Canadian Patents Database / Patent 2629281 Summary

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(12) Patent: (11) CA 2629281
(54) English Title: METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR PROCESSING AND TRANSMITTING ELECTRONIC AUCTION INFORMATION
(54) French Title: PROCEDE ET SYSTEME DE TRAITEMENT ET DE TRANSMISSION D'INFORMATIONS POUR DES ENCHERES ELECTRONIQUES
(51) International Patent Classification (IPC):
  • G06Q 30/08 (2012.01)
  • H04L 12/16 (2006.01)
(72) Inventors :
  • FISHER, ALAN S. (United States of America)
  • KAPLAN, SAMUEL JERROLD (United States of America)
(73) Owners :
  • EBAY, INC. (United States of America)
(71) Applicants :
  • EBAY INC. (United States of America)
(74) Agent: SMART & BIGGAR
(74) Associate agent:
(45) Issued: 2015-05-05
(22) Filed Date: 1997-03-19
(41) Open to Public Inspection: 1997-10-09
Examination requested: 2008-04-28
(30) Availability of licence: N/A
(30) Language of filing: English

(30) Application Priority Data:
Application No. Country/Territory Date
08/623,654 United States of America 1996-03-29
08/623,946 United States of America 1996-03-29
08/624,259 United States of America 1996-03-29

English Abstract

A system and method for conducting a multi-person, interactive auction, in a variety of formats, without using a human auctioneer to conduct the auction. The system is preferably implemented in software. The system allows a group of bidders to interactively place bids over a computer or communications network. Those bids are recorded by the system and the bidders are updated with the current auction status information. When appropriate, the system closes the auction from further bidding and notifies the winning bidders and losers as to the auction outcome.


French Abstract

Un système et un procédé permettent deffectuer des enchères interactives avec plusieurs personnes dans divers formats, sans recourir à un encanteur humain. De préférence, le système est mis en uvre dans un logiciel. Ce système permet à un groupe de personnes denchérir interactivement à laide dun ordinateur ou dun réseau de communication. Les enchères sont enregistrées par le système et les enchérisseurs sont tenus informés de lévolution des enchères. Le moment venu, le système ferme les enchères et avise les enchérisseurs gagnants et perdants du résultat des enchères.


Note: Claims are shown in the official language in which they were submitted.


CLAIMS:

1. An electronic commerce system, comprising:
a bid validator to receive via a web-based form and via a network, an
offer from a bidder as a bid for an auction item of a lot of auctions items
available for
purchase at a posted selling price;
a manager, coupled to the bid validator, automatically to award the
auction item of the lot of auction items to the bidder, if the manager
determines that
the offer is at or above the posted selling price of the auction item and the
auction
item is currently available for purchase,
wherein the manager is automatically to reduce the posted selling price
upon determining that a predetermined sales volume associated with the lot of
auction items was not achieved within a predetermined time period; and
a merchandise catalog page generator, coupled to the manager, to
update a merchandise catalog page based on instructions received from the
manager
to display a reduced posted selling price.
2. The system of claim 1, wherein the manager is to convert the offer to an

order for the auction item if the offer is equal to or above the posted
selling price.
3. The system of claim 1, wherein the system is to maintain the offer in
reserve if the offer is below the posted selling price, and
if the manager reduces the posted selling price to a reduced selling
price, and the manager determines that the offer in reserve is equal to or
above the
reduced selling price, the manager converts the offer to an order for the
auction item.
4. The system of claim 1, wherein the manager is to reduce the posted
selling price by a predetermined amount, based on a predetermined pricing
schedule
associated with the auction item.

24


5. The system of claim 1, wherein the manager is to reduce the posted
selling price by a percentage of the posted selling price, based on a
predetermined
pricing schedule associated with the auction item.
6. The system of claim 1, wherein the manager is automatically to
increase the posted selling price upon determining that a certain sales volume
was
achieved within a specific time period; the system further comprising:
a merchandise catalog page generator to update a merchandise
catalog page based on instructions received from the manager to display the
increased posted selling price,
7. A method to facilitate an electronic commerce transaction conducted
over an electronic network, the method comprising:
receiving an offer for at least one item of a lot of items, the lot of items
including a plurality of items and the offer being received from a user of an
electronic
commerce system, wherein the at least one item of the lot of items is
available for
purchase at a posted selling price via an auction facilitated by the
electronic
commerce system;
automatically awarding the at least one item of the lot of items to the
user, if it is determined that the offer is at or above the posted selling
price of the at
least one item and the at least one item is currently available for purchase;
automatically reducing the posted selling price for a further item of the
lot of items upon determining that a predetermined sales volume associated
with the
lot of items was not achieved within a predetermined time period; and
updating a merchandise catalog page to present a reduced posted
selling price for the further one item of the lot of items.
8. The method of claim 7, wherein the awarding of the at least one item
includes converting the offer to an order for the at least one item.



9. The method of claim 7, wherein the offer comprises a bid.
10. The method of claim 7, wherein the posted selling price is reduced by a

predetermined amount, based on a predetermined pricing schedule associated
with
the further item.
11. The method of claim 7, wherein the posted selling price is reduced by a

percentage of the posted selling price, based on a predetermined pricing
schedule
associated with the further item.
12. The method of claim 7, further comprising automatically increasing the
posted selling price upon determining that a certain sales volume associated
with the
lot of items was achieved within a specific time period.
13. The method of claim 12, wherein the posted selling price is increased
by a predetermined amount, based on a predetermined pricing schedule
associated
with the further item.
14. The method of claim 12, wherein the posted selling price is increased
by a percentage of the posted selling price, based on a predetermined pricing
schedule associated with the further item.
15. A machine-readable medium having executable instructions stored
thereon to cause one or more machines to perform a method to facilitate an
electronic transaction, the method including:
receiving an offer for at least one item of a lot of items, the lot of items
including a plurality of items and the offer being received from a user of an
electronic
commerce system, wherein the at least one item of the lot of items is
available for
purchase at a posted selling price via an auction facilitated by the
electronic
commerce system;
automatically awarding the at least one item of the lot of items to the
user, if it is determined that the offer is at or above the posted selling
price of the at
least one item and the at least one item is currently available for purchase;

