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USPTO Rejects Amazon's One-Click Patent 166

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-at-least-there's-some-sanity dept.
igdmlgd writes "A while ago I filed a reexamination request for the Amazon.com one-click patent and recently checked out the USPTO online file wrapper -it seems they have rejected all the claims I requested they look at and more!" And it only took many many years to remove what would have been obvious to the most incompetent web developer.
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USPTO Rejects Amazon's One-Click Patent

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  • Register Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:08AM (#21009843) Homepage Journal
    here is the printer friendly version [theregister.co.uk] of an article with some good info. about this over at the Register.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mr_mischief (456295)
      That article makes it pretty clear, I think, that the rejections doesn't mean all these things are ruled obvious enough not to be patentable. Some of the claims were rejected because they were covered by other patents still in force. That some of the claims can't be claims in this patent because they had already were patented by others does not mean they were rejected for lack of novelty nor that they are not patented by the other parties holding those patents.

      Eight of them did fall, in fact, from a Steven
      • Re:Register Article (Score:4, Informative)

        by PatentMagus (1083289) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:48AM (#21010421)
        When a previous patent is used for a 102 (novelty) rejection it does not mean that the invention was already patented, only that it was disclosed. It is patented only if it is claimed by the prior patent. Usually, the rejection is based on the prior patent's specification but not it's claims. Sorry, haven't researched deeply enough to see what was claimed in the prior art for one-click.

        Also, "copyright attaches when pen goes to paper". What you meant was that a good way to keep the obvious from being patented is is to have an expression of the idea published published first. The prior art has to be published and available. It also helps if the published work is a printed one. I'm currently trying to get some videos admitted as prior art, but am not sure how it will go.
    • I'm not too excited by this non-final rejection. A quick edit will revive claims 1 and 11. After that, every claim that depends on claims 1 and 11 will also be allowable. It'll only take a few hours of attorney time to make most of the claims allowable. I'm sure that they'll battle over the claims that remain rejectable though.

      What was interesting, to me, is that there were so many 102 (novelty) rejections. In patents, novelty rejections mean "super obvious". Oh well, claim 1 got rejected on a 102
      • by omeomi (675045)
        What was interesting, to me, is that there were so many 102 (novelty) rejections. In patents, novelty rejections mean "super obvious".

        And it only took, what, like, half the lifetime of the patent for the USPTO to discover and reject them...I'd hate to see what they do with the merely "plainly obvious"
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:08AM (#21009847) Homepage Journal
    So, recently we heard that the One-Click Rejection was rejected [slashdot.org], which has now itself been rejected and now the one-click patent has been totally rejected?

    I read that there was a rejection review during which the rejection examiner found prior art that was obvious. This however was not the case and so the rejection was rejected and now I hear this guy making claims that some of his obvious prior art is infact obvious and should be counted on so the patent is now invalid.

    What I don't understand is What is a Wookie doing on Endor?

    Can someone give me one thing I can click which will explain this whole thing?
    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:21AM (#21009993)
      No clicking required here! Wookiees fight the Empire. The Empire is on Endor. Therefore, a Wookiee is on Endor to fight the Empire!

      Huh, no-click answers. I should patent that...
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

      by faloi (738831) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:23AM (#21010035)
      Can someone give me one thing I can click which will explain this whole thing?

      I could, but I'd have to get your promise that you'd click twice to get to it...at least until this whole thing blows over.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Informative)

      by PlatyPaul (690601) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:29AM (#21010133) Homepage Journal
      Here [stanford.edu] you go. It's a decent summary of the situation, albeit not the most in-depth.

      You can take a look at the original patent [gnu.org], too, but that would require a second click.
    • Child Continuity Data 09/151,617 filed on 09-11-1998 which is Patented claims the benefit of 08/928,951 09/318,447 filed on 05-25-1999 which is Pending claims the benefit of 08/928,951 10/194,602 filed on 07-12-2002 which is Patented claims the benefit of 08/928,951 11/410,998 filed on 04-25-2006 which is Abandoned claims the benefit of 08/928,951 11/610,619 filed on 12-14-2006 which is Abandoned claims the benefit of 08/928,951 11/618,452 filed on 12-29-2006 which is Pending claims the benefit of 08/928,95
      • Oh god, I'm sorry for that. Reformatted below...

