Paper, Plastic, or Don't Talk To Me!

If we're going to angst over the "paper or plastic?" question (we're assuming, of course, that you left your reusable, green "I Am Not A Plastic Bag" bags at home "accidentally"), at least enormous multi-national corporations have made it so that we can minimize human interaction while making that crucial decision:

On Tuesday, IBM was granted U.S. Patent No. 7,407,089 for storing a preference for paper or plastic grocery bags on customer cards and displaying a picture of said preference after a card is scanned. The invention, Big Blue explains, eliminates the 'unnecessary inconvenience for both the customer and the cashier' that results when 'Paper or Plastic?' must be asked. The patent claims also cover affixing a cute sticker of a paper or plastic bag to a customer card to indicate packaging preferences. 

More on the art of not being a plastic bag here and here.

Via Grist

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  • Elemenope||

    I'm curious how this even comes close to the standards for granting a new patent.

    Then again, I'm pretty sure they have a monkey over at the USPTO that just stamps everything it can find.

  • ||

    A monkey? No. A monkey might deny an application occasionally.

  • ||

    Thank God! I won't have to this most crucial of all decisions again! Thanks IBM!

  • ||

    Of course it meets the standards for granting a patent. The applicant is IBM. What else do you want?

  • Regis Carnifex||

    A monkey? No. A monkey might deny an application occasionally.

    No, no. The monkey has two stamps. One says "Patent Granted," the other, "Patent Not Denied."

  • thoreau||

    PL-

    Perhaps Urkobold could interview a patent examiner and ask them more about this?

    Maybe on Monkey Tuesday?

  • Fresno Bob||

    ProLib,

    I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Miller Light.

  • ||

    LMNOP-

    Then again, I'm pretty sure they have a monkey over at the USPTO that just stamps everything it can find.

    Which obviously explains why this patent doesn't have your name on it... Even the "monkeys" know you're just an ignorant "leftist asshat".

  • ||

    Oh gimme a break, I dont think a little plastic ever hurt anyone. It'll be alright.

    JT
    http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

  • Elemenope||

    Which obviously explains why this patent doesn't have your name on it... Even the "monkeys" know you're just an ignorant "leftist asshat".

    Indeed.

  • X-Ray Spex||

    My mind is like a plastic bag

  • ||

    Only little old ladies who still use the paper bags to line their trash can take their groceries away in paper bags.

  • ed||

    "Paper or plastic?" They still ask that question somewhere? Only losers use paper, and my store caters to winners only. Screw the turtles and the current they rode in on.

  • ||

    Wow. The first 2 comments already said it all.
    JMR

  • ||

    I am a dull and simple lad who doesn't understand how adding one bit to a data field s deserving of a patent. Any patent attorneys want to give explaining it to me a shot?

  • Still wishing||

    and
    I am a dull and simple lad
    cannot tell water from champagne...

  • ||

    and I have never met the queen

  • David Watts||

    yes. yes. I'm superior.

    oh - be glad to meet you down in a tubestation at midnight...

  • Mr Clean||

    Oi! What's this all about then?

  • A Well Respected Man||

    Hullo! Have we met?

  • Elemenope||

    The thread has been consumed by madness.

    IBM, see what you've done?!

  • Smithers-Jones||

    Mr. Well-Respected,

    Attached please find my CV detailing some thoughts I made on the Waterloo Line

  • Terry||

    Smither-Jones,

    I thought I saw you when I was meeting Julie down there. It was around sunset.

  • ||

    But at my house, we prefer paper INSIDE OF plastic! Where is Big Blue's option for THAT, hah? It is no convenience to the customer, to be forced into a pigeonhole that results in the thwarting of his wishes.

  • Elemenope||

    JAM --

    I imagine the actual system would be a two-bit hash.

    00 -- I don't give a fuck/Undecided
    01 -- Paper
    10 -- Plastic
    11 -- BOTH!!

  • Colonel_Angus||

    What aboat double plastic or double paper?

