MOVE OVER PRICELINE, HERE COMES PRICEPLAY: A company called PricePlay is touting newly minted US Patent 6,978,253, titled "Systems and methods for transacting business over a global communications network such as the Internet," as the "next generation Internet business model."
While PR like this is dime-a-dozen, this particular patent has some noteworthy elements to it. For one, the patent took almost 6.5 years to make its way through the USPTO, and survived numerous rejections, plus two appeals to the BAPI (see file history here). Also, the cited art is somewhat acceptable, although not terribly comprehensive (14 US patents, 2 foreign patents and 8 articles).
Most noteworthy however, is the scope of the claims that were allowed:
What is a "Price-Determining-Activity" you say? Well, according to the patent, the system works something like this:
1. A method of doing business over a global communications network comprising the steps:
communicating to a buyer via the global communications network, a description of a product;
accepting a first request from the buyer to buy the product for a price to be determined within a price range;
accepting a second request from the buyer to allow the price to be determined based upon a performance of the buyer while participating in a Price-Determining-Activity
receiving data from the buyer over the global communications network, said data representing the performance of the buyer during the PDA; and
determining the price of the product based at least partially upon the data received, said price being within the price range and scaled to the performance of the buyer.
A user pull up a web page, where numerous products or services are listed and offered at a range of prices. The user spots an 40gig iPod, offered for direct sale for $400. The user may simply buy the iPod for the listed price, or alternately "play" for the same iPod through a game, where the price of the iPod will be set to a specific range (say, $300-$450), depending on the game the user selects.
Once a game has been selected, the user plays the game, and the better the user plays, the lower the price drops. According to the patent, the price changes simultaneously as the user plays, and the price is ultimately scaled to the performance during the game.
The model is based off of other companies web sites (such as Dell.com, eprize.com, iwin.com, Hawaiian Airlines, and numerous online game sites) that offer cash and "reward" points for online games, but PricePlay claims this is the first application of the concept in determining the price of products. Predictably, PricePlay has high aspirations for the patented method:
"Most etailers' nightmare is the high marketing cost of attracting and converting visitors into customers; priceplay is the solution." Neal Benka at PricePlay says. "For the online game portals, the priceplay model can be the answer on how to generate revenues from their booming traffics." According to sources from PricePlay.com, "acquisition talk from at least one major internet powerhouse is underway." PricePlay.com intends to license its patent to interested etailers and online portals.
If you're wondering, the answer is yes - continuations are already on file in the USPTO.