        Child Continuity Data
        09/151,617 filed on 09-11-1998 which is Patented claims the benefit of 08/928,951
        09/318,447 filed on 05-25-1999 which is Pending claims the benefit of 08/928,951
        10/194,602 filed on 07-12-2002 which is Patented claims the benefit of 08/928,951
        11/410,998 filed on 04-25-2006 which is Abandoned claims the benefit of 08/928,951
        11/610,619 filed on 12-14-2006 which is Abandoned claims the benefit of 08/928,951
        11/618,452 filed on 12-29-2006 which is Pending claims the benefit of 08/928,951
        11/751,483 filed on 05-21-2007 which is Pending claims the benefit of 08/928,951
        90/007,946 filed on 02-16-2006 which is Pending claims the benefit of 08/928,951
        PCT/US98/18926 filed on 09-10-1998 which is Pending claims the benefit of 08/928,951

        I bolded the application the article you linked refers to. Also read about continuing patent applications [wikipedia.org] which this history represents.

    • What else would a Wookie be doing on Endor?

      It's an Ewok farm.
    • FTFA:

      To view information on this request, please go to the USPTO PAIR access site [uspto.gov], choose "Control Number" in the drop-down box, enter: 90/007,946 and press the "Submit" button.

      I did as requested, and just got a status screen that said, "We have taken action. It's not final." It doesn't say what the action is. Another tab shows a timeline of action, such as "Checked the data from the re-exam requester," etc. but doesn't say what the result is. It looks like some of those links are to a file that might s

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by happyslayer (750738)
      Wookie version of midget porn [google.com]?
  • Not quite... (Score:5, Informative)

    by theantipop (803016) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:11AM (#21009883)
    There was a non-final rejection mailed on October 9. There is still at least one more round of prosecution before Amazon's lawyers decide to choose any number of paths to continue prosecution beyond a final rejection.
  • by Evets (629327) * on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:11AM (#21009885) Homepage Journal
    From the Rejection letter -

    The Patent Owner is also advised that claims 1 and 11 would be considered to be patentable if they were amended to recite providing a shopping cart model that in response to performance aof an ad-to-shopping-cart action, sends a request to the server system to add the item to a shopping cart within the main body of each claim and change the subsequent recitation of "a shopping cart model" to the shopping cart model.


    I'm not sure what claims 1 and 11 are though. Maybe someone else can ferret that out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tacvek (948259)
      First of all note that claims 6-10 were not rejected. These contain much of the important part of the patent.

      6. A client system for ordering an item comprising:

      an identifier that identifies a customer;

      a display component for displaying information identifying the item;

      a single-action ordering component that in response to performance of only a single action, sends a request to a server system to order the identified item, the request including the identifier so that the server system can locate additi

  • by jcr (53032)
    About freaking time.

    -jcr
  • Obvious... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tetsujin (103070) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:20AM (#21009991) Homepage Journal
    "And it only took many many years to remove what would have been obvious to the most incompetent web developer."

    You know, I think it's unreasonable that patents can so greatly reduce people's freedom to create things, for fear that some of it may infringe upon some fairly trivial patent... Obvious or not, it places an unreasonable burden on developers, to use what they've learned except for those things they've learned about which are patented.

    But was Amazon One-Click really "obvious" before they adopted it? I mean, the whole idea of
    1: Storing user information (pretty obvious and common)
    2: Launching a user order as soon as they click "buy it" (Not too challenging, except for the other issues that #3 solves)
    3: Ensuring that situations where a user accidentally orders something can be readily corrected by the user (basically boils down to giving them the opportunity to back out)

    It's easy to say the idea is obvious once someone else has thought of it and presented it to you - but was it "obvious" to people before Amazon did it? If so, then why was Amazon the first?
    • What I've heard is that it was considered by many and rejected as a security risk. Back then having to enter in your CC number and details was considered a security feature. If Amazon managed to store this data securely in an innovative way that part should have been patented, not the whole thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jcr (53032)
      But was Amazon One-Click really "obvious" before they adopted it?

      Yes. That's why everyone was so upset about it.