    Ultimate Soulution: Bag your own shit or fuck off.

  • Dave W.||

    I am a dull and simple lad who doesn't understand how adding one bit to a data field s deserving of a patent. Any patent attorneys want to give explaining it to me a shot?

    If you don't think the invention is important or useful, then don't use it and you won't have to pay any royalties or worry your subbie lil head about this patent in any way, shape or form whatsoever, just like the other millions of other patents that your masters here at Reason don't specifically instruct you to worry about.

    Frankly, I think it is a great invention because:

    (i) my s.o. has very, very strong preferences;

    (ii) through inattention or mishearing or language barriers or the like, clerks tend to not follow her preference; and

    (iii) I think these clerks could be trained to follow the automatic preference icons better than they follow her instructions.

  • ||

    Dave W,

    I think he's questioning the non-obviousness of the patented material. Allowing this to be patented would prohibit other businesses from implementing the same idea even if they come to it independently.

  • Dave W.||

    I think he's questioning the non-obviousness of the patented material. Allowing this to be patented would prohibit other businesses from implementing the same idea even if they come to it independently.

    Did any businesses come up with the idea independently in the interval between the time IBM first filed and the time the application was first published? If not, why not?

    When do you think somebody would have come up with this idea independently of IBM (if IBM hadn't disclosed)?

    Why didn't someone come up with this idea 15 years ago -- they had both shopper's cards and "paper or plastic"? Seems to me like this idea was lying dormant and undicovered for a dozen years and could easily have remained so for a dozen or two more.

    These are the good questions to be discussing, but I don't think jsubd's dismissive, but otherwise cryptic, attitude is a good starting attitude for exploring them.

  • Elemenope||

    ...just like the other millions of other patents that your masters here at Reason don't specifically instruct you to worry about.

    I tend to worry about the general state of patent issuance, thanks.

    And *our masters at Reason* didn't exactly point out this patent for anything to do with patent law...the article mentioned merely that a "new" technology was patented, followed by some light snarking regarding how hard it is to tell the cashier/bagger what you would like versus having it embedded on a card.

    And, FWIW, the ever-ready parsimonious dental instrument nails my concern (and from what I understand, J sub D's) perfectly.

  • Dave W.||

    btw, it is getting much harder to get a patent, specifically since the KSR decision last year.

    Policy-wise, I think that is a good thing. I just hope the resistance to patents is selectively intelligent and not just an unthinking "no" stamp. I hope they can articulate (better than jsubd) why the worthy ones are worthy and the unworthy ones unworthy so that patenting becomes competitive with respect to the correct underlying policy parameters.

    For example, this patent Reason and its minion jsubd are attacking here seems like exactly the wrong one to attack for precisely the reason that anyone could have made this invention since the time shopper's club cards were introduced, but no one did.

    This patent is being attacked because it is easy to understand and easy to implement. But that has nothing to do with what should be the central inquiry here, which is: when would have gotten this idea, really, seriously and for real-real if the inventor(s) had been killed in their cribs by an errant bomb from a Navy ship. Or to put it a different way: how come YOU never thought of this idea before reading this HnR blog entry?

  • Elemenope||

    Or to put it a different way: how come YOU never thought of this idea before reading this HnR blog entry?

    Because it is *not* a new idea in kind. It is a logical and obvious extension of already existing technologies and techniques...which have in many case existed for centuries.

    Storing data in a hash and retrieving it, and then correlating the result with some real-world referent? Ada Lovelace or Charles Babbage would like to sue you for infringement from the fucking grave. If the resulting spreadsheet *must* be electronic (if you get hung up on that sort of thing), then the honors go to Rene K. Pardo and Remy Landau. Either way, the technique has existed for a long time, and that it is being applied (of all the millions of applications this unbelievably obvious device has been applied to) is choice of supermarket bags, how does that pass the obviousness criteria? It's not just *easy*, it's *TRIVIAL*.

  • Leo Augustus ||

    LMNOP,
    I have an unrequited love for you.

