A number of sites are reporting on the imparting of this patent and some of them erroneously are also reporting that Amazon has been granted a patent to sell used ebooks. What the patent actually entails is outlined in the abstract of the patent:
“An electronic marketplace for used digital objects is disclosed. Digital objects including ebooks, audio, video, computer applications, etc., purchased from an original vendor by a user are stored in a user’s personalized data store. Content in a personalized data store may be accessible to the user via transfer such as moving, streaming, or download. 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.”
Thus, what is granted is a store to sell used digital objects. A key element of this store is this: “… 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.”
What does this all mean? Probably not a lot. First, note that the patent was applied for in 2009, and the world has moved on a bit since then in terms of digital rights. Second, anything sold, or moved, in the store would be subject to the rights granted to the individual who is the initial owner. As ebooks are licensed, not bought, the first-sale rule doesn’t apply, at least under current legal precedent in the US, and so the owner of the ebook wouldn’t have the right to put it into any store.
As with many of these patents which the tech community loves to speculate on, many of them are simply of the “it’s a good idea, let’s see if we can patent it as we may find use for it some years down the road” type of thing.
I wouldn’t read anything into the granting of this patent, but only time will tell.