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In reference to the patent: US 2014/0019309.

Claim 5. The method of providing individuals a first means to shop and purchase items.

Is it possible to patent such a broad claim in 2012?

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In short, no. The independent claims in this patent are so broad that the examiner will find plenty of prior art in the late 80's to early 90's. Some of this is actually cited in the patent itself.

However, the claim language in patent applications is usually left intentionally broad in order to get maximum possible coverage in the space (in this case, it was definitely far too broad). This application will surely result in a series of Office Actions to narrow the scope of the claims. Office Actions cost time and money to address and file, and they are usually not cheap.

Assuming that an Office Action is filed to narrow the claim scope (specifically the independent claims), the inventor will need to rely on the language available in the existing description of the patent.

The keywords to note are JavaScript, HTML, affiliate program, comparison shop, vendor contract agreement, multiple stores, advertising space, register affiliate company, receive hyperlinks via affiliate program. Combinations of these terms will likely show up in the independent claim(s) as the result of an Office Action. If a novel independent claim can arise from some combination of those terms, then this inventor may be issued a patent. If something novel comes from this application, I will be truly impressed.

Now, before anyone is quick to judge, this is an individual representing herself in the application, without the typical resources that a company might have to provide a more appropriate scope for claims and language for the background. All in all, it is a fine first attempt for a lone individual, but it does highlight the difference between filing on one's own behalf and pooling resources within an organization.

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For reference, this application was indeed abandoned in 2015: https://register.epo.org/ipfwretrieve?apn=US.201213461837.A&lng=en

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