Amazon’s Grasp on One-Click Patent May Be Slipping

Amazon.com was taken to task Wednesday regarding
whether the e-tailer has a rightful hold on the one-click shopping
technology.

Although Amazon.com filed with the patent office in 1997, and was issued patent ‘411 in 1999, findings by two independent searches show that examples
of the technology were cited before the company opened its doors for
business.

On Wednesday, 30 responses to a challenge issued by open-source advocate Tim O’Reilly last October were revealed by BountyQuest,
an Internet destination where companies post cash rewards for vital
information.

Meanwhile, M-CAM, a Virginia-based company that has developed a
sophisticated data management system for patents, released its own
report
outlining the history of the ‘411 patent, similar inventions that predate
the patent, the litigation that has resulted since the ‘411 licensing, as
well as observations about the future of Amazon.com’s hold on the
technology.

References to the one-click technology were cited by Doonesbury
cartoonist Gary Trudeau in a 1993 comic strip, US Patent #5303393
“Integrated Radio Satellite Response System and Method” filed in 1994, and
European Patent #0680 185 A2, “A Distributed Computer System” filed in 1995,
among others, according to BountyQuest.

O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Associates, a technical service provider, used the BountyQuest site to offer
a $10,000 reward to anyone who could provide evidence demonstrating that certain elements in the 1-Click patent were invented before Amazon head Jeff Bezos’ patent filing date.

Although no submissions were accurate enough to win the
cash, the findings may have a strong impact on Amazon and its use of its
one-click patent as well as on the future of business patents overall.

For instance, the findings released Wednesday may ultimately squelch the
ongoing lawsuit Amazon filed against Barnes & Noble in 1999, charging BN’s “Express Lane” shopping order system infringed on Amazon’s patent.

Although BN Spokesperson Gus Carlson declined to comment on today’s
findings, a lawyer for the case went on record with this comment:

“While we ultimately prevailed on appeal with the references that we
located, we didn’t have any of the prior art found through BountyQuest
going into the preliminary injunction hearing,” said Ron Daignault, an
attorney from Pennie and Edmonds in New York. “When the clock was ticking,
having BountyQuest on our side would have been a real asset; and of course,
the art they found is now available for others to use.”

It was noted that finding evidence regarding previously filed patents can
be a slow and tedious process. “Patents can be a goal or they can ultimately
slow down innovation,” O’Reilly noted, “The difficulty of sorting through a
legal system of patents means you take on an army of lawyers. The problem,
if you are a non-lawyer, is that the process makes your head hurt.”

According to M-CAM, the events surrounding the Amazon.com ‘411 patent
proves the need for patent due diligence to evaluate both uncited prior
trade and government documents.

“The enforceability of the ‘411 patent will undoubtedly affect impact
licensing revenue to Amazon.com, the ecommerce marketplace and the future of
business process patents,” said David Martin, CEO of M-CAM. “The business
patent method has enjoyed the brightest day of the sunlight it will ever
see. It is likely there will be a signifi

cant amount of underlying alteration in
the arena of business method patents in the future.”

He added that the outcome of the case between Amazon.com and
Barnesandnoble.com will be important for Amazon.com, the e-commerce
marketplace and the future of business patents.

If the outcome of the BNBN/Amazon lawsuit shows that Amazon is not the
legitimate patent holder of the product, it will clear the way for others,
noted Andy Gibbs, president of PatentCafe.com, a directory and
news site covering intellectual property.

“Once you establish a precedent, there is a domino effect,” he said. “From
there, everyone Amazon has been asserting their one click patent to can
breathe easy. There will be no licensing fees and Amazon.com will take the
hit as to what their licensing fees were going to be. Everything adjusts
accordingly. It is a vital component.”

Amazon’s patent infringement suit is scheduled for trial in September in Seattle.

Calls to Amazon were unreturned as of press time.

InternetNews Radio Host Brian McWilliams contributed to this story.

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