26


automatically reducing the posted selling price for a further one item of
the lot of items upon determining that a predetermined sales volume associated
with
the lot of items was not achieved within a predetermined time period; and
updating a merchandise catalog page to present a reduced posted
selling price for the further one item of the lot of items.
16. An electronic auction system, comprising
validating means for receiving via a web-based form and via the
network, an offer from a bidder as a bid for an auction item of a lot of
auctions items
available for purchase at a posted selling price,
manager means, coupled to the validating means for automatically
awarding an auction item of a lot of auction items to the bidder, if the
manager
determines that the offer is at or above the posted selling price of the
auction item
and the auction item is currently available for purchase,
wherein the manager means is automatically to reduce the posted
selling price upon determining that a predetermined sales volume associated
with the
lot of auction items was not achieved within a predetermined time period;
storage means coupled to the manager means, for storing the posted
selling price; and
a merchandise catalog page generator means, coupled to the manager
means, for updating a merchandise catalog page based on instructions received
from
the manager means for displaying the reduced posted selling price.

27

Note: Descriptions are shown in the official language in which they were submitted.

CA 02629281 2008-04-28 =
METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR PROCESSING
AND TRANSMITTING ELECTRONIC AUCTION INFORMATION
This application is a divisional of Canadian
Patent Application No. 2,529,148 filed January 9, 2006 which
= is a divisional of Canadian Patent Application No. 2,253,543
filed March 19, 1997.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates generally to electronic commerce and
more particularly to conducting an interactive auction over an electronic
network.
2. Description of the Related Art
Auctions usually take the form of a physical gathering of bidders
assembled together within an auction house. Ayctions presenting more
valuable, collectible merchandise, such as art, coins and antiques, are
often preceded by preparation of a catalog of merchandise, circulated to
interested parties in advance of the gathering at the auction house,
where bidding by those physically present will take place. For auctions
of more mundane items, such as household possessions, estate sales
and the like, the interested bidders simply appear at the appointed time
and place and bid on merchandise in which they are interested.
Traditional auctions requiring a bidder's physical presence
disadvantageously require that the merchandise lots up for sale be
available at the auction venue for inspection by the bidders and
subsequent pickup by the successful bidders. For many types of =
merchandise it would be far easier for both buyer and seller to leave the
= inventory at its original source and ship purchased items to the
successful bidders at the end of the auction. Moreover, physical
auctions have the still further disadvantage that only one item may be
auctioned at a time. The auctioneer solicits bids from the floor for a
given lot, but once the highest bid has been accepted, the lot is closed
and the next lot brought forward. This sequential processing combined
with the finite amount of time available to a gathered group is inherently
limiting because multiple lots cannot be auctioned simultaneously to the
same group of people during their limited period of availability:
1

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
Some changes in bidding requirements have made traditional
auctions somewhat More convenient for bidders. Many auction firms ,
allow bidders to submit their bids in advance of the auction. Advance
bidding may be done by mail as a convenience to the bidders so that
they do not have to be physically present at the auction. Also, the
advent of the telephone and facsimile machine allowed bidders to submit
bids in near real-time during the course of an auction. These
technologies free the bidder from being physically present at the auction,
thereby saving time and travel expense. To incorporate these
technologies into the traditional auction format, representatives of the
auction firm receive telephone or facsimile bids from their clients and
alert the auctioneer of these new bids. Similarly, the representatives
may relay information about the current bid items, such as the current
high bid, back to the telephone biddgrs.
Bidding by mail or facsimile suffers a significant disadvantage as
compared to bidding in person or by telephone because the mailing or
faxing bidder has no opportunity to increase a bid in quick response to
competitive bids received from the floor or by telephone. Moreover,
although telephone bidding allows the bidder to avoid travel expense and
inconvenience, traditional auctions may be scheduled at inconvenient
times for many remote bidders. Also, because of the large number of
items or lots sold in a typical auction, Which can number in the
thousands, it is impractical for a telephone bidder to stay on the line for
a two to eight hour period in order to be present when the few lots in
which the bidder has an interest come up for sale. The lots in which the
telephone bidder is interested-may be scattered throughout the lengthy
traditional auction. Time zone differences further diminish the appeal of
telephone bidding for an international potential customer base. -
All of these limitations and disadvantages of physical auctions,
even when telephone bidding or bidding by facsimile is permitted, serve
to discourage a large number of bidders and ultimately leads to lower
selling prices to the economic detriment of the auctioneer and seller.
Electronic auctions held over the Internet using electronic mail (E-
mail) have provided a minor innovation as compared to more traditional
2

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
physical options. In E-mail, auctions, an auction catalog is electronically
mailed to people interested in bidding. Subsequently, bidders subniit
their bids on individual lots to an auctioneer via E-mail. The auctioneer
reads the electronic mail bids and enters them in a database of bids.
When the auction closes, the auctioneer notifies the winning bidders,
usually via electronic mail, and ships the merchandise to the winning
bidders.
There are several disadvantages to E-mail auctions. First, a human
auctioneer is required to prepare the auction catalog and to read and
process the electronic mail bids. This takes a considerable amount of
effort in a large auction. Secondly, it is difficult to keep the bidders
updated as to the current high bids on the various items. Electronic mail
on most large public networks, such as the Internet, is lower priority
traffic than most, meaning it can take several hours for bids to reach the
auctioneer and for bidding updates to reach the bidders. Thirdly, as the
auction closing draws near, the volume of bids may prohibit the
auctioneer from sending out high bid information to the bidder i beCause
" of the time involved in reading the electronic mail bids and in
entering
them into the bid database.
A recent innovation applied to E-mail auctions is the use of the
Internet's World Wide Web (WWW) facility to post descriptions of the
merchandise and show the current high bids. This innovation provides
the advantage of eliminating the need to electronically mail bidding
updates to bidders. And since WWW traffic is much higher priority on
the Internet, bidders suffer less of a time lag in seeing updated Web
pages. However, a human auctioneer is still involved and is required to
manually process the electronic mail bids, enter them into the bid
database, and to update the World Wide Web pages with current high -
bid information.
Sales firms other than auction houses have also used the -
Internet's World Wide Web facility to post descriptions of their
merchandise and to offer the merchandise for sale at a set price. These
systems are automated and are capable of accepting an order from a
customer by having that customer fill out an online order form. This
3

