Patently Absurd

eBay is the latest outfit to face a major patent lawsuit that threatens its business. Is the system, meant to promote innovation, doing its job?

Cruise around eBay, and you may decide that auctions are too troublesome. If you gotta have that Balenciaga sweater, nothing beats the Buy It Now feature; simply meet the seller's price, and it's yours. Without that feature, in fact, eBay would make a lot less money. Fixed-price transactions accounted for about $14.6 billion in merchandise volume last year, a third of the total. So let's say you came up with that Buy It Now idea and filed for a patent. And let's say a jury concluded that eBay willfully infringed on your patent and owes you damages. Should a judge automatically...

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