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Ninth Anniversary of Amazon 1-Click Injunction 68

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the oh-the-times-we've-had dept.
theodp writes "Nine years ago Monday, Amazon kicked off the Holiday Season by slapping Barnes and Noble with a court injunction barring BN from using a checkout feature that Amazon said represented illegal copying of its patented 1-Click technology. 'We're pleased that Judge Pechman recognized the innovation underlying our 1-Click feature,' said Jeff Bezos in a press release. But an Appellate Court wasn't quite as impressed with Amazon's innovation. Nor were USPTO Examiners who were asked to take another look at the merits of Amazon's 1-Click patent claims. Still, 1-Click lives on, although Amazon's lawyers are currently fighting two separate rejections by USPTO Examiners, burying USPTO Examiners in paper, and employing canceling-and-refiling tactics that some may find reminiscent of Eddie Haskell's chess end-game strategy. So much for Amazon-led patent reform."
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Ninth Anniversary of Amazon 1-Click Injunction

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  • Customer Backlash? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FrozenFOXX (1048276) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:00AM (#25943273)
    You know, it's a bit of a shame this ever happened. Normally I'm a fan of Amazon but this kinda tactic has made me consider other places to buy from first ever since it happened.

    I can't imagine I'm the only one who reconsidered Amazon purchases because of things like this.
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:22AM (#25943507) Homepage Journal

      Yes, I did reconsider Amazon purchases as this went down. But at the end of the day I shop with Amazon for the same reason I shop with WalMart -- I might have philosophical disagreements with the company, but at the end of the day they provide a damned convenient, cheap and effective way of buying what I need/want.

      It's the same way I feel about FOSS vs. proprietary software -- I didn't make Linux my primary OS until it met most of my needs. I still use proprietary video drivers because they work best. I run Windows in a virtual machine on the same box because for a few (and increasingly fewer) things there is no practical complete replacement for Corel Draw or Photoshop -- well, you get the idea.

      At the end of the day I need to get stuff done. If Amazon does what I need, I set aside my philosophical differences and plunk down my money. Call me a hypocrite.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You're a hypocrite. Well, maybe. But you asked me to do it.

        Your argument fails because while Walmart may be more convenient than another store, Amazon is no easier than B&N or any number of internet shopping sites. Finding an alternative store is trivial on the internet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      > I can't imagine I'm the only one who reconsidered Amazon purchases because of things like this.

      Yes you are. Bezos could be using Amazon's profits to fund Al Qaeda operations for all I care. If the product I want is cheaper than a competitor's, I'll buy from Amazon.
      • Thats the good old "money before principles" that made the US as popular as it is worldwide today.

    • by unhooked (21010)

      >I can't imagine I'm the only one who reconsidered Amazon purchases because of things like this.

      Nope, it's been 9 years since I bought anything on Amazon. Can't say I miss it much either.

      • Yeah, Amazon made it to my list of businesses that I won't do business with too. The list is short, I admit, but regardless of whether or not my boycott will have an impact, I at least know that my money doesn't support them.
    • by westlake (615356)
      I can't imagine I'm the only one who reconsidered Amazon purchases because of things like this.

      I can. This is Slashdot, remember, "News for nerds." Stuff that no one else gives a damn about.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:02AM (#25943291)

    Amazon was dishonest in their "patent reform", but what about Tim O'Reilly? Why doesn't anyone mention his role in this mess?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2008 @11:07AM (#25944209)

      AC was pretty uninformative in his post about Tim O'Reilly's role in this mess. Why not elaborate, or at least provide a link?

      What about Obama's role in this mess? Did he vote to deny Amazon's 1-click patent? I think not! Look at what he has done to us, and now he's going to be our president! ;)

      But seriously. From a quick search on Google, it looks like Tim O'Reilly initially protested 1-click shopping, but then something changed and he joined with Jeff Bezos to reform patents. At the same time he, perhaps, dropped his stance against 1-click shopping. But if you know something more, or have a good link with an explanation it would be way more informative than simply mentioning a name in passing. Please?

      (I gave up moderating this thread to ask for this, figuring that modding your comment down would do no good for anyone, so please show me the info.)