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
, -
order information is taken by the system and placed into an order
database or accounting system which then processes the order.
However, such systems sell merchandise only at a fixed price and do not
allow merchandise to be auctioned off, or to have their prices
dynamically adjusted in an interactive manner in response to bids and
other market conditions such as supply and demand.
Security brokerage firms for years have used automated
transaction systems for matching buy and sell orders for securities. For
example, the New York Stock Exchange's DOTS* (Direct Order
Transmission System) and the NASDAQ's SOES*TSmall Order Execution
=
System) systems offer complete electronic matching of buyers and
sellers. However, these systems do not operate an auction. They
merely pair buy orders with' sal( orders when the pricing criteria of both
sides of the trade are 'met.
A number of issued U.S. patents relate to various forms of
electronic commerce. These patents fall into three broad categories: 1)
patents relating to on-line networks, 2) patents relating to electronic
commerce over on-line networks, and 3) patents related to various forms
of securities (e.g., stocks and futures) trading via electronic means.
From the first of these groups, on-line networks, U.S. Patents Nos.
5,406,475 issued April 11, 1995 and entitled Data Processing Network
Having A Plurality Of Independent Subscribers, 5,235,680 issued
August 10, 1993 and entitled Apparatus And Method For Communicating
Textual And Image Information Between A Host Computer And A Remote
= Display Terminal, and 5,310,997 issued Nay 10, 1994 and entitled
Automated Order And Delivery System, are representative of the prior
art. These patents describe systems of terminals connected over wide
area networks to centralized computers. However, they do not disclose
the details of electronic commerce or auctions in particular.
In the second group, patents relating to electronic
commerce, U.S. Patent Nos. 5,285,383 issued February 8, 1994 and
entitled Method For Carrying Out Transactions Using Electronic Title,
and 5,297,031 issued March 22, 1994 and entitled Method And Apparatus
For Order Management By Market Brokers, describe various means for
conducting transactions over electronic communications networks. They
also describe various means for displaying merchandise for sale to a
*Trade -mark
4
=

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
plurality of customers connected to a central computer of a computer
network and various means for conducting simple sale transactiont
where a buyer purchases an item at the stated price. As a group, these
patents do not disclose the means for conducting electronic auctions or
any.sales format other than a-simple or "straight" sale.
One particular U.S. patent, No. 4,789,928 issued
December 6, 1998, discloses a means for soliciting bids
over an electronic network from bidders that are remote to
and simultaneously transmits the current high bid from the floor of the
physical auction to the terminals of the remote bidders. However, this
patent does not disclose or suggest the concept of an electronically
conducted auction including a means for automatically closing the
auction under certain conditions and without benefit of a live human
auctioneer. Furthermore, this patent fails to disclose or suggest a means
for auctioning a plurality of items simultaneously; rather, the disclosed
system is strictly tied to the sequential proceedings of a physical
auction. Finally, this system contemplates only a simple "highest bidder"
auction where a single lot goes to an individual high bidder. This system
cannot handle' a lot available for auction which includes a plurality of
items and where a plurality of winning bidders sufficient to match the
= plurality of auctioned items exists.
In the third group of patents related to electronic commerce,
patents relating to securities trading, U.S. Patents Nos. 4,412,287
issued October 25, 1983 and entitled Automated Stock Exchange, and
5,077,665 issued December 31, 1991 and entitled Distributed
Matching System, disclose means for prospective buyers to, post offers
to buy a given security at a specific price and for prospective sellers to
post offers to sell a given security at a specific price. These automated
systems maintain lists of buy and sell orders. If an offer to buy a
security is placed at a price greater than or equal to an existing offer to
sell that security at a given price, these systems will automatically
consummate the trade by matching the buyer with the seller. While the
= securities industry uses, and these patents disclose, such terms as
'auction' and "bid", they are actually referring to the process of
matching a set of buyers' bids with a set of sellers' prices: There is no
auction in the true sense of a plurality of bidders simultaneously bidding
5

CA 02629281 2012-04-26
in a manner accessible to all bidders and sellers in order to achieve a high
selling
price. In fact, these patented systems do not include disclosure of the list
of open
buy or sell orders, thus depriving the seller of the ability to openly solicit
the highest
price for securities. Instead, the market price of securities sold through
these
automated systems fluctuates up and down based upon the last successful match
between an open buy order and an open sell order when both the buyer and
seller
have placed orders at compatible prices. There is no ability in such systems
to
conduct truly competitive and open bidding.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
According to one aspect of the present invention, there is provided an
electronic commerce system, comprising: a bid validator to receive via a web-
based
form and via a network, an offer from a bidder as a bid for an auction item of
a lot of
auctions items available for purchase at a posted selling price; a manager,
coupled to
the bid validator, automatically to award the auction item of the lot of
auction items to
the bidder, if the manager determines that the offer is at or above the posted
selling
price of the auction item and the auction item is currently available for
purchase,
wherein the manager is automatically to reduce the posted selling price upon
determining that a predetermined sales volume associated with the lot of
auction
items was not achieved within a predetermined time period; and a merchandise
catalog page generator, coupled to the manager, to update a merchandise
catalog
page based on instructions received from the manager to display a reduced
posted
selling price.
According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided
a method to facilitate an electronic commerce transaction conducted over an
electronic network, the method comprising: receiving an offer for at least one
item of
a lot of items, the lot of items including a plurality of items and the offer
being
received from a user of an electronic commerce system, wherein the at least
one
item of the lot of items is available for purchase at a posted selling price
via an
auction facilitated by the electronic commerce system; automatically awarding
the at
6

