Lightning Source 1, Patent Trolls 0

A long-brewing battle that involved Amazon and leading print-on-demand vendor Lighting Source (a unit of massive wholesaler Ingram Industries) vs. an apparent patent troll, seems to have been settled with the U.S. District Court completely reversing on appeal a 2004 infringement judgement.
I have not read the patent in question, nor do I know the specific facts of the case. But it seems obvious that business-process patents (such as patenting the process of creating a single copy of a book to fill an individual order) are a significant drag on innovation. I think such business processes should be unpatentable, as they have been until quite recently, and that the requirement that an invention must be non-obvious should also be beefed up (it has been weakened by a number of court rulings during the 1980s).
I label “On Demand Machine Corporation” a troll as they appear to have built no products and operated no services, and have a web site that seems to primarily contain recitations of their patent specifications. The original “inventor” is deceased. I don’t think business-process patents should be allowed at all, but at least folks like Amazon patent actual working services that deliver some value to consumers. So I thank Lightning Source for fighting this appeal.
Hopefully clearing up this patent confusion will stimulate new offerings in the print-on-demand segment. While I”ll wager that reading on paper will be a minority behavior 20 years from now, there’s clearly going to be a long transitional period – and I admit I may be off by a decade or two. So long as paper remains a preferred medium, combining digital distribution with the option for instant creation of high-quality printed publications is a great way to deliver higher-value solutions.