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Amazon.com goes nuclear on Avis, Orbitz

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Amazon.com Holdings has launched a legal offensive against a number of websites including Orbitz and Avis, claiming that they've infringed Amazon patents.

Both brands are owned by Cendant, the travel and property services giant with twice the turnover of Amazon. Through Avis and Budget, Cendant owns owns a third of the car rental market, has interests in property franchising (Coldwell Banker) and hotel franchising (Days Inn, Travelodge, Ramada, Super 8), and last year acquired Orbitz.

The on-off bickering between the two was renewed on June 20, when Cendant filed suit in a Delaware court claiming that Amazon infringed its patent 6,782,370. The patent, granted last year, is entitled "System and Method for Providing Recommendation of Goods or Services Based on Recorded Purchasing History."

Amazon and its search subsidiary A9 responded two days later, claiming Cendant and subsidiaries infringed on Patents 5,715,399 ("Secure method and system for communicating a list of credit card numbers over a non-secure network", filed 1995); 6,629,079 ("Method and system for electronic commerce using multiple roles", granted 2003) and 6,029,141 ("Internet-based customer referral system" filed 1997).

Cendant has sought a jury trial, while Amazon says it has suffered "irreparable injury and damages, in an amount not yet determined, for which plaintiffs are entitled to relief".

Jeff Bezos says the patent system is broken, but his statements are consistently at odds with his company's actions.

Bezos says that business methods patents are particularly bad, but Amazon has filed patents on a wide variety of business methods, including affiliates programs, payments, data presentation and and even gift giving. In an open letter five years ago, Bezos called for a public comment period, but Amazon.com users non-publication requests that prevent the US Patent and Trademarks Office from disclosing the application, such as when it filed to patent a weblog interface.

In his defense, Bezos argues that patents are defensive and should never be used, and illustrated this when Amazon.com sued rival bookseller Barnes and Noble for infringing on its notorious One Click patent.

In fact Bezos hates patents so much he has applied for 15 in his own name of which eight have been granted; as patent-watcher TheoDP noticed recently, one Amazon patent was granted after five rejections over four years. And as patent '399 shows, he was busy filing before Amazon.com had sold a single book.

Clearly, the world needs more crusaders against patent abuse like Jeff Bezos. ®

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