CA 02629281 2012-04-26
least one item of the lot of items to the user, if it is determined that the
offer is at or
above the posted selling price of the at least one item and the at least one
item is
currently available for purchase; automatically reducing the posted selling
price for a
further item of the lot of items upon determining that a predetermined sales
volume
associated with the lot of items was not achieved within a predetermined time
period;
and updating a merchandise catalog page to present a reduced posted selling
price
for the further one item of the lot of items.
According to still another aspect of the present invention, there is
provided a machine-readable medium having executable instructions stored
thereon
to cause one or more machines to perform a method to facilitate an electronic
transaction, the method including: receiving an offer for at least one item of
a lot of
items, the lot of items including a plurality of items and the offer being
received from a
user of an electronic commerce system, wherein the at least one item of the
lot of
items is available for purchase at a posted selling price via an auction
facilitated by
the electronic commerce system; automatically awarding the at least one item
of the
lot of items to the user, if it is determined that the offer is at or above
the posted
selling price of the at least one item and the at least one item is currently
available for
purchase; automatically reducing the posted selling price for a further one
item of the
lot of items upon determining that a predetermined sales volume associated
with the
lot of items was not achieved within a predetermined time period; and updating
a
merchandise catalog page to present a reduced posted selling price for the
further
one item of the lot of items.
According to yet another aspect of the present invention, there is
provided an electronic auction system, comprising validating means for
receiving via
a web-based form and via the network, an offer from a bidder as a bid for an
auction
item of a lot of auctions items available for purchase at a posted selling
price,
manager means, coupled to the validating means for automatically awarding an
auction item of a lot of auction items to the bidder, if the manager
determines that the
offer is at or above the posted selling price of the auction item and the
auction item is
currently available for purchase, wherein the manager means is automatically
to
7

CA 02629281 2014-04-14
75712-48E
reduce the posted selling price upon determining that a predetermined sales
volume
associated with the lot of auction items was not achieved within a
predetermined time
period; storage means coupled to the manager means, for storing the posted
selling
price; and a merchandise catalog page generator means, coupled to the manager
means, for updating a merchandise catalog page based on instructions received
from
the manager means for displaying the reduced posted selling price.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The aforementioned possible advantages of embodiments of the
invention, as well as additional possible advantages thereof, will more fully
be
understood as a result of a detailed description of a preferred embodiment
when
taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:
8

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
FIG. 1 illustrates a preferred computer environment for
implementing the system and method of the present invention.
FIG. 2 illustrates a merchandise catalog page offering an item for
_5 sale via electronic auction on the Internet's World Wide Web;
FIG. 3 depicts a bid form for bidding on an auction item;
FIG. 4 is a block diagram of components illustrating a preferred
embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 5 is a flowchart illustrating the bid validator and its method of
operation;
FIG. 6 is a flowchart illustrating the auction manager and its
method of operation;
FIG. 7 Is a flowchart Illustrating the bid manager and its method of
operation;
FIG. 8 is a flowchart illustrating the electronic mail messenger and
.its method of operation; .
FIG. 9 is a flowchart illustrating the standard auction format and
its method of operation;
= -
FIG. 10 is a flowchart-illustrating the Dutch auction format and its
method of operation;
FIG. 11 is a flowchart illustrating the progressive auction format
and its method of operation;
FIG. 12 is a flowchart illustrating the buy or bid sale format and its
method of operation;
FIG. 13 is a flowchart illustrating bid quantity determination and
its method of operation; and
9

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
=
=
FIG. 14 is a flowchart illustrating the markdown price adjustment
feature of the present invention and its method of operation.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
_5 An inventive method and system is disclosed for conducting a
multi-bidder, interactive auction without using a human auctioneer to
conduct the auction. Preferably implemented in software, the electronic
auction system allows a group of bidders to interactively place bids over
a computer or communications network, automatically records the bids,
updates the bidders with the current auction status information, closes
the auction from further bidding when appropriate, and notifies the
winning bidder or bidders and loser or losers as to the auction outcome.
The inventive system includes a database for maintaining
descriptions of the merchandise for auction, the bids, and other relevant
information in a commercially available database system. Database
searches are preferably performed periodically to check for new items to
be made visible to potential bidders. Such periodic searching allows an
individual charged with maintaining this system to load relevant
information into the database at his or her leisure. Once the database is
loaded with information about the item and the item is scheduled for
presentation to potential bidders, the system takes the merchandise
information and creates a human readable catalog page for a viewing
over a public network such as the Internet's World Wide Web. Bidders
are then able to view the new item for auction and to place their bids.
_These catalog pages preferably contain the current high bid, bid
increment, quantity available, merchandise description, and picture of the
item.
Upon accessing a public network and seeing an item's catalog
page, the bidder may press a button on the catalog page or take some
similar action which causes a bid form to be displayed on the screen.
The bidder then enters the information necessary to place a bid, such as
their name and address, bid amount, payment information, etc., and then
presses a bid submission button, or takes a similar action which sends
the bid to the system.

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
The system receives the electronic bid information and places it in
the bid database. Because this new bid will, in general, be a bid for a
higher amount than was last bid by another party, the system will
regenerate the item's catalog page. This updated catalog page will then
show the new high bid to any prospective bidders who later access that
catalog page.
Because most bidders will not, in general, be accessing the
network and viewing the merchandise catalog pages as they are updated
with new high bids, the system may send electronic mail notifications to
bidders who have been outbid by the just-placed bid. These electronic
mail notification messages preferably contain the relevant merchandise
information, the current high bid, the bid increment, etc., and encourage
the bidder to submit a new and higher bid to outbid the current high
bidder. These electronic mail notification messages allow the bidder to
enter a new bid by replying to the electronic mail message and sending it
back to the system.
Upon receiving a new or revised bid via electronic mail, the system
=
follows the same set of actions as when the bidder places a bid using
the electronic bid form when viewing a merchandise catalog page,
namely, the system extracts the relevant bid information from the
electronic mail message, deposits this information in the bid database,
and then updates the merchandise catalog page as appropriate. Such an
electronic mail message bid may further cause a new round of electronic
mail notifications to go out to the recently outbid bidders.
This process preferably continues until the system detects that the
item is scheduled to be closed for further bidding or another closing
trigger is detected. At this point, the system closes the auction by
updating the merchandise catalog page with the final winning bid
information and by sending electronic mail notifications to both the
winning bidder or bidders and the losing bidder or bidders.
The present invention provides an electronic auction method and
system for presenting merchandise for sale at auction to customers over
an electronic network, such as the Internet's World Wide Web. Potential
= 1 1

