The first shots in what is sure to be a huge fight over digital patent rights were fired on Wednesday as Amazon.com announced it had secured a patent for customers to sell their digital items over the electronic marketplace. The patent, called "secondary market for digital objects" covers "Digital objects including e-books, audio, video, computer applications, etc., purchased from an original vendor by a user are stored in a user's personalized data store," according to the patent document.
Shortly after the announcement, online marketplace ReDigi issued its own statement claiming that their own swap and sell model better protects the rights of artists. "To our knowledge Amazon has NEVER compensated artists, authors or copyright holders for the secondary sale of their goods, and they have sold billions of dollars worth of them. There is nothing in the Amazon patent that addresses this issue," ReDigi said in the statement (though it should be noted music giant EMI did not agree with ReDigi's interpretation of rights).
The back-and-forth patent fight comes on the same week that two economists at the Federal Reserve, Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine, published a paper urging that the patent system be reformed to encourage innovation. "Economists fought for decades — ultimately with considerable success — to reduce restrictions on international trade," the duo wrote. "A similar approach, albeit less slow, should be adopted to phase out patents."[Photo by Flickr user Alexandre Dulaunoy]