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Amazon's '1-click' Patent Up For Debate Again

Owing to a disgruntled customer in New Zealand, Amazon's controversial "1-click" patent filing is officially re-open for debate.

In reviewing Amazon.com's 1998 filing for the purchasing method, the U.S. Patent Office determined there was "a substantial question of patentability," according to a decision letter obtained by interenetnews.com.

In the letter, Matthew C. Graham of the Patent Office's Central Reexamination Unit, specifically questioned claim 11 in Amazon's patent filing.

The claim, Graham wrote, "recites a method for ordering an item comprising a single action performed, whereby the item is ordered independently of a shopping cart model."

But such a model was already in use at the time of Amazon's filing, Graham wrote, citing Edwin E. Klingman's patent for an Internet payment system called Digicash. That system enabled a purchaser to "click on an item to buy using a single action."

Thus, Graham wrote, "all claims will be re-examined."

In a statement sent to internetnews.com Amazon said it "remains confident in the validity of its 1-Click patent which enables customers to shop conveniently without having to enter their shipping and billing information each time they purchase.

"We look forward to working with the examiners in the Patent and Trademark Office, and we welcome the opportunity to re-validate what we believe is an important innovation in ecommerce."

According to the documents, the next step is for Amazon to defend its patent in writing. If the company chooses that route, Klingman will have a chance to respond in kind.

In 1998, Amazon filed the "1-click" patent amid much controversy over its broad nature. Tricky patent issues continue to haunt the tech industry.

Just last week, the Supreme Court ruled in a patent issue case between eBay and a small company called MercExchange over patent claims regarding eBay's "Buy It Now" feature.

Before that, makers of the popular Blackberry device, Research in Motion, settled with NTP for $612.5 million over alleged patent infringements. The deal ended a looming shutdown of its network in the U.S. as a result of NTP's patent litigation.

The bid to re-examine Amazon's "1-click" patent was spurred in part by New Zealander Pete Calveley's desire for utu.

Utu, according to a link on Calvely's blog, is a term to explain a New Zealander's obligation to undertake payment upon others for a wrongdoing.

Amazon's "wrongdoing" was taking too long to send Calvely a book he ordered in October of 2005.

In a click, Calvely sent the U.S. Patent Office a letter with Klingman's patent attached.

When the Patent Office wrote back to say Calvely needed to send another couple thousand dollars to process the request, Calvely asked for pay-pal donations on his blog.

Much to Amazon's likely chagrin, Calvely’s readers responded in numbers.