Purple Proze

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POSTED: April 18, 2005

Starbucks, the ubiquitous chain of lifestyle-friendly coffee shops, has filed two patent applications in the USA: one is an attempt to patent joint credit and loyalty cards, and the other is an attempt to patent a system to protect the transactional system that exchanges data between the loyalty card and the credit card.

Leaving aside the question of whether or not these things can be patented, or should be patented, the actual prose in the second application is wonderfully purple, inviting the question: what time of day or night was this argument put together?

The abstract for the second patent, 20050080672, describes it as follows:

A system for rewarding the loyalty of a payment cardholder comprises a dual card for facilitating credit transactions associated with a credit account and further facilitating stored value transactions associated with a stored value account. The system further comprises a computer-implemented loyalty program for calculating a loyalty value based on the credit transactions of the dual card, the loyalty value being used to load the stored value account of the dual card. The system yet further comprises a rebate file produced by a credit card issuing bank. The rebate file contains a rebate based on the credit transactions.

Well, errm, okay. How is this “invention” justified as new? What background is given for it? Here are the first two points in the argument that follows:

[0003] To be successful, all businesses promote their products or services in one way or another. Whether a business is selling durable goods (used repeatedly over time, such as refrigerators) or non-durable goods (consumed within a short time, such as coffee), it has to find a suitable business method to further the acceptance and sale of merchandise or services by consumers through promotional programs. Three promotional programs are typically used: personal selling, advertising, and sales promotion.

[0004] Personal selling is perhaps the oldest. Appearing late in the 19th century, in this promotional program, a traveling representative of a business concern solicits orders, usually in an assigned territory. Early intrepid hucksters carried their goods on their back or on their donkey, working their way from a harbor town through the backcountry limiting their sales to stock on hand for transactions with would-be consumers. Persuasive sales skill was less important in those days of hungry demand, and orders were readily forthcoming. Over time, however, with the increasing supply of manufactured goods, consumers became more discriminating in their purchases. As the cost of personal selling has increased dramatically (due to salary, automobile upkeep, benefits, and so on), most businesses today rely on advertising to pre-sell their products so as to convince consumers to buy before the consumers actually can see and inspect the products. The use of salespeople has diminished or changed.

From there it continues…

The patent, should you wish to read it in its entirety (complete with what we might term illustrative illustrations) is application number 20050080672.

I should add that I was alerted to this by an article in The Register on Friday 15 April 2005.