Online retailer Amazon is on the receiving end of an IBM patent suit, not dissimilar to those it has itself brought in the past. But why limit the fun to the virtual world?
Once upon a time in a little village not very far from here, there were two shopkeepers. Mr Arthur was a bookseller, Mr Brian was a grocer, and both were much loved by the villagers. Business was good.
One day, Mr Arthur got to thinking. Most of his customers only bought one book each time they came in. "If I sell them three books but charge them for two," he reasoned, "I'll make less per book but more per customer". So he drew a big sign saying "3 for 2 — Special Offer!", and put it up in his window.
Mrs Miggins was walking past the shop when she saw the sign. Christmas was coming and she couldn't decide what to buy her three children. She went into the shop, and soon found three books perfect for presents. Mr Arthur beamed as he took her money, and Mrs Miggins beamed as she took her books.
Then she went into the grocer. "I'll take an extra pound of apples," she told Mr Brian. "I was saving for the children's Christmas, but thanks to Mr Arthur's marvellous offer of three books for the price of two, I don't have to worry!".
Well, thought Mr Brian. That's a good idea. Soon, he had a similar sign in his window – and added a little note saying that if you placed a regular order, you could have a free banana.
Minutes later, there was a crash as Crusher Higgs, the bookseller's apprentice, put his boot through the grocer's plate-glass door. "Oy oy!" said Crusher. "Wot's the big idea, stealin' from my boss?"
Mr Brian was astonished. He hadn't even been in the bookshop for months. "Wh... wh... what are you talking about?" he stuttered.
"That sign," said Crusher. "that's 'is idea. Take it down now or gimme a tenner. Or do I 'ave to bruise your plums?"
Shaken, Mr Brian handed over 10 pounds. "An' don' do it again, capeesh?" yelled Crusher over his shoulder as he left.
"You don't have to take that, guv," said Slimy Perkins, the grocer's boy. He'd been watching from behind the counter. "Remember last summer and that display of condensed soup cans in the window? Mr Arthur went and did exactly the same with his Warhol art books. We laughed at the time. But now... Want me to go and kick his door down? Get your money back?"
Mr Brian nodded, and Slimy Perkins disappeared. There was the sound of glass breaking and some yelling, but soon Perkins was back clutching five pounds.
"There we go. Mr Arthur gave Crusher a fiver to come here, so I reckoned it was only fair to take my cut from the proceeds"
"Yes, yes, of course." Mr Brian put the five pounds back in the till. He was a fiver down and had to fix the door but the same was true for Mr Arthur, so everything was all right again. Wasn't it?
The next day, a big black car drew up outside the grocery shop. Two large men in shiny black leather jackets got out. "Get in the back of the motor." they told Mr Brian. "The big man wants a word."
Inside the car, Mr Brian found himself sitting next to Mr Arthur. In the front passenger seat sat Mr Corleoni. They'd seen his face in the papers. "Now, gentlemen," he said. "You appear to have something of mine."
Mr Arthur and Mr Brian exchanged glances.
"We don't know what that might be," said Mr Arthur.
"Those signs in your windows," said Mr C. "I came up with the idea of signs in windows in the first place. Everyone else pays me. Every month. My men will make the arrangements."
"But..." said Mr Brian.
"Goodbye," said Mr Corleoni.
Mr Arthur and Mr Brian found themselves back on the pavement.
"I'll have to put my prices up," said Mr Arthur. "Mrs Miggins won't like that."
"I won't be able to afford to get the strawberries in," said Mr Brian. "Mrs Miggins will be disappointed. But I wonder how Mr Corleoni found out?"
They heard a burst of laughter. Over the road, they noticed, Slimy Perkins and Crusher Higgs were walking to the pub. They'd bought themselves shiny new black leather jackets.
Just like their two new friends.