Much like it's possible to sue for anything these days, it's apparently not all that difficult to patent anything. While that's something of a stretch, Amazon
has just nailed a surprisingly broad patent that could have an impact on the consumer electronics economy as a whole. At its most basic level, the patent
-- which was awarded in the United States -- details a "secondary market for digital objects." Specifically, the verbiage makes reference to an "electronic marketplace for used digital objects," which would include things like e-books, audio, video, computer applications, etc.
Here's a quote from the patent: "When the user no longer desires to retain the right to access the now-used digital content, the user may move the used digital content to another user's personalized data store when permissible and the used digital content is deleted from the originating user's personalized data store. When a digital object exceeds a threshold number of moves or downloads, the ability to move may be deemed impermissible and suspended or terminated. Additionally or alternatively, a collection of objects may be assembled from individual digital objects stored in the personalized data stores of different users, and moved to a user's personalized data store."
It sounds as if the patent covers a system for users to trade, sell, or otherwise barter digital products. Of course, things of this nature exist already (the Kindle
Lending Library is a solid example), but having a genuine patent on things certainly makes it more interesting. We'll be watching to see if Amazon attempts to license this or otherwise force the hands of rivals who also implement such a system. It's hard to tell how this will shape things going forward, but it no doubt has the attention of its closest competitors -- not to mention market places like eBay.