Amazon.com patent challenger speaks out


20 Mar 2007

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The New Zealander who last week acquired papers from the US Patents Office relating to Amazon.com’s “one click” patent told siliconrepublic.com that Amazon should be denied exclusive rights to the “one click” pay system.

Peter Calveley alleges that Amazon.com “are essentially claiming the idea of seeing something, clicking on it and automatically purchasing it”.

The “one click” system in its broadest sense, according to Calveley, was already included in an early e-commerce patent and was in use by systems such as DigiCash and Cyber Cash before Amazon.com ever filed for the patent.

The main claim of Amazon.com’s “one click” system that Calveley is challenging is the definition in its patent that relates to: “displaying information identifying the item and displaying an indication of a single action that is to be performed to order the identified item.”

He said that the “one click” system seemed like such an obvious and trivial idea that “none of the people who used it previously applied for a patent” and as such he doesn’t think it’s possible to reward the patent to anyone.

“It is significant that David Chaum of DigiCash patented the anonymous digital coin features but didn’t even consider patenting the ‘one click’ shopping feature,” said Calveley.

Calveley claimed that patenting the “one click” system is stifling the growth of new e-commerce initiatives: “If Amazon can be made to amend its overly broad claims then hopefully others will be free to either use the kind of systems that existed prior to Amazon filing for a patent or more excitingly develop entirely new ways of shopping with one click.”

Calveley is not the only campaigner wishing to see Amazon.com stripped of its “one click” patent. Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media is a supporter of the free software and open source movement.

In 2001 he led a dispute against Amazon.com’s patent, saying it was a slap in the face to Tim Berners-Lee and the other pioneers who developed the World Wide Web.

He also invested in BountyQuest in 2000, an online company through which he offered and subsequently paid a reward of US$10,000 to three people who had discovered prior art in Amazon.com’s claim of originality for “one click”.

By Marie Boran