Over the years, the one-click patent from Amazon has more or less become the epitome of everything that's wrong with the United States patent system (and I'm sure other parts of the world, too). It's a ridiculously broad and obvious patent - and a software one, at that. And let's face it - I have yet to find someone who does not believe software patents are idiotic. It's like patenting the multiplication table of 7.
The patent, number 5,960,411, was filed in 1997, and lists, among others, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos as its "inventor". Titled "Method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network", it describes the process with which consumers can directly order things online after having previously filled in their contact and billing information. The patent was also filed in Europe, but the European Patent Office revoked it in 2007.
To further add to the massive levels of idiocy, Amazon has actually been able to successfully sue Barnes & Noble, with the judge ordering Barnes & Noble to stop offering a one-click system - they then circumvented the patent by... Forcing customers to click twice.
I really wish I was making this stuff up.
In 2006, Peter Calveley requested that the USPTO re-examine the patent, which they did, leading to many aspects of the patent being rejected. Amazon then moved to amend the patent, and these amendments are satisfactory according to the USPTO. The biggest change is that the shopping cart model has been specified in the patent.
"The approved-of amendment adds the seeming trivial limitation that the one-click system operates as part of a 'shopping cart model'," writes Dennis Crouch, editor of the patent law blog Patently-O, "Thus, to infringe the new version of the patent, an eCommerce retailer must use a shopping cart model (presumably non-1-click) alongside of the 1-click version. Because most retail eCommerce sites still use the shopping cart model, the added limitation appears to have no practical impact on the patent scope."
What is there to say that hasn't been said already? Is this the kind of stuff that will foster innovation and competition? Is this truly an "invention"? All this does is confirm the total and utter incompetence of the USPTO, and it's high time the US government reorganises that sorry excuse for an institution.