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While Amazon Says Goodbye, the Rest of the Industry Says Hello

Amazon’s original “1-Click” U.S Patent No. 5,960,411 expired about a month ago.  The patent is directed to the method of placing an online order with a single click, using already-stored purchaser payment information needed to complete the purchase.  An example claim from that patent follows: 

  • A method of placing an order for an item comprising:
  • whereby the item is ordered without using a shopping cart ordering model.
  • fulfilling the generated order to complete purchase of the item
  • generating an order to purchase the requested item for the purchaser identified by the identifier in the received request using the retrieved additional information; and
  • retrieving additional information previously stored for the purchaser identified by the identifier in the received request; and
  • receiving the request;
  • under control of a single-action ordering component of the server system,
  • in response to only a single action being performed, sending a request to order the item along with an identifier of a purchaser of the item to a server system;
  • displaying information identifying the item; and
  • under control of a client system,

Many claim the 1-Click patent should never have been granted.  After all, similar applications were rejected in Europe and Canada.  At the time, however, the Internet was still very new to most people.  The 1-Click application was filed in 1997 – a year before the founding of Google – and the novelty of the Internet perhaps caused related technology to seem novel by association.  Even the Commissioner of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office at the time, Robert Stoll, has recognized that it was a confusing time for the office and the capability of patent examiners in this area was not the best during that time.

Why then didn’t anyone successfully challenge the 1-Click patent?  Amazon faced a few challenges but, perhaps recognizing the limitations of the patent, Amazon was reportedly fairly open to affordably licensing the patent to others.  Despite its reputation for litigation, even Apple opted to license the patent from Amazon in 2000 to give us the frictionless music and application ordering experience on iTunes to which we are now accustomed. 

As Amazon bids farewell to the 1-Click patent, expect to see many others welcome the technology.  1-Click reportedly increased Amazon sales by five percent, placing the patent’s value at $2.4 Billion annually.  An industry-wide shift is likely no more than 1-Click away.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided is for general informational purposes only. This post is not updated to account for changes in the law and should not be considered tax or legal advice. This article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should consult with legal and/or financial advisors for legal and tax advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

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