      • by Kalriath (849904) *

        O'reilly also sued a small group in Cork (Ireland) because they called a small conference something with "Web 2.0" in it, which O'reilly has a service mark on. O'reilly can go to hell too.

  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:02AM (#25943295) Journal
    And the 3 click... 4... 5... to 100 clicks!
    Just imagine how difficult it'd be for your competitors if their customers had to click 101 times to buy anything.
    • by OpenYourEyes (563714) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:16AM (#25943425)
      While a funny (and significant) comment, I wanted to just point out two things:
      • it is copyright not copywrite or wright.
      • it is patent not copyright. A lot of people get these concepts confused, but understanding the differences (including what they can be applied to, and for what term) is important in US law.
      • by GMonkeyLouie (1372035) <gmonkeylouie @ g m a i l . com> on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:35AM (#25943667)

        I don't know how you could patent a kind of interface, though. Isn't that like patenting a particular way of arranging your furniture? It's definitely not an invention, it's a way of presenting an existing invention, no?

        I think that should be copyright territory, like, "Whatever you do, you can't call your system a '1-click' system", instead of what they are saying which is, "You can't use an interface that resembles our '1-click' system or functions in a similar way".

        Does that make sense?

        • Yes and no.

          First of all, you're not talking a copyright there either. You're talking about a trademark. Again - the differences in both term, scope, use, and who runs it are important.

          Second - I'm not going to wade into the software patent issue. There are lots of articles, some of them very recent and up-to-date, discussing the current state of software patents. But consider this - all patents are ways of doing something with an existing invention. The question is if that "something" is significa

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nacturation (646836) *

      I've already patented the 1-hover purchase as well as the one-keystroke accessibility purchase. What other non-click methods can you think of?

    • Bilski (Score:3, Informative)

      Doesn't the Bilski decision make Amazon's chances on appeal/re-exam pretty much dead?

      • Re:Bilski (Score:5, Informative)

        by brianosaurus (48471) on Monday December 01, 2008 @11:38AM (#25944867) Homepage

        That's more or less the point. Amazon's lawyers are using sleazeball tactics to stall the verdict at this point. As long as they keep shoving new briefs at the court, the examination will never end. I don't understand why they keep fighting it.

        Perhaps its so deeply rooted in the Amazon legal department that they just don't want to give up. I'm sure being a total pain-in-the-ass is a full time job for at least a couple of lawyers, so if they give up the fight, they are out of a job. The licensing fees Amazon receives on this (Apple licenses 1-click for their online store, and I assume there must be other suckers) must be more than its costing them to drag out the inevitable, or else this makes no business sense either.

        As for Bezos, it makes him look like a fool. On the one hand he's fighting for patent reform, while in the other he holds one of the most absurd patents ever granted. If he'd give up on this one, perhaps people would take his call for reform a bit more seriously. Was this the first patent he ever received? Maybe he has a sentimental attachment to it, like a woobie. Grow up, stick a copy in a scrapbook and let it go, Jeff.

  • All this litigation must be costing Amazon a fortune! Are they expecting to sue B&N and others to recover their costs and maybe make money if they actually prevail?!?
    • The point now is not to sue, but to hold on so others cannot sue Amazon. I believe Amazon will be true to the patent reform they spoke about earlier, but until then, are making the better business decision for their shareholders. It may be a lot of money to defend a patent, but it is much more to have to pay litigation costs when being sued.

      Has anyone heard of any other patents that Amazon has used against other companies? What about the latest patents they hold, have they been used recently, or are they j

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I thought methods couldnt be patented, and clearly this is a method. all underlying technologies are standard stuff...
    do I miss the point?

    • I'm fairly sure a method can be patented. For example, you can patent a chemical process, which is arguably a method.

      This would probably fall under the "trivial works" category of unsuitable.

      I am a an extremely tired CS college student so don't take this as legal advice.

    • Business method patents were legal until last month. Bilski pretty much drove the nail in the coffin.

  • Fucktardary (Score:2, Funny)

    by LingNoi (1066278)

    'We're pleased that Judge Pechman recognized the innovation underlying our 1-Click feature,' said Jeff Bezos

    This should be on The Onion, it's so ridiculous.