      -jcr
      • i'm not saying that it would have been an obvious solution at the time of invention. however just about everything seems obvious in hindsight.

        thats the problem examiners have, particularly if they look at applications 5+ years after filing.
    • by Tack (4642)

      It's easy to say the idea is obvious once someone else has thought of it and presented it to you - but was it "obvious" to people before Amazon did it? If so, then why was Amazon the first?
      I think that's the wrong question. All obvious things are done by somebody for the first time at some point.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by encoderer (1060616)
      Amazon was the first because they were around when the number of .com's was measured in the thousands, maybe even hundreds. But you put 100 different companies in Amazons shoes in that point in time and I bet that the large majority of them would implement a similar feature. That makes the patent fail the "is it obvious" test.
      • by aaarrrgggh (9205)
        It isn't so much "would have implemented" as "could have implemented." The latter is what establishes the obviousness...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JetScootr (319545)
      If you read the RFC for HTML buttons, etc, you'll find that purchasing things on the click of a button isn't just obvious, it's one of the often-used examples of what buttons are for. Buttons are there so the user can initiate an action that does something for them.
      User thinks "Buy that". GUI and database go kachunk kachunk kachunk.
      In the programmer's view, ANY button click will call many functions, almost every time.
      Where does the programmer stop calling functions? Why, when the app has done everyth
    • Amazon got started very, very early in the history of the Web. When I first started using Amazon, I was using Lynx. I am not sure whether Netscape 1.0 was even available yet; my recollection is that it was not, and that I tried and failed to get Mosaic to run.

      When I first started using Amazon, I never even ordered books from them. I was too chicken. I had never ordered anything electronically before. I'm ashamed to say that I just used them as a handy online way to access Books In Print and look up ISBN num
    • Re:Obvious... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:47AM (#21010391)

      It's easy to say the idea is obvious once someone else has thought of it and presented it to you - but was it "obvious" to people before Amazon did it? If so, then why was Amazon the first?

      People trot out this same argument every time a bogus patent gets discussed. The main reason in this case was that Amazon was one of the first businesses that was involved in Internet transactions. Nobody did it before because nobody needed to solve that exact problem. That still doesn't mean that the solution wasn't obvious; it just means that the problem didn't exist. You don't deserve a monopoly just because you're one of the first people in a new market.

      IMO, the laws for patentability ought to be changed to fix this problem anyway. I say that if something is obvious, even in hindsight, then it shouldn't be patentable. There are plenty of patent claims that I understand after seeing, but which certainly can't be called obvious, even in hindsight. That should be where the bar is set.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by hawk (1151)
        >I say that if something is obvious, even in hindsight, then it shouldn't be patentable.

        The shaving cream can was challenged as obvious. The court agreed that it was, *in hindsight*, obvious, but the fact that the competitors had spent *millions* trying and failing to achieve the same thing showed that it was not obvious.

        hawk
        • Too bad. If it's obvious, there shouldn't be a patent. It may not seem "fair", but the whole concept patents isn't necessarily fair in the first place.
        • by asuffield (111848)

          The shaving cream can was challenged as obvious. The court agreed that it was, *in hindsight*, obvious, but the fact that the competitors had spent *millions* trying and failing to achieve the same thing showed that it was not obvious.

          So should we therefore conclude that if nobody has spent money trying to achieve something, and the patent owner just thought up an idea one day and then patented it (without doing any real research), that it's obvious and the patent is invalid?

          I ask, because pretty damn near

          • by hawk (1151)
            huh? No I wouldn't suggest any such thing. Some days, useful things could pop into people's heads. Besides, it would be a virtually impossible standard.

            However, the shaving cream case made it pretty clear that "obviousness" can be difficult to figure out.

            hawk
      • I've had a similar thought myself. Many of the objectionable patents are effectively patents on a problem, not on a solution. It may be hard to see the problem, but once you see it, the solution is obvious. For example, in 1985 I forsee the Y2K problem, and patent obvious ways of fixing the software. In 1997 everyone else gets worried about Y2K and I start charging them to use my patented fixing methods.

        Patents-on-a-problem should not be allowed. Once you've found yourself in need of a solution, the proble
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Trailer Trash (60756)
      In fall of 1999, I was working on "patsgold.com". They were getting some orders, and I noticed that there were a lot of repeat customers. I came up with the idea to allow people to set up their account such that items added to their cart would automatically be submitted as an order an hour or two after the last item was dropped into the cart. That way, they would have time to go back and remove something that they didn't want, and at the same time, it would be unlikely that it would create multiple orders
    • Re:Obvious... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MartinG (52587) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:48AM (#21010409) Homepage Journal
      but was it "obvious" to people before Amazon did it? If so, then why was Amazon the first?