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
customers are presented with a series of descriptive merchandise catalog
pages through which they may navigate to find items (lots) of interest.
Upon finding a lot of interest, customers may click a button on screen' to
display a form for placing a bid on the lot. After submitting this bid, the
electronic auction system records the bid and updates the lot's
merchandise catalog page to show the current high bid or bids and to
whom such bids are attributable. When the auction is closed, after a
period of no bidding activity, at a predetermined time, or when a desired
sales volume is reached, the electronic auction system notifies the
winning and losing bidders by electronic mail and posts a list of the
winning bidders on the closed lot's merchandise catalog page.
The present invention is preferably implemented as a computer
program 248 running on a central server host computer 250, shown in
FIG. 1, attached to a wide area network 275 accessible by many
potential customers through remote terminals 210. A preferred network
for implementing the present invention is the Internet which is accessible
by a significant percentage of the world population, although the
network may also be a local area or limited area accessible network.
Potential customers are presented at screen 280 with merchandise
catalog pages, such as the one shown in FIG. 2, generated by
merchandise catalog page generator 25 shown in FIG. 4. Each
merchandise catalog page includes several action buttons 5 that allow
the customer to move from catalog page to catalog page and to place
bids using keyboard 240 and pointing device 260. The user may call up
an index of available merchandise by pressing button 7 or may return to
a central home page by pressing button 9.
By pressing bid button 1 in FIG. 2, the customer is presented with
a bid form such as the one shown in FIG. 3. The customer fills out the
required information in the bid form and presses "Place Bid" button 2 to
send the bid to the electronic auction system for processing. Other
equivalent means for submitting a bid could be used, as understood by
those skilled in the art to which the present invention pertains.
.
FIG. 4 illustrates a high level block diagram of the electronic
auction system of the present invention. As shown, information from
12

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
=.
bid form 20 is received by the electronic auction system where it is
processed by bid validator 21. Bid validator 21 examines the bid '-
information entered by the customer on bid form 20 to ensure that the
bid is properly formatted, all necessary data is present, and the data
.5 values entered look credible. Exemplary functions of bid validator 21
include verifying credit card information entered by the customer,
checking that a complete name and shipping address has been entered,
that the proper state abbreviation and zip code have been entered, that
an appropriate bid amount has been entered, and that a telephone or
facsimile number has been entered. Once the bid information has been
validated, the bid validator 21 places the bid in bid database 31.
Auction manager 26 preferably frequently queries the bid database
31 to see if any new bids have been placed. If new bids are found
during the query, then auction manager 26 calculates the current high
bidder or bidders and instructs merchandise catalog page generator 25 to
regenerate a catalog page with the updated bid information.
Auction manager 26 is also responsible for opening and closing
auctions. This entails making merchandise lots available for bidding by
customers and disabling their associated buy or bid features on the
merchandise pages that have been posted to potential bidders but have
closed. When auction manager 26 determines that a new lot should be
opened for bidding or an available lot should be closed, it instructs '
merchandise catalog page generator 25 to create or update the- =
merchandise catalog pages for the appropriate lots.
_Electronic mail messenger 27 frequently queries bid database 31
for bids recently marked by auction manager 26 as having been outbid or
as having won an item in a recently closed auction. If such bids are
found, the electronic mail messenger 27 formats an appropriate
electronic mail notification message 24 and sends this message to the
customer. Many customers read their electronic mail throughout the
day, making this a convenient mechanism for keeping them informed
about the status of merchandise on which they are actively bidding.
Bidders .may reply to an electronic mail notification message 24 informing
them that they have been outbid by including an increased bid amount in
- 13

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
the reply message. An electronic mail bid 22 sent in reply to the
notification is received by the electronic auction system and processed
by bid validator 21 as described above.
_5 FIG. 5 illustrates in detail the procedure of bid validation as
accomplished by bid validator 21 shown in FIG. 4. A bid is received by
bid validator 21 and the customer is looked up at step 41 in customer
database 28. If no customer record exists for the customer then a new
customer record is created 42 and placed in customer database 28.
From there, the bid information is validated 43 as previously described.
If the bid data includes one or more errors, then an error message is
returned 44 to the bidder, preferably in the form of a well-formatted
page posted across the network, itemizing the errors found in the bid. If
the bid is valid, as found in step 43, then the bid is placed 46 in bid
database 31.
FIG. 6 provides a detailed illustration of the procedures carried out
by auction manager 26. Auction manager 26 is preferably a
continuously running system that begins by getting the current time as
at step 51. It then checks to see if any new items for sale are to be
opened by examining the merchandise database to see if any new
merchandise items are scheduled to be made available for bidding by
customers at or before the current time. Operator 300, or some
automated substitute, may upload merchandise and scheduling
information to the database, as shown in FIG. 1. If new merchandise
_items are scheduled for posting, these items are opened for bidding 52.
The auction manager then examines the merchandise database to see if
any merchandise items are scheduled to be closed from customer
bidding. If so, these items are closed from bidding 53. Auction manager
-
26 then examines the merchandise database to see if any merchandise
items posted with a price markdown feature are scheduled to have their
prices adjusted. If so, the prices of these items are adjusted 54 in
accordance with the particular item's price adjustment parameters. Such
parameters may include bidding activity over time, amount of bids
received, and number of items bid for. Auction manager 26 then
updates 55 the bid list for open items by recalculating the current high
bidder list and regenerating the merchandise catalog pages 56 to reflect
14

