Tuesday, May 16, 2006

United States Patent and Trademark Office Orders "One-Click Patent" Reexamination

On Friday the USPTO ordered a reexamination of all the clams of the controversial Amazon.com "One-Click" patent based on the request I filed using some prior art I found.

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

I had only requested reexamination of claim 11 and some dependent claims, which in my opinion are the broadest and most restrictive claims in the patent. If Amazon can be made to narrow them, it could allow others to implement innovative and interesting ways of shopping with "one-click" (This isn't legal or professional advice- see the disclaimer below).

This will be the first time a decision will be made on the validity of this patent since it issued.

This is also the first time that I am aware of that this particular prior art has been raised.

A very big thank you to everyone who helped out with the reexamination fee. I really appreciate it. If it wasn't for your generosity we wouldn't have got this far.

The only ominous note is that the examiner stated:

"Klingman and all of the cited publications... relate to one form or another of a DigiCash system, also called E-cash, Cybercash, Cybercoin etc "

One wonders if he has truly grasped the differences between the different systems.

(some of this repeated from an earlier post).

The independent claim of the patent that I am challenging is:

11. A method for ordering an item using a client system, the method comprising:
displaying information identifying the item and displaying an indication of a single action that is to be performed to order the identified item; and
in response to only the indicated single action being performed, sending to a server system a request to order the identified item
whereby the item is ordered independently of a shopping cart model and the order is fulfilled to complete a purchase of the item.

This seems to give Amazon a a monopoly on the very idea of "shopping with one click" (the other claims are narrower, claiming the use of cookies etc).

I used two different groups of prior art:

1. United States Patent Number: 5,729,594


Inventor: Edwin E. Klingman

Fig. 9 of Klingman. Compare this with Fig. 1A of the Amazon patent (below).

In the Klingman patent, clicking on a web page “BUY” button automatically downloads an item to the client computer, and automatically charges a user via an 0900 telephone billing system.

2. A number of references (including pages from the Wayback Machine) referring to DigiCash.

In the DigiCash method, clicking on a web page “payment link” causes the server to send a payment request to the client.

The client can optionally be configured to respond automatically to the payment request.

If the client has been configured to respond automatically, the requested item identified by the payment link (such as a downloaded file or access to a web page) is automatically delivered to the client and payment is made by the client.

Although there were a lot of interesting things about the DigiCash system, for our purposes a good summary comes from Steven Levy's "The End of Money?" Newsweek pp. 62-65 October 30 1995 :

“You’re cruising the net, hopping from link to link with your favorite browser. In a small window in the corner of your screen sits a ledger. ‘$100.00” it reads. As you land on a favorite web site, something strikes your fancy-an annotated bibliography of every article ever written about Sandra Bullock! Only five bucks. You click on a button, and the file is downloaded to your computer. That tiny ledger on your screen now reads “$95.00.””


“An Open Letter From Jeff Bezos On The Subject Of Patents”

(which seems to have been removed from the Amazon website and now only lives on the wayback machine):

“I’ve been saying for 4 years now that, online, the balance of power shifts away from the merchant and toward the customer. This is a good thing.”

Another good quote that I do not include from a legal viewpoint but only as a way to put e-commerce patents in perspective comes from Atlantic Works v. Brady, 107 U.S. 192, 200 (1883):

“It was never the object of those [patent] laws to grant a monopoly for every trifling device, every shadow of a shade of an idea, which would naturally and spontaneously occur to any skilled mechanic or operator in the ordinary progress of manufacturing . . .
Such an indiscriminate creation of exclusive privileges tends rather to obstruct than to stimulate invention. It creates a class of speculative schemers who make it their business to watch the advancing wave of improvements, and gather its foam in the form of patented monopolies, which enable them to lay a heavy tax upon the industry of the country, without contributing anything to the read advancement of the arts. It embarrasses the honest pursuit of business with fears and apprehensions of concealed lies and unknown liabilities to lawsuits and vexatious accountings for profits made in good faith.”


I make no warranty as to this request for reexamination, its validity or its consequences. It was drafted by me, and I am not a professional.

I am not a lawyer. This webpage and the materials available on it, including the request for re-examination, are not intended to and do not provide individual advice, including, without limitation, investment, financial, legal, accounting, tax or other professional advice or services.

Such advice should be obtained from a properly accredited professional in your jurisdiction. The material discussed is meant to provide general information, and should not be acted on without obtaining professional advice appropriately tailored to your individual needs.

I make no assertions of any kind about Amazon.com, Better World Books or any other company, individual or other entity, or the validity or any other aspect of any of Amazon.com’s intellectual property.
The book orders mentioned in previous posts were initially made by third parties on my behalf and on my instructions-however I did communicate directly with the vendor.

If Amazon.com, their employees, legal or other representatives or agents wish to contact me, then as consideration for accepting any communications, I reserve the right to publish their communications. Any such communications or disclosures will be treated as NON-CONFIDENTIAL.


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