      Someone is first to do everything, and that includes obvious things.
    • Re:Obvious... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:53AM (#21010491) Journal
      Engineers are trained to solve problems.
      Managers submit problems to engineers.
      Engineers find a solution to solve the problem.

      Only bad engineers solve obvious problems. Give two good engineers the same problem, there is a high probability that they will come up with the same solution.

      The idea that only the first one to solve the problem is allowed to use the solution is just nonsense.
      • by Tetsujin (103070)

        The idea that only the first one to solve the problem is allowed to use the solution is just nonsense.
        Well said...
    • Re: Obvious... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BBandCMKRNL (1061768)

      It's easy to say the idea is obvious once someone else has thought of it and presented it to you - but was it "obvious" to people before Amazon did it? If so, then why was Amazon the first?

      This is one of those "... on the internet." obvious bogus patents. The only difference between this and something that was common many, many years ago is doing it on the internet. You walked into the General Store, said hello to the owner, picked out items, told the owner to put the items on your tab/bill and walk out with those items.

    • The whole concept of 1-click ordering is an idea, not a device.

      I wouldn't care if Amazon's implementation of this got patented (they'd be better of with copyright anyway). But they managed to patent something like 'Transporting people between A and B really fast' (obvious) or 'Moving people from A to B in exactly 34592804723.2 seconds' (not obvious), an idea. This is the prime example of why so called software patents (I have yet to see one actually containing software) are bad.
    • What's to fear? Getting a cease-and desist in the mail that you infringed a patent? Calling the other party to negotiate terms? Seriously, Vonage just got a worst case "your whole business plan is based on stolen IP" verdict, and it's not the end of the world. They made a deal and the creator of Vonage goes on to make more money. Most patent awards are based on either REASONABLE royalties, the rest on lost profit. No big deal.

      I think "fear of infringing a patent" is a BS excuse not to get to work and make s
  • by ThinkThis (912378) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:24AM (#21010051)
    This patent was for a result rather than a process or a design. The concept of "1-click" just means better performance. It would be like giving Car company a patent on a 70 MPG car, or Starbucks a patent on getting $5.00 bucks for a cup of coffee.
    • In order for a process to be patentably eligible subject matter it has to produce a tangible result. What this really means in cases like Amazon's gets confusing as hell, because while reading 35 U.S.C. 101 and it's various court interpretations over the years it becomes obvious that computers operate in a way completely unimagined by those who drafted the Constitution.
      • by blueg3 (192743)
        Fortunately it's not the Constitution that describes patent law.
      • by aztektum (170569)

        computers operate in a way completely unimagined by those who drafted the Constitution.

        Logically? Which is the opposite of how humans typically operate.

        Consider the Constitution being written in a time before guns. Suddenly guns come along. Do you write up new laws saying "Don't kill someone with a gun?" One would assume killing in general to be wrong.

        What usually happens is legislating computers and their use is less about serving the public good and instead about propping up a businesses bottom line. Outside that, I see little to "legislate" computer use. Computer fraud is fraud, copyright

    • by Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:15AM (#21010867)

      That is probably the best summation of what can go wrong with software patents I've heard in a while. I find nothing wrong with a guy who invents a more efficent algorithim getting compensated, but most patent applications are not "a specific method to solve the travelling salesman problem that happens to be O(n)," but instead "the concept of solving the travelling salesman problem in O(n), an example of which is given."

      • by sconeu (64226)
        BINGO!!!!

        IANAPL (I am not a patent lawyer), but my understanding is that a patent is supposed to cover "how to do something", not "doing something".

        In software, it's like the difference between requirements and design. Requirements is "what" -- the idea. Design is "how", the implementation. IIUC, patents are supposed to cover the "how" only.
      • I dunno, coming up with a solution to the Traveling Salesman problem that's O(n) would probably be difficult. Since we're already in the Computer Science Academia realm, I'd say it's more like a patent on a method for finding the Nth number in the Fibonacci sequence; ask a large group of CS students how to solve that problem, and most of them will probably come up with the same solution.
  • Damn (Score:3, Funny)

    by iceZebra (1148629) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:31AM (#21010169)
    This probably means that my intention to patent my shopping system of opening a 2nd checkout in busy periods will fail.
    • You'd still be able to extort quite a bit of money from people first. Although it has to involve the internet or it won't get approved. I wish I was kidding.
  • by MECC (8478) * on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:36AM (#21010225)
    That the patent office is now hiring people that can read?

