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Amazon awarded patent for electronic gift-giving

June 1, 2012 | 10:24 am

Amazonegift

When you get an email announcing you've got a gift you can download -- an e-book, a movie or music -- think of Amazon. It doesn't matter where your gift was purchased: Amazon has patented e-gifting, Geekwire reports, asking, "Did Amazon.com just patent Christmas?"

That's because the electronic gift-giving process described in Amazon's patent sounds like something that is widely used. From the patent description:

Electronic transfer has become a prominent method for distributing media content and other electronically transferrable items. Electronically transferrable items may include, for example, electronically accessible services or digital media content such as songs, ringtones, movies, magazines, books, and other content. The electronically transferrable items can be accessed on computers, as well as on portable media players or home audiovisual systems using set top boxes or other devices. In downloading or streaming the electronically transferrable items from a network, such as the Internet, consumers can select and access desired electronically transferrable items in minutes or seconds. Thus, consumers can enjoy the electronically transferrable items without leaving their homes to purchase or rent physical media storing the electronically transferrable items and without waiting for delivery of physical media, such as via the mail.

The prospect of electronically transferrable items offers an alternative to conventional methods of giving gifts that might include music, movies, television programs, games, or books. For example, instead of giving a gift certificate for a retail store that would allow a recipient to select a gift of the recipient's own choosing, one can give a gift certificate for electronically transferrable items. Using the gift certificate, the recipient can conveniently access the desired electronically transferrable items.

Amazon's patent includes charging the giver only when the electronic gift certificate has been redeemed. Geekwire writes, "Broad patents like these have become a lightning rod in the tech industry, helping to fuel criticism of the U.S. patent system."

Don't be surprised if some post-patent action follows. Speculating that this conflicts with a recent Facebook acquisition, Business Insider writes, "Amazon has aggressively enforced its patent on one-click checkout — even Apple agreed to license it."

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image: Screen shot of Amazon.com gift certificate page. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg

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