Feeds

Amazon's patent attorneys sup from forbidden Wiki

1-Click defense turns farcical

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Analysis Amazon.com has adopted an unusual and potentially self-destructive legal tactic in its defense of its 1-Click patent family.

A defeat for Amazon.com would lift a cloud of uncertainty from over tens of thousands of e-commerce operations, who fear the Wrath of Bezos might be turned against them, as it once was against Amazon competitor Barnes and Noble.

The online store filed the e-commerce patent in 1997 and has used it aggressively against competitors, as well as licensing the IP to other online vendors, including Apple. Although experts say there's no original invention to protect, and prior art abounds, formal re-examination of the patent has fallen to a lone citizen. Movie technician Peter Calveley, who performed in, and designed the fight sequences for Lord of the Rings, is taking on 40 of Amazon.com's finest legal brains in attempting to get the patent overturned.

Don't underestimate the capacity of expensive US corporate lawyers to self-destruct, however.

On his blog, Calveley tells us that Amazon's attorney battalion has now filed around 58lb of paperwork in its defence. And here their problems begin.

Of the patents Amazon cites in its defense, one forms the basis of an intellectual property claim against Amazon.com. It belongs to Cordance Corporation, a small digital ID provider based in Issaquah, Washington. Cordance obtained the patent in 2004.

Oops!

But it gets worse. To give their defence a cast-iron foundation, Amazon.com's lawyers have submitted 32 articles from Wikipedia, the online site that "anyone can edit".

The problem here is that last August the US Patent and Trademarks Office removed Wikipedia from its list of acceptable resource sources, as this Law.com article notes.

It all makes one wonder how these expensive lawyers can justify their fees. They cite patents Amazon doesn't have, and which it allegedly infringes, and a reference source the Patent Office doesn't trust.

A bomb under 1-Click

Calveley is conducting his defense single handedly, and making the process transparent as possible. Alexis Grandemange (who isn't, as stated earlier Calveley's lawyer) has posted a wealth of detail posted here.

The main weakness of 1-Click, Peter tells us, is Claim 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.

In other words, the idea of seeing something, clicking on it, and automatically purchasing it, belongs to Amazon.com.

However, electronic payment systems such as DigiCash offered similar procedures. Calveley also claims that with DigiCash the user could selectively disable the confirmation step, effectively reducing it to 1) click 2) pay and 3) receive goods.

In a deposition in 1999, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos claimed 1-Click took 3,500 man hours and six months to develop.

(Perhaps Amazon is getting its developers from the same source as it gets its lawyers).

In contrast to the 40-strong legal team arrayed against the challenger, Calveley raised the $2,500 re-examination fee from over a hundred small contributions made through PayPal.

O'Blimey!

Finally, here's another curious factoid about the saga.

Millionaire tech publisher Tim O'Reilly once vowed to torpedo Amazon.com's 1-Click patent. Against a backdrop of widespread outrage over Amazon's aggressive use of the patent, O'Reilly created a contest to find prior art to undermine the IP claim, and thus invalidate the patent. However, O'Reilly quietly dropped the campaign; saying he would never disclose it because he trusted Amazon.com CEO Bezos not to use it.

Following that cockle-warming tribute to his integrity, Bezos became a regular star turn at O'Reilly's web evangelism conferences. These days, O'Reilly's VC fund AlphaTech Ventures is supported by Bezos, and represented by the same firm of attorneys, Fenwick & West, which is defending Amazon.com against Peter Calveley.

Never accuse these dot.com moguls of permitting ethics to stand in the way of getting rich. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Bono apologises for iTunes album dump
Megalomania, generosity and FEAR of irrelevance drove group to Apple deal
HBO shocks US pay TV world: We're down with OTT. Netflix says, 'Gee'
This affects every broadcaster, every cable guy
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
SCREW YOU, EU: BBC rolls out Right To Remember as Google deletes links
Not even Google can withstand the power of Auntie
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
10 Top Tips For PRs Considering Whether To Phone The Register
You'll Read These And LOL Even Though They're Serious
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.