Tech Industry

Who's got the patent?

The U.S. Patent office has issued 10 patents for e-commerce over the past year. Here's a look at them.

In the last 12 months, at least 10 Internet commerce patents have been issued by the U.S. Patent Office. Some have been pure technology patents, while others have been more controversial patents on "business processes."

Business process patents cover a way of conducting business, and last summer the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that they are legitimate.

Since the Internet is a new medium and online commerce is a new activity, the ruling bolsters the e-commerce patents issued last year, some of which take existing ways of doing business in the physical world and moving them online.

Here's a sampling of recently issued patents in the e-commerce market issued last year by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:

Name your price reverse auctions, Priceline, number 5,794,207. Filed September 1996. Issued August 11, 1998.

Online markets for goods, MercExchange number 5,845,265. Filed November 1995. Issued December 1, 1998. Predating Priceline's patent, inventor Thomas Woolston claims it covers Priceline's model.

Secure online payments, Open Market, number 5,724,424. Filed November 1995. Issued March 3, 1998.

Session identifiers, Open Market, number 5,708,780. May cover digital certificates, but not cookies, to track users on a Web site. Filed June 1995. Issued January 13, 1998.

Shopping carts, Open Market, number 5,715,314. Filed October 1994. Issued February 3, 1998.

Name your price reverse auctions, Priceline, number 5,794,207. Filed September 1996. Issued August 11, 1998.

Online incentive and awards, Netcentives, number 5,774,870. Filed December 1995. Issued June 30, 1998. Frequent flier miles for online purchases.

Pay-per-view ads, CyberGold, number 5,794,210. Filed December 1995. Issued August 11, 1998, for incentives for consumers to interact with Internet ads.

Managing personal privacy in a computer network, CyberGold, number 5,855,008. Filed December 11, 1995. Issued December 29, 1998, for giving individuals a way to control what personal data is given to Web sites.

Push technology and scrolling tickers, V-Cast, number 5,768,528. Filed May 1996. Issued June 16, 1998.

Electronic delivery/push technology, NetDelivery, number 5790793. Filed April 1995. Issued August 4, 1998, covers embedded URLs in email messages for presenting bills online.