OpenTV Looks to Lay Claim to 1-Click Trick

OpenTV Thursday said it recently filed an application to broaden the scope
of one of its patents to include “one-click,” or single interaction
shopping — a technology popularized by Amazon.com Inc.


OpenTV, who filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Sept. 27, said in a
statement Thursday that its own U.S. patent 5,819,034, “describes single interaction
shopping in client/server and interactive television environments.”


Those who proceed to the patent will note that the assignee is listed as one Thomson Consumer Electronics, Inc. This is not a different firm, but rather one of the many monikers the company employed before completing its evolution as OpenTV, said Craig P. Opperman, OpenTV’s chief intellectual property officer.


OpenTV aims to use the convenient one-click method, which stores billing
information so that returning customers need not re-enter information, for
television commerce. Its business strategy is to target the impulsive home
shopper.


“When you go onto an Internet site and it has one-click capability, that is
a nice convenience,” said James Ackerman, OpenTV’s president and chief
operations officer. “But when you’re watching TV an you see an opportunity
to make a purchase of something and all you have to do is press one button,
that is going to transform impulse-purchasing through television.”


OpenTV said it can lay claim to the technology because its patent filing
predates Amazon.com’s patent by three years.


Because of the 1994 filing date and the publication of the European
equivalent patent application, Amazon could be precluded from using its
patent against anyone practicing what exists in our patent, said Opperman.


But Ackerman told InternetNewsRadio.com Thursday that OpenTV is in no way
attacking Amazon.com’s right to the patent.


“What we are wanting to establish is that we have a right to use one-click
and that we have a right to license this one-click patent to other users as
well as we see fit and that is a business strategy we will be developing
immediately,” Ackerman said.


Because OpenTV’s intentions are to restrict one-click use over digital TV,
the firm would most likely not challenge Amazon.com’s use of the technology.
However, rivals such as Liberate Technologies Inc. and France’s Canal Plus
Technologies, could catch OpenTV’s attention if they employ similar technology in their forays into digital television.


Opperman stressed that the patent protects its customers — cable operators and such, who will offer the technology to their clients — home users.


Amazon.com spokesperson Patty Smith issued a statement to InternetNews.com Thursday, claiming the two patents should not interfere with each other.


“The technology in OpenTV’s patent depends upon use of a proprietary continuous repetitive transmission of data and computer code to the purchasers’ computer or television set-top box,” Smith said. “Such a system is useful, as OpenTV’s press release notes, to facilitate television commerce. In contrast, Amazon.com’s 1-Click&#174 technology can be used with standard Internet and World Wide Web protocols, so any purchaser with a standard Web browser and any merchant employing standard Web server software can take advantage of 1-Click ordering.”


Amazon caused a minor furor in the industry when it sued chief rival Barnes
& Noble.com and blocked the firm from using its “1-Click” technology in December 1999.


In a shrewd move, Amazon.com then turned around an

d licensed 1-Click to Apple Computer Corp. two weeks ago.


OpenTV’s move comes at an interesting time. When Amazon announced its
agreement with Apple the giant e-tailer’s skipper Jeff Bezos said he had
received hundreds of e-mail messages calling for the his company to release
its hold on the 1-Click patent. Bezos said he didn’t think this was the
right thing for Amazon to do.


“I doubt if giving up our patents would really, in the end, provide much a
stepping stone to solving a bigger problem,” Bezos said. That problem, he
believes, is finding ways to improve customer service.


However, others disagree with Bezos. Tim O’Reilly, of Web design software
maker O’Reilly & Associates, blasted Amazon for corralling the patent.


“It’s a completely trivial application of cookies, a technology that was
introduced several years before Amazon filed for their patent…To
characterize 1-Click as an invention is a parody. Like so many software
patents, it is a land grab, an attempt to hoodwink a patent system that has
not gotten up to speed on the state of the art in computer science,”
O’Reilly said last February.

Brian McWilliams, host of InternetNews Radio, contributed to this article.

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