  • by paulbd (118132) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:00AM (#21010623) Homepage

    I helped to start Amazon (I was the 2nd employee there). I've spoken out against the 1 click patent in the past. However, this comment "And it only took many many years to remove what would have been obvious to the most incompetent web developer" is not the reason why the patent should be permanently rejected. 1 click shopping was "new" at the time - if it was obvious, we would have done it right from the beginning on the web site. The issue with 1 click is not whether or not it was obvious to a web developer. It is whether or not business method patents that fundamentally simply map a practice in the non-online world ("put this on my account") to the online world ("1 click") should be permitted.

    I don't believe that they should, and I am glad to see the patent struck down.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "first to use" is not a counter-argument to "obvious". In a new field like that it is more likely that even basic stuff wasn't done yet due to simple lack of time and resources.
    • by jvkjvk (102057) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @01:05PM (#21012689)
      I don't quite get what you are attempting to communicate, due to my obstinate nature I guess.

      First, you claim that 1 click shopping is not obvious. Then (in the same paragraph even!) go on to say that it's been done in the "non-online" world as a "business practice". I would agree that as a business practice it is unpatentable. BUT, I would also say that even if didn't fall under that category, it's obvious. I mean, how much more obvious can you get than - "Dude, someone's already doing that!"

      And, no, teh answer is not "But THIS is using a computer!1!!! OMG ponies!".

      It's as if there is this mysterious divide between "being done with a computer" and "being done without a computer", which seems to me completely specious yet so pervasive that even someone such as yourself seems to fall for it.
      • Taking an existing device, and applying it to another is a legitimate device for patenting.

        So "But THIS is using a computer"
        is a perfectly valid.

        However, 1-click is a business method, something that should not be patentable and is against the spirit of the patent law.
    • The issue with 1 click is not whether or not it was obvious to a web developer. It is whether or not business method patents that fundamentally simply map a practice in the non-online world ("put this on my account") to the online world ("1 click") should be permitted.


      No business method or software patents should be allowed whether online or not. Problem solved.
    • by MickLinux (579158)
      I wonder if you could say the same for, for example, mapping over what applies to motor cars and motorcycles, into (for example) electric-assist bicycles, especially after the passage of the electric-assist bicycle law.

      If you look for ways to power an electric-assist bicycle, all the standard ones are recently patented (in-wheel motor, chain drive motor, etc.) They were all not only obvious -- they were already done with motorcycles, self-propeled equipment, and such.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drix (4602)
      You were employee #2 at Amazon and you still have to work [equalarea.com]?:

      I was intimately involved with many aspects of getting this new company started. I left, despite significant stock and other inducements to remain, because I am a technical person and had little interest in playing a role in the growth of the company. I was intimately involved with many aspects of getting this now-extremely successful company started.

      Wow. I know some hardcore nerds, but you, sir, top them all.

  • IMHO, the real test is "Could they use this technology without revealing how it worked?". The thing you get from the patent office should be an exchange. We give you this funny monopoly right, you tell everybody in plain English how it works. If there is no exchange, no monopoly right should be granted. Amazon's 1-click patent fails that test completely. There is no way they can use this technology at all without it becoming obvious to the world what's up.

    Many things seem obvious after you learn about

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nagora (177841)
      The thing you get from the patent office should be an exchange. We give you this funny monopoly right, you tell everybody in plain English how it works.

      In that case the explanation would have been:

      It uses cookies. DUH!

      Using someone else's invention (cookies) to do specifically what that invention was designed to do (recognise returning customers) is not something that even the most retarded patent examiner should have considered for a second.

      EVERYONE knew how 1-click worked as soon as they heard of it

  • Nice. They should now reimburse licensors for the licensing fees they've unlawfully charged.
  • Bravo! Yep, I designed and implemented something like what this sounds like in an online store in 1998. User just clicked buy and that was all. Cookie was used to authenticate the user and approve the purchase. Risky? Yes. Convenient. More yes. So OK for a local-oriented store system like The Columbia Marketplace.
  • I guess that means they won't approve my "One-Click to submit a comment" patent application ... :)

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