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
these new bids. This step is more fully described below with reference
to FIG. 7.
FIG. 7 illustrates the procedures carried out by the bid manager in
updating the bid list for open items 55 as shown in FIG. 6. The bid
manager begins by checking 61 if there are more merchandise items to
be processed. If such items are found, the bid manager selects 62 a
merchandise item to process and queries 64 the bid database for bids for
this item. These bids are sorted 65 using a variety of different priority
ranking schemes depending upon the auction method and system used
for the particular merchandise item, as described in more detail below.
Then, the bids are marked 66 as either successful or unsuccessful
depending upon the bid price of the respective bids and the quantity of
the item being bid on relative to the quantity of the item being
auctioned. In a preferred embodiment, a quantity of an item may be put
up for auction, and individual bidders may bid on any quantity of the
item desired, up to the quantity of the item being auctioned.
The bid manager then checks 67 to see if there are any active
proxy bids marked as unsuccessful. A proxy bid is a special bid type
that allows auction manager 26 to automatically bid on the bidder's
behalf up to a limited amount established by the bidder when his or her
initial bid is placed. The auction manager will increase the bid as
=
necessary up to the limit amount. This feature allows the customer to
get the lowest possible price without exceeding a limit preferably
established when the bid is entered. If there are active proxy bids
marked as unsuccessful, then the bid manager increments 69 the proxy
bids by a preset bid increment. This procedure of sorting 65 marking 66
bids and incrementing 69 the proxy bids as required continues until -
either there are no additional proxy bids marked as unsuccessful or the
proxy limits have been reached on the proxy bids. At this point, bid
database 31 is updated 68 with the marked bids. This process is then
repeated for each merchandise lot open at the current time for bidding
by customers.
.
FIG. 8 illustrates the procedures carried out by electronic mail
messenger 27 which notifies bidders when they have been outbid.

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
When marked bids are updated in bid database 31 as shown in FIG. 7,
electronic mail messenger 27 detects 81 the presence of these marked
bids and then looks up 82 the customer's electronic mail address and
looks up 83 inventory information on the item desired by the bidder.
With this information, electronic mail messenger 27 constructs 84 an
electronic mail message informing the bidder that he or she has been
outbid. Once constructed, the electronic mail notification message 24 is
sent to the bidder as shown at step 85.
One skilled in the art to which the present invention pertains will
recognize that the various components of the electronic auction system
can communicate between themselves in a variety of ways. In a
preferred embodiment, bid validator 21, auction manager 26, and
electronic mail messenger 27 communicate by adding, marking, and
updating records in the various databases. Each of these components
periodically checks at least one of the databases to see if anything
relevant to their respective functions has changed and take action -
accordingly. However, the components could send direct messages
between themselves or call each other by means of program subroutines
to signal important events that would require one or the other
component to update its state.
=
One skilled in the art to which the present invention pertains will
further recognize that a variety of different auction formats may be
implemented using the basic technique described above. The simplest is
the "Standard Auction" format, whereby the electronic auction system
awards the merchandise to the top bidder or bidders in accordance with
their bids once bidding has stopped. Using this format, if there is a
plurality of a specific item, the system awards the merchandise to the
=
top bidders. Bidders may bid on more than one unit, and different - =
successful bidders will, in general, pay different prices for an item.
FIG. 9 illustrates the Standard Auction format where bid manager
55, shown in FIG. 6, determines which bids to mark as successful or
15 unsuccessful, as shown in step 66 in FIG. 7. Bid manager 55 begins by
sorting 91 the bids by amount of the bid. If there are bids remaining to
be processed, determined at step 97, the highest remaining bid is = -
16

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
selected 98 to be checked. If the bid is below the minimum bid allowed
for the particular merchandise item, as determined at step 93, the bid is
marked 99 as unsuccessful. If not, the bid is checked 94 to see if the
quantity may be satisfied. A bid may be satisfied if the quantity of the
item bid upon is available. This information is available from auction
database 29. If not, then the bid is marked 99 as unsuccessful.
Optionally, the system could ask the user if a lesser quantity than bid
upon will be acceptable, as shown in FIG. 2 at box 310. If the bid
quantity can be satisfied, as determined at step 94, then the bid is
marked 95 as successful and the item quantity remaining, recorded in
auction database 29, is decremented 96 by the bid quantity. After the
quantity remaining is decremented 96, and if, as determined at step 97,
there are still bids remaining to be marked, the next highest bid is
selected 98 and the steps of FIG. 9 are repeated.
The electronic auction system of the present invention also
provides a "Dutch Auction" format, wherein the electronic auction
system awards the merchandise to all of the top bidders for whom there
is available inventory at the price bid by the lowest successful bidder.
This format may be preferred by customers for being the most fair when
a plurality of a specific item is being auctioned. As with all bidding,
there will be a range of bids submitted. In the Dutch Auction format,
the highest bidders are awarded the merchandise but at the same price
for all successful bidders, the price bid by the lowest successful bidder.
_ FIG. 10 illustrates the Dutch Auction format whereby bid manager
55 shown in FIG. 6 determines which bids to mark 66 as successful or
unsuccessful,-as shown in FIG. 7. Bid manager 55 begins by sorting 111
the bids by amount of the bid. If there are bids remaining to be = =
processed, as determined at step 97 the highest bid is selected 98 to be
checked. If the bid is below the minimum bid allowed for the particular
merchandise item, as determined at step 93, the bid is marked as
unsuccessful 99. If not, the bid is checked 94 to see if the bid quantity
may be satisfied. If the bid cannot be satisfied, then the bid is marked
as unsuccessful at step 99. If the bid quantity can be satisfied, then the
bid is marked as successful at step 95 and the item quantity remaining is
decremented 96 by the bid quantity. At this time the MinWin price is
17

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
recorded 117. The MinWin price is the price above which a new bidder
must bid in order to be successful in the Dutch Auction format were the
auction to close at that moment. The MinWin price is, in general, the bid
price of the lowest bid that is marked as successful. After recording the
MinWin price at step 117, where there are still bids remaining to be
marked, as determined at step 97, the next highest bid is selected 98
and the steps of FIG. 10 are repeated.
The electronic auction system of the present invention also
includes a "Progressive Auction" format, wherein the electronic auction
system awards the merchandise to the top bidders based on price bid.
As with the Dutch Auction format, the highest price bids are awarded
the merchandise up to the quantity available of the item being auctioned.
However, unlike the Dutch Auction format, the system awards th3
merchandise to the successful bidders at different prices depending on
the quantity bid. In a preferred embodiment, a successful bidder for a
single unit of an item is awarded the item at the price of the lowest
successful bid for a single unit of the item. A successful bidder for a
higher quantity of the same item is awarded the item at the price of the
lowest successful bid at that quantity or any lower quantity. For
example, a successful bidder for a quantity of five would pay the lowest
price for any successful bid for quantity one through five of the item.
The price paid for a given quantity is termed the "MinWin" price for that
quantity. The Progressive Auction format ensures that successful
bidders for a quantity of an item pay the lowest price paid by any other
_successful bidder at that quantity level or below. Use of this format
leads to lower prices for those who successfully bid on larger quantities
of an item, provides an impetus for volume buying, and therefore leads
to greater sales volume.
FIG. 11 illustrates the Progressive Auction format, wherein bid
manager 55 shown in FIG. 6 determines which bids to mark as
successful or unsuccessful 66 as shown in FIG. 7. Bid manager 55
begins by sorting 131 the bids by amount of the bid. If there are bids
remaining to be processed, as determined at step 97, the highest bid is
selected 98 to be checked. If the bid is determined to be below the
minimum bid allowed for the particular merchandise item at step 93, the
18

