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IBM Patents Closed-Loop Confirmation

Another day, another absurd IBM software patent. Via the IP list, here’s United States Patent 7,003,497:

  1. A method for confirming an electronic transaction, comprising the steps of: performing an electronic transaction between a first party and a second party; providing, by the first party to the second party, contact information of a third party service provider associated with the first party; contacting, by the second party, the third party service provider to obtain a location of a predetermined, private mailbox associated with the first party; sending, by the second party, a request for confirmation of the electronic transaction to the predetermined, private mailbox associated with the first party; accessing the private mailbox by the first party; and sending, by the first party, a reply message to the request for confirmation to thereby confirm authorization of the electronic transaction, wherein information regarding the private mailbox is not communicated to the second party during the electronic transaction.

There’s lots of waffle in the background section about this being for electronic e-commerce transactions, but that claim, and claims 2 and 3 at least, are easily sufficiently broad to cover simple “confirmed opt-in” email subscription systems — in other words, the system whereby a potential newsletter subscriber clicks on a link in order to “confirm” that they want to subscribe to a newsletter. That’s the current best practice email subscription method used by pretty much everyone.

Filed December 31, 2001. There was plenty of prior art before this date, but who would want to go up against IBM, no less, to attempt to get this invalidated, especially now that it’s been issued?

Thanks USPTO, you’re doing a heck of a job!

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