, a range of minimum and maximum properties, price and individual preferences with an e-commerce system that distributes the goods when bought.

This is a fancy piece of software and so the company logically went for a patent. While the patent has been granted, an outstanding legal argument between Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble may yet undermine it. Amazon obtained an injunction against Barnes & Noble in December last year, claiming it had infringed its "1-click" ordering system. The system basically cut out all the steps of ordering, making a purchase possible with just one click. The case is still pending and the legality of the patent is bound to be called into question.

We pondered the effect this would have on other bulk buyers on the Internet. Mercata didn't bother to respond to our questions, and Priceline drew a distinction between its approach and Mercata's. Priceline works on an individual basis. Our attempts to discover how UK-based Letsbuyit.com may be affected were hampered by the fact that the patent is only enforceable in the US and that the company's PR firm is still in a bad mood with the Reg.

To add further confusion, the European Patents Office is still working out how to discern between plain software programs which are non-patentable and software that "achieves a technical effect" which is patentable.

And of course there was the interesting case where BT decided it had the patent on hyperlinks. Not many people have put money on that one being successful.

The issue of bulk-buying is a difficult one and has yet to prove itself as a viable business plan. It is clearly up in the air at the moment, but then you can't blame Mercata for trying to get in there and gain a legal foothold. Even if it has managed to patent the optimal way to run this kind of system, that doesn't mean it'll ever see a red cent in return. ®

Related stories

Amazon sues Barnes & Noble over checkout system
BT claims ownership of hyperlinks
Amazon's Bezos calls for radical change in patent laws

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.