Monday, 12 November 2007

Amazon 1-click: patently wrong?

For those who hadn't heard, Amazon's infamous one-click patent (for ordering your shopping with one click over a "communications network") was successfully challenged a few weeks ago by New Zealander movie industry man Peter Calveley, after he filed a request for re-examination of that patent which according to Out-law was "simply a hobby borne of an interest in patents and a frustration with an order for a book from Amazon that took too long to arrive" i.e. "so little happens in New Zealand that he was bored."

He submitted to the US Patent Office lots of examples of "prior art", information previously public which shows that a patent applied for might not in fact be sufficiently original to merit the grant of a patent. And they thought that was good enough to reject 21 out of Amazon's 26 claims in their one-click patent.

He said: "Amazon has the opportunity to respond to the Patent Office's rejection, but third party requests for reexamination, like the one I filed, result in having the subject patent either modified or completely revoked about 2/3 of the time."

This is an interesting decision and possibly (hopefully?) a sign of a change in approach? For a while now, I've thought the US patent system has gone too far in allowing things to be patented which really shouldn't be. I'm not anti-intellectual property but I'm a copyfighter in the sense that I think IP laws aren't keeping up with the times and no longer strike a fair balance, so it's not surprising that I think that. However, even Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, said at a recent lecture, which I've previously mentioned in relation to his comments on women in technology and geek culture, that "Patented technology is a major obstacle to development of a mobile web".

At least here in the UK the authorities seem rather more sensible, e.g. rejecting a patent application for a soul-powered artificial force field generator! Though maybe that's a pretty obvious no no... For other silly or funny patents for inventions (though maybe not silly in quite the same way), see e.g.:

Back on point, on his blog Peter Calveley said "Some people are sending me money - however I don't have any expenses right now so thank you very much but I can't accept it."

Well, maybe he could take the money and use it to challenge other similar patents next? Like:

You can search for more patents on Google's US Patent Search service, if that sort of thing floats your boat!

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