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October 18, 2007
And One Click to Rule... um, Something
A disgruntled customer of Amazon's has done what thousands of outraged net windbags couldn't do: Peter Calveley of New Zealand has gotten the USPTO to overturn all but five of the claims in Amazon's infamous "1 click" patent.
There's no magic here - he just did a lot of drudge work, digging up prior art, and some fundraising work, getting his blog readers to donate the USD 2,520 fee required to file the challenge. Yesterday the patent office issued a 17-page "reexamination document." This document does not comment on the original patent - it simply judges the validity of the patent's claims against the submitted prior art. That judgment found that two of the patent's main claims were not invalidated by the prior art, and that allowed three dependent claims to escape as well. The rest of the claims are disallowed.
Interestingly it appears that the invalidating evidence was not just public-domain literature, but actual issued US patents. Which means that both Amazon and the PTO did shoddy jobs searching through the patent database. Greg Aharonian of PATNEWS and others have been claiming for years that PTO searching is a joke when it comes to software patents - compare the prior art listings on your average biotech patent with that on a software patent. Stories like this can only add credibility to those accusations.
Aharonian adds a bit of detail
The PTO relied on two patents provided as prior art (which the PTO had been unable to find on its own): 5819034 (a one button ordering process for interactive TV) and 5729594 (online financial transactions with BUY button). Also used was a Newsweek article, and a prior Amazon patent.
It seems likely Amazon will appeal, as this can affect not only their settlement with B&N but also any ongoing licensing arrangements.
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