  • Sorry, but the whole one-click patent is just stupid. Making out that a single click of the mouse is some kind of revolutionary UI paradigm is so completely far-fetched that I'm amazed the thing was even considered by the courts in the first place.

    This is a triumph of litigation, not innovation.

    • Playing devil's advocate; have any of you actually read the patent? It's still absurd, but it is more than a single phrase/title.

  • Boy am I glad we have a legal system that's easily manipulated! It would be such a shame if someone had the authority to recognize underhanded tactics that circumvented the system's ability to mete out justice by burying it in tedium and procedure.

    Actually, I guess that would be pretty authoritarian if someone could just say, "Amazon, we're ruling on this and we're ruling on it now, and to hell with all your rigamarole", but wouldn't it be refreshing, in a way!

    • by u38cg (607297)
      A bit like SCO, it just makes it all the more satisfying when they do finally get that bitchslap they so richly deserve.
  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:35AM (#25943675)
    Why doesn't the patent office just charge fees sufficient to fund enough examiners to get anything done in a month? Meaning, they should be allowed to charge whatever fees they need in order to, BY LAW, respond to anything filed in their office within 30 days. So if you send them 10,000 pages of documents, you have to pay $5 a page or whatever it costs them to employ an educated person to read and respond to said documents.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by db32 (862117)
      Because then the guy in the garage that comes up with the next supergadget goes broke trying to patent it and some megacorp patent troll comes along and claims its theirs anyways. I think the alternative would actually be a maximum page kinda thing. "Look, you either write it concisely, or you go to hell, your choice."

      A bit of a side issue but I actually wrote a paper for one of my english classes for college that addressed this problem. They teach that you should write clearly and consisely and then i
      • by BlueStrat (756137)

        A bit of a side issue but I actually wrote a paper for one of my english classes for college that addressed this problem. They teach that you should write clearly and consisely and then immediately following that say "and it must be a minimum of X00 words or Y pages". So even if you can get your point across clearly in 200 words you are stuck writing a 500 word essay. The paper I wrote was the first paper of the class, a little intro thing and background in writing. 500 word minimum. I titled the paper "Off

        • by db32 (862117)
          I'm honestly not sure if she ever checked and got the joke. I am pretty sure I got full points for the essay. This was a little surprising because while she wasn't really a bad teacher, she was pretty anal about those kinds of details. (She taught me absolute hatred and loathing for APA style).

          I am guessing that the USPTO is that way because it isn't a glamerous parking ground for inept political allies. Also, it isn't very counter intuitive if you really pause to think. Political types are most ofte
    • by Alsee (515537)

      Why doesn't the patent office just charge fees sufficient to fund enough examiners to get anything done in a month?

      Patent fees already well exceed the examiners-and-other-expenses budget.

      The US government siphons off patent office revenues to fund other projects.
      There is no need to raise patent fees, you could actually lower the fees and hire more examiners. You just have to actually keep the fee money in the patent office and actually spend it on processing patents. But then you'd have to actually collect

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:46AM (#25943839)
    The 1-click patent is more complex than some people seem to appreciate; it is not just "buying something with one click of the mouse". And it raises an interesting point about business methods.

    Checkout in shops has always been subject to innovation. Remember the overhead pneumatic tube system to avoid having lots of cash registers and to protect against thieves? Supermarket tills have been constantly improved with innovations like conveyor belts and laser barcode readers. All of these things are patentable. Now consider the back office. Business methods are not patentable, but you don't let the competition into the back office to see how well you have integrated all your systems.

    Amazon's problem is that their ingenious checkout system is in software so it cannot be patented, but also it is seen by the user so it cannot be a secret clever backoffice system. They fall between two stalls. This will inevitably discourage people from developing innovative POS systems in software, because it is far cheaper to reinvent something already known.

    Solution? Yes, I have a solution. Reasonably, if a large department store introduced a pneumatic system, their competitors could follow them in around a 1-2 year timescale. What's more, they were free to visit the first one installed and look at its advantages and disadvantages. So why not allow software patents and business method patents but give them only a 2 year life from filing and a 1 year life from first commercialisation, whichever results in the earliest expiry? A year of leadership is a long time in retail.