  • Dave W.||

    Because it is *not* a new idea in kind. It is a logical and obvious extension of already existing technologies and techniques...which have in many case existed for centuries.

    Then show the prior art to the court and u r in the kleer.

  • Elemenope||

    Then show the prior art to the court and u r in the kleer.

    Yeah, me and my merry band of patent-busters. But, wait! I already have a job.

    And so do the fucking patent clerks. Would be nice if they did theirs.

  • TallDave||

    Well, since there's now some debate about whether plastic or paper is better, when they ask me "plastic or paper?" I say "both!" and tell them to put my plastic bags inside paper bags.

  • ||

    You all have the wrong angle on this. It says nothing new about IBM or the clowns in the USPTO. It says that over 25 years, the retail grocery industry couldn't hire a single person who was clever enough to see the problem and do something simple about it.

  • Dave W.||

    It says that over 25 years, the retail grocery industry couldn't hire a single person who was clever enough to see the problem and do something simple about it.

    Actually, plenty of people probably thought of the problem and the solution, but nobody bothered to write it down and/or practice it because they thought it would not be worth their time and trouble. Absent the patent system, they would be correct if they thought that.

  • ||

    Did any businesses come up with the idea independently in the interval between the time IBM first filed and the time the application was first published?

    Irrelevant. If you come up with the same idea as the patent applicant during the patent application period, you're still SOL.

    Given the purpose of patent law stated in the Constitution, it would seem the criterion should be, would no one publish this idea if they weren't guaranteed the temporary monopoly a patent involves. And the answer to that question is clearly no.

  • Dave W.||

    Irrelevant. If you come up with the same idea as the patent applicant during the patent application period, you're still SOL.

    Legally it is irrelevant. I don't think it should be.

    I am arguing here that, as far as non-obviousness goes, the ONLY thing that should matter, and let me stress it: ONLY thing that should matter, is how quickly society would have gotten the invention if the inventor had never been born.

    I am further arguing here that eveidence of near-contemporaneous independent invention is the best evidence of obviousness, under my view of what obviousness should be.

    However, I am not giving legal advice here. Please do not confuse either of these arguments with what the law actually is at this time on either of these points.

    My gut tells me that the bag selection feature we are mocking here was not about to be invented by other people. I work with lots and lots of patent application (both for and against) where I feel the opposite way -- where I feel that many designers or researchers were converging on the same thing, and that one or more teams could have died in a bus accident and society would still have gotten the invention approximately as quick as it did. Those are the ones the patent system should be screening out. Those are the ones we should be ridiculing here at the HnR with subbie.

  • ||

    Yeah, me and my merry band of patent-busters. But, wait! I already have a job.

    And so do the fucking patent clerks. Would be nice if they did theirs.


    I dare say the intelligence of patent clerks has gone down since the first decade of the 20th century.

  • Episiarch||

    Can I get a patent on the ability to make Dave go nutty just by mentioning patents (or HFCS)? Now, if I were to obtain a patent for HFCS, would that make Dave's head explode?

  • ||

    Can I get a patent on the ability to make Dave go nutty ...

    Nope. Dave is already bat shit insane, demonstrateing the device's efficacy would thus be impossibele.

    Seriously Epi, the shit that some folks get their panties twisted about amazes me.

  • Dave W.||

    Don't forget to check out my patent blog:

    http://fedcirpatentcaseblurbs.blogspot.com/

    Its real nutty!!1!

  • Minion of URKOBOLD||

    MY JAR OF HFCS JUST WENT OFF AFTER GENTLY BUMPING IT!!!!
    THE SAFETY IS A FARCE

    GAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!

  • Dave W.||

    Curses! I thought you were in your bunk, on the Secret Grill-Aides looking at cheesecake photos of The Linguist.

  • ||

    The word "INVENTION" should be redefined.
    I remember cigarette paper sticked near public phone to hold notes. Post-it where just the colorized vesion. Should it be named technological improvement?
    Any way, that keep the money flow at USPTO.

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