Microsoft has been granted a patent for electronic Wish Lists. The patent, 7,315,834, was filed in April 2005 and granted on New Year's Day.
While world+dog have been using Wish Lists and Gift Registries online for years, the patent text concedes, they're severely limited in their present form:
Most item lists are limited to providing only offers to the user, such that the user cannot enter general product categories or manufacturers of items into a user's item list.
What a nuisance. But another reason cited for the necessity behind this 'invention' is even more curious:
In some situations smaller merchants cannot afford the membership costs associated with membership of a shopping portal, the costs associated with having their own electronic item list system or may not have the critical mass to justify a single site shopping list.
"Accordingly," Microsoft explains, "there is an unmet need in the art for a system and method that mitigates the above stated deficiencies with traditional electronic item list applications."
Phew. That's why the best brains in the industry need to apply themselves to this task - and what a relief that Microsoft spends $7bn a year on R&D.
Seriously, can e-commerce sites really not afford to allocate an extra ten rows in a database table? Or a field for free form text? (That 'innovation' in itself takes up a fair chunk of the patent.)
Thanks to TheoDP for the tip. He also notes that a flood of recent patent applications - 22 in the past week - personally name William H. Gates as one of the inventors.
The World's Richest Man is due to leave Microsoft this year - and doesn't appear to be ready to settle for the traditional clock and mildly risqué leaving card. ®