March 9, 2005 9:14 AM PST

Amazon patent thinks pink

Gifts such as dolls should be wrapped in pink paper. Whether it is obvious or not, Amazon now holds the patent on the idea.

Amazon.com has been granted a U.S. patent on "Methods and systems of assisting users in purchasing items," including the use of gift-buying habits to determine the age, gender and birthday of gift recipients, according to a filing Tuesday with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The patent concerns inferring information about gift recipients and using that information to suggest appropriate items and services, such as birthday or Valentine's Day reminders and age- and gender-appropriate gifts. "For example, if the purchased toy is a dress for a doll, it may be inferred that the recipient is a girl," the patent states.

"The gender information may be used in determining which gift wrapping colors and patterns should be suggested when the item is being purchased as a gift. For example, if it is inferred that the recipient is a girl, pink or pastel colored gift wrapping may be suggested first."

Much of the patent's descriptions relate to how a Web site can determine the age and birth date of birthday gift recipients. For example, if a toy appropriate for a 2-year-old is purchased one year, and a toy appropriate for a 3-year-old is purchased a year later around the same time, the site can use this information to automatically provide services such as birthday reminders, the filing says.

Under conventional systems, "in order to receive birthday reminders, the customer has to actively provide the date of the birthday to the merchant," the filing says. "Many customers will not take the time to provide such birth dates, and so are deprived of receiving reminders."

Amazon's patent grants it ownership of many data-mining techniques used to identify when a purchase is a gift and what sort of present it is. "If the item being ordered is perfume, and the date is one week before Valentine's Day, it may be inferred that the perfume is being purchased as a gift," the filing states. If a user chooses to send a message with a gift, the system can parse the message for "key words, such as birthday or anniversary" and infer the type of event associated with the gift, the patent states.

Last month the Patent Office published Amazon's application for a patent on "server architecture and methods for persistently storing and serving event data," which describes the "personal search history" feature of Amazon's A9 search service.

Amazon's most notorious business-process patent is on "one click" shopping, which drew enough criticism that Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos wrote an open letter calling for patent reform--but not before launching an unsuccessful lawsuit against Barnesandnoble.com.

Earlier this month, Symantec was granted a patent for threat-detection technology built into its software products.

Matthew Broersma of ZDNet UK reported from London.

10 comments

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Another stupid patent -
In the article itself the technique is called "Data Mining" and it's not a new technology at all. To use it in this fashion is exactly the kind of use that the idea of data mining was based on and so the particular use Amazon has put it to falls into the "obvious" category. Things that are obvious are not supposed to be patentable.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Many customers will not take the time to provide such birth dates, and ...
Many customers aren't "deprived" of anything as they don't think it's any of Amazon's business and don't want their stupid reminders(Advertisements).
Posted by 202578300049013666264380294439 (137 comments )
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Don't want reminders
I find Amazons "reminders" annoying enough as it is, without this kind of nonsense. It just gives them an excuse to send us spam we don't want. I hate software that tried to make my decisions for me!

If I wanted the reminders, I would fill out their stupid forms. It is not the lack of time that leaves these forms unfilled, it is lack of interest.
Posted by starrpoint (10 comments )
Link Flag
More ammo against patents
Yet another stupid patent.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
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so if i...
So if I assume my niece would like the barbie I bought for her birthday wrapped in pink tissue am I violating amazon's "patent"? Who are the people over there thinking this crap up? Maybe I should patent the idea of creating an e-commerce website to reduce my overhead costs and provide a convienient place to shop from anywhere for my customers. OMG GENIUS! Maybe I should patent breathing in to provide my blood with oxygen and then exhaling carbon dioxide to aide the trees of the world in photsynthesis! Pay me royalties for breathing Amazon. I think a nickel a breath is fair. Ok?
Posted by Bob_Barker (167 comments )
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So it was Amazon that invented STATISTICS!!!
So it was Amazon that invented STATISTICS!!!

I wonder why our statistics professor didn't tell us this interesting historical anecdote!
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
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Silly
Do the people in the Patent office even read the submissions? I hope Amazon did this just to prevent being sued. If they try to sue others over this it could get messy and even more silly.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
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How-To file a pointless patent.
First, think of something everybody does, but doesn't realize.

Second, slip patent in while Microsoft, IBM, etc. are filling their 3000+ patents.

Third, hire OJ's lawyers to defend patent.

Fourth, call anybody who is willing to support a community for free a communist. (Sorry I just had to throw that one in for Sir Billy Gates)

Finally, waist countless court hours and cause a few small businesses to go bankrupt trying to defend themselves only to then watch the patent overturned because the supreme court finally decides it's stoopud.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
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Hey!
You don't happen to work for Amazon? You seem to understand the Patent system well.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
There is something seriously wrong...
with the US patent system where software patents are concerned. How can the patent office continue to issue patents for methods that so many professionals in the industry consider obvious? The scary part is that Canada and the European Union are headed in the same direction <sigh>.
Posted by Tank252ca (16 comments )
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