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
bid is marked as unsuccessful 99. If not, the bid is checked at step 94
to see if the bid quantity can be satisfied. If not, then the bid is marked
= 99 as unsuccessful. If the bid quantity is checked and found to be
satisfied at step 94, then the bid is marked as successful 95 and the
item quantity remaining is decremented 96 by the bid quantity. The
MinWin price is then recorded 137. The MinWin price is the price above
which a new bidder must bid in order to be successful in the Progressive
Auction format were the auction to close at that moment. The MinWin
price is, in general, the bid price of the lowest bid at the current bid
quantity or lower that is marked as successful. After recording the
MinWin price 137, if there are still bids remaining to be marked, the next
highest bid is selected 98 and the steps of FIG. 11 are repeated.
The electronic auction system also includes a "Buy Or Bid" format
wherein the electronic auction system awards merchandise to bidders
who place bids at or above a posted selling price. The item remains for
sale until the available quantity is purchased. Bids that are below the
posted selling price are maintained in reserve by the system. If a certain
sales volume is not achieved in a specified period of time, the electronic
auction system automatically reduces the price by a predetermined
amount or a predetermined percentage of the price and updates the
merchandise catalog page accordingly. The lower price may be at or
below some of the bids already in the bid database. If such bids are
present, they are then converted to orders and the quantity available is
reduced accordingly. Similarly, if a certain sales volume is exceeded in a
specified period of time, the electronic auction system automatically
increases the price by a set amount or by a set percentage of the price
and updates the merchandise page accordingly. These automatic price
changes allow the seller to respond quickly to market conditions while
-
keeping the price of the merchandise as high as possible to the sellers
= benefit. =
=
FIG. 12 illustrates the Buy Or Bid format whereby bid manager 55,
as shown in FIG. 6, determines which bids to mark as successful or
unsuccessful 66, as shown in FIG. 7. Bid manager 55 begins by sorting
151 the bids by amount. If there are bids remaining to be processed, as
determined at step 97, the highest bid is selected 98 to be checked. If
19

=
CA 02629281 2008-04-28
=
the bid is below the current price of the merchandise item, as determined
at 93, then the bid is marked 99 unsuccessful. If the bid is not below
the current price, as determined at 93, then the bid is checked 94 to see
if the bid quantity can be satisfied. If not, the bid is marked as
.5 unsuccessful 99. If the bid quantity can be satisfied, then the bid
is
converted into an order 155 at the current price of the item and the
item's quantity remaining is decremented 96. The bids remaining to be
processed, as determined at 97, are then checked and the steps of FIG.
11 are repeated. From time to time, the current price of the
merchandise item may be raised or lowered either by manual input from
an operator 300 as shown in FIG. 1 or by automatically using the
"markdown" feature described below with reference to FIG. 14.
FIG. 13 illustrates in more detail the step of determining if the bid
quantity can be satisfied 94. If the bid quantity is determined to be less
than the available quantity of the merchandise item at step 171, then the
test is found satisfied at step 174. If not, then the bid is checked at 172
to see if the bidder is willing to accept a reduced quantity. Preferably,
when placing a bid, the bidder indicates its willingness to accept a partial
quantity in the event that an insufficient quantity of the item is available
to satisfy the bid if successful. If the bidder is found willing to accept a
reduced quantity at 172, then the test is found satisfied at 174. If not,
the test fails at 173 and the bid is marked as unsuccessful at, for
example, 99 in FIG. 9.
The electronic auction system also includes a "markdown" feature,
wherein the electronic aUction system of the present invention awards
merchandise to buyers who place orders at the currently posted selling
price. The item remains on sale until the available quantity is purchased.
If a certain sales volume is not achieved in a specified period of time, the
electronic auction system automatically reduces the price by a set
amount or a set percentage and updates the merchandise catalog page
accordingly. This lower price encourages buyers to take advantage of
the new price. If a certain sales volume is exceeded in a specified period
of time, the electronic auction system automatically increases the price
by a set amount or a set percentage and updates the merchandise page
accordingly. These automatic price changes allow the system to

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
respond to market conditions while keeping the prices of the
merchandise as high as possible to the seller's benefit.
FIG. 14 illustrates the Markdown price adjustment feature
_5 whereby auction manager 26, as shown in FIG. 4, periodically adjusts 54
the sales prices or minimum bid prices, of the merchandise items
according to a predetermined schedule as shown in FIG. 6. If more
merchandise items are found in the merchandise database at 181, a
merchandise item is selected 183 for Markdown. If a Markdown event
has occurred for the item, as determined at 184, the item's price is
adjusted 185 according to the schedule preset for the individual item.
Alternatively, the adjustment could be relative to prices offered for the
merchandise. The merchandise item is then updated 186 in the database
with the new sale price or minimum bid price. The steps of FIG. 14 are
then repeated for each successive merchandise item in the merchandise
database.
The electronic auction system of the present Invention preferably
includes a "Proxy Bidding" feature that may be applied to any of the
auction formats described above. FIG. 7 fully describes auction manager
26 including the Proxy Bidding feature. When Proxy Bidding is .
employed, a bidder places a bid for the maximum amount they are
willing to pay. The electronic auction system, however, only displays
the amount necessary to win the item up to the amount of the currently
high proxy bids of other bidders. Typically, the currently high bids
display an amount that is one bidding increment above the second
highest bid or bids, although-a percentage above the second highest bids
may be used as well. When a new bidder places a bid that is above a
currently displayed high bid, the proxy feature will, in general, cause the
currently high bid to move up to an amount higher than the new bid, up
to the maximum amount of the currently high bidder's proxy bid. Once a
new bidder places a bid in excess of the currently high bidder's proxy
= bid, the new bid becomes the current high bid and the previous high bid
becomes the second highest bid. This feature allows bidders to
participate in the electronic auction without revealing to the other =
bidders the extent to which they are willing to increase their bids, while
maintaining control of their maximum bid without closely monitoring the
21

