Thursday, November 29, 2007

Amazon amends

On 29 November, Amazon have amended the claims as agreed to in their interview. In doing so (in particular, in their amendment to claim 11), they give up their absolute monopoly on the idea of one-click shopping.

The claim used to read:

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.

Now it is restricted to items "purchasable through a shopping cart model".

As I mentioned in my previous post, I think the "shopping cart model" is well past its use-by date so this kind of amendment is precisely what I was after.

I only initiated the reexamination request because I believed that I had found evidence that directly anticipated claim 11 (the broadest claim) rather than relying on obviousness. I made obviousness arguments too, but these were supplementary.

Some of the narrower claims will likely remain as I am simply not expecting the USPTO to mount a serious attack on obviousness grounds, despite the evidence that has been provided.

So anyone hoping to simply clone the Amazon system might still have a few problems. But I think that direct copying would be an extremely boring thing to do, and in fact I am almost glad that some of the narrower claims are liable to remain.

I would much rather see a whole bunch of exciting and interesting retro DigiCash-style companies pop up (I am quite a fan of retro one-click shopping technologies by now) or surprising new ways to do one-click shopping.

So hopefully this will make the world a more interesting rather than a more boring place. That's the plan :-)

I should point out that none of this is legal or professional advice, I'm not a lawyer, in fact I am just a random guy off the street who found some prior art and passed a patent attorney exam in my misspent youth (which doesn't make me fully qualified). In particular, don't go off building a one-click shopping system without talking to a patent lawyer first who actually knows what he is on about.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Proposed amendments defeat Amazon's "One-click" monopoly

In May 2006, I requested a reexamination of the "one-click patent" based on some prior art I found.

The broadest claim (claim 11) of the patent seems to cover the very concept of shopping with one click.

Now Amazon have agreed to give up their monopoly on this idea.

In an ex parte reexamination interview conducted on November 15, some draft amendments were proposed to claims 1 and 11 ( the broadest claims of the patent) .

These amendments mean that Amazon's claims now only apply to “items purchasable through a shopping cart model”.

These amendments are exactly what I was aiming for. As I stated on May 16, 2006:

“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"

I believe that the shopping cart model is an old technology that needs to be put to bed, and that if these amendments are made, they will:

(a) free people to use pre-Amazon methods of "one Click shopping" such as DigiCash-type systems

(b) allow people to implement new and exciting ways of shopping with one click, perhaps using new technologies that didn't exist in 1997...

If these amendments are made, then as far as I am concerned, it is “mission accomplished”.

Note: To read the original documents, go to USPTO PAIR access site, choose the "Control Number" radio button, enter 90/007,946 and press the "Submit" button.