    In fact, short terms for different classes of IP seems reasonable nowadays, when books are usually remaindered in a year or so and and popular music rarely lasts more than a few months. As a first shot, how about:

    • No time at all for algorithms
    • 1 year for business methods and software patents
    • 5 years for books and recordings
    • 10 years for medicines
    • 20 years for heavy industry and advanced technology

    At present, musicians get a ridiculously long copyright period even when they are just making derivative works, and this probably does more than anything else tobring the system into disrepute.

    • This will inevitably discourage people from developing innovative POS systems in software, because it is far cheaper to reinvent something already known.

      Give me a break. Developers will *always* innovate in every field, if for no other reason than most engineers have a strong case of "Not Invented Here" syndrome. If somebody thinks that he has a better idea, he's going to code it.

    • Your plan looks a lot more sane than some current copyright schemes, but it may need more work.

      Take, for example, the Lord of the Rings movies. They involved two years of pre-production, a year of principal photography, and then three years of post-production and pickups. If copyright only applies once the finished work is registered, that leaves nearly six years for material to be stolen and used freely. On the other hand, if it applies automatically, then that takes six years off the time during whic

  • I just wanted to say that the provided "Eddie Haskell" link is completely unreadable; it looks like some of the spam I get. Couldn't you find anything better?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I agree, and the chess game reference was buried in that horrid formatting. As a public service, this AC will save others the trouble of digging through that link and explain the joke here:

      When Eddie Haskell saw that he was about to lose the game of chess, he would upend the board and claim it was an accident. As such, he would claim that the game is not over and they would need to start again. This parallels Amazon's attempts at withdrawing and resubmitting their appeal when they sense that they are los

      • Ironically, my AC post will also be buried in this thread most likely...

        Or Comcast will just send a RST when you hit Submit, forcing you to start your post all over again...

  • ...do you ask of your legal team, is this really worth it?

    ...do you realize that the image you're portraying can have a negative impact on your business from a customer viewpoint?

    I'm not even going to ask why Amazon feels that the single most overused computer movement (mouse click) is somehow worth millions to them to reduce it to a single click. Obviously, they don't get it.

    • Obviously, they don't get it.

      Try thinking on their side of things for once...

      1. If someone sues Amazon for that it costs more than millions in litigation + damages.
      2. It's in the the best interest of the shareholders, which all publicly traded companies are responsible for maintaining a good relationship

      Yes, Amazon did ask for a patent reform, but that hasn't happened yet, so they are covering themselves in case the reform falls through.

      • by geekmux (1040042)

        Obviously, they don't get it.

        Try thinking on their side of things for once...

        1. If someone sues Amazon for that it costs more than millions in litigation + damages.

        My entire point here is this is yet again another example of something that should not be held against a patent. For starters, it takes a hell of a lot more than one mouse click to even find what I want to buy on Amazon, so how realistic is it anyway within the context of online shopping? Every e-merchant has a shopping cart of some kind and also usually has the ability to save your shipping and payment information as a convenience.

        Does a gimmicky marketing "one-click" entice me to lean towards Amazon?

  • I'm not a security expert, but the recent Clickjacking attacks and the older Cross-Site Request Forgery attacks seem to cast doubt on the wisdom of allowing one-click order execution in general. The recommended techniques for avoiding those attacks involve requiring extra deliberate user actions to confirm that the get/post wasn't generated by a browser hack.

    Amazon might do enough testing to be relatively immune, but most smaller sites would probably want to avoid one-click orders to reduce the hacking ris

  • Stop fooling around with crap like this! It's simply not worth the problem and just makes the world a worse place. Maybe it creates a few problems for some competitor, but Amazon's real competitor is that people can buy stuff off-line. Other online competitors help Amazon both selling and inventing, exactly like your lawyers don't.

    If you want to use your useless lawyers to something I would suggest suing some banks and fix so that you can deposit my income from you into a non-American bank account.

    Ano

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