Netflix sues Blockbuster over idiotic patent

One of the requirements for patents is supposed to be a non-obviousness clause.  Basically, a company is not supposed to be able to get a patent for something that is an obvious business practice.  Now to me, letting people prioritize movies they’d like to rent and not charging late fees on movie rentals and allowing customers to instead keep those rentals as long as they want seems obvious.  I said this 10+ years ago (the no late fee part).  It’s not hard to figure out that people would rather rent a movie and not have a strict timeline for when they have to return it.

Apparently, though, the US Patent Office lacks people capable of thinking.  I say this because that’s the only way I can figure that patents on prioritizing movie preferences and not charing late fees on rental movies could be granted.  Unfortunately, the patent is there, and NetFlix is using it as the basis of a lawsuit which could either close down Blockbuster’s online rental service or require Blockbuster to pay for using this incredibly obvious idea.  On the other hand, we can always hope this somehow leads to the patent getting invalidated.  But given Amazon’s success with the mind-numbingly obvious one-click ordering idea, I don’t think that will happen.

SAN FRANCISCO – Online DVD rental service Netflix Inc. on Tuesday accused Blockbuster Inc. of illegally copying its ideas in a patent infringement lawsuit challenging the video store chain’s recent Internet expansion.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, focuses largely on the online wish lists that prioritize the DVD desires of about 5.4 million people who subscribe to either Netflix or Blockbuster’s Internet service.

Netflix also believes its patents cover perhaps its most popular feature — the option of renting a DVD for an unlimited time without incurring late fees.

[tags]Netflix, Blockbuster, Patents[/tags]