CA 02629281 2008-04-28
bidding. Participation is engaged in automatically on the bidder's behalf
by the inventive system. The feature guarantees proxy bidders the
lowest possible price up to a specified maximum without requiring
frequent inquiries as to the state of the bidding.
One skilled in the art to which the present invention pertains will
recognize that a variety of different auction formats may be implemented
in addition to those described above. One skilled in the art will also
recognize that the electronic auction system of the present invention can
employ a "Floating Closing Time" feature whereby the auction for a
particular item is automatically closed if no new bids are received within
a predetermined time interval. This feature would typically be
implemented in a manner similar to that used to close auctions of old
items, as shown at step 53 in FIG. 6. This feature forces the bidding
activity to occur within a shorter amount of time than would otherwise
be achieved because bidders are aware that the item will automatically
close if no new bids have been received in a timely manner. Thus,
bidders have an Incentive to stay active in the bidding process to avoid
closure of an item before maximum, and most potentially winning, bids
have been entered. The Floating Closing Time feature also allows more
items to be auctioned during a period of time since each item is closed
once bidding activity ceases; the bidding period is not protracted to an
artificial length as is the case when an item closes at a preset date and
time. The Floating Closing Time feature of the present invention may be
employed either in conjunction with or independent of a fixed closing
time for an item. When employed in conjunction with a fixed closing
time, the auction is closed either when the preset fixed time period has
expired for the item or when no bidding activity has occurred within a
preset time interval. This forces the bidding to cease at a particular time
in case the bidding activity becomes artificially protracted.
A general description of the present invention as well as a
preferred embodiment of the present invention has been set forth above.
Those skilled in the art to which the present invention pertains will
recognize and be able to practice additional variations in the methods
and system described which fall within the teachings of this invention.
For example, although a preferred embodiment of the present invention
22

CA 02629281 2014-04-14
75712-48E
chooses winning bids according to monetary amount included in the bid,
preference
for bids may also be determined according to time of submission, quantity of
merchandise bid for, total bid value, or some other combination of these
characteristics. Accordingly, all such modifications and additions are deemed
to be
within the invention which is to be limited only by the claims appended
hereto. The
scope of the claims should not be limited by the examples herein, but should
be given
the broadest interpretation consistent with the description as a whole.
23

A single figure which represents the drawing illustrating the invention.

For a clearer understanding of the status of the application/patent presented on this page, the site Disclaimer , as well as the definitions for Patent , Administrative Status , Maintenance Fee  and Payment History  should be consulted.

Admin Status

Title Date
Forecasted Issue Date 2015-05-05
(22) Filed 1997-03-19
(41) Open to Public Inspection 1997-10-09
Examination Requested 2008-04-28
(45) Issued 2015-05-05
Expired 2017-03-20

Abandonment History

There is no abandonment history.

Payment History

Fee Type Anniversary Year Due Date Amount Paid Paid Date
Request for Examination $800.00 2008-04-28
Registration of Documents $100.00 2008-04-28
Registration of Documents $100.00 2008-04-28
Registration of Documents $100.00 2008-04-28
Filing $400.00 2008-04-28
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 2 1999-03-19 $100.00 2008-04-28
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 3 2000-03-20 $100.00 2008-04-28
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 4 2001-03-19 $100.00 2008-04-28
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 5 2002-03-19 $200.00 2008-04-28
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 6 2003-03-19 $200.00 2008-04-28
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 7 2004-03-19 $200.00 2008-04-28
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 8 2005-03-21 $200.00 2008-04-28
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 9 2006-03-20 $200.00 2008-04-28
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 10 2007-03-19 $250.00 2008-04-28
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 11 2008-03-19 $250.00 2008-04-28
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 12 2009-03-19 $250.00 2009-03-04
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 13 2010-03-19 $250.00 2010-03-03
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 14 2011-03-21 $250.00 2011-02-04
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 15 2012-03-19 $450.00 2012-02-23
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 16 2013-03-19 $450.00 2013-02-13
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 17 2014-03-19 $450.00 2014-02-11
Final Fee $300.00 2015-02-09
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 18 2015-03-19 $450.00 2015-02-12
Maintenance Fee - Patent - New Act 19 2016-03-21 $450.00 2016-02-24
Current owners on record shown in alphabetical order.
Current Owners on Record
EBAY, INC.
Past owners on record shown in alphabetical order.
Past Owners on Record
EGGHEAD.COM, INC.
FISHER, ALAN S.
KAPLAN, SAMUEL JERROLD
ONSALE, INC.
Past Owners that do not appear in the "Owners on Record" listing will appear in other documentation within the application.

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Representative Drawing 2008-07-25 1 10
Abstract 2008-04-28 1 16
Description 2008-04-28 23 1,221
Claims 2008-04-28 4 137
Drawings 2008-04-28 12 286
Cover Page 2008-07-30 2 45
Description 2012-04-26 24 1,273
Claims 2012-04-26 4 163
Description 2014-04-14 23 1,229
Cover Page 2015-04-17 2 45
Correspondence 2008-06-06 1 40
Assignment 2008-04-28 2 101
Correspondence 2008-08-14 1 15
Assignment 2008-10-23 1 50
Correspondence 2009-01-22 1 15
Prosecution-Amendment 2011-10-27 3 128
Correspondence 2015-02-09 2 74
Prosecution-Amendment 2012-04-26 18 853
Prosecution-Amendment 2013-03-14 4 192
Prosecution-Amendment 2013-09-16 9 544
Prosecution-Amendment 2013-10-15 3 137
Prosecution-Amendment 2014-04-14 15 853
Correspondence 2015-01-15 45 1,704