Feeds

Nice try, Amazon: 'One-click' payment too obvious to patent

EU Patent Office rules on clickery-pokery lawyery try-on

Top three mobile application threats

A payment system devised by online retail giant Amazon is too obvious to patent, the European Patent Office (EPO) has ruled.

Amazon had hoped to patent the way its customers pay for products through the click of a single webpage button. The company was previously granted patent rights to the payment system in the US.

An appeals board at the EPO ruled that the "one-click" method was too obvious as it relied on existing inventions, called "prior art" in patent law. Inventions must be new, take an inventive step that is not obvious and be useful to industry to qualify for patent protection.

The ruling backed the findings of a previous EPO examination into Amazon's application.

"The Board has reviewed the analysis of the features of [Amazon's patent claims] in the decision under appeal in the light of [Amazon's] arguments and agrees with the examining division that they lack inventive step," the EPO appeals board said in its ruling (23-page/88KB PDF).

"The Board does not consider that the idea of reducing the number of steps necessary to make an order would contribute to inventive step," the EPO said.

Amazon lets registered users pay for products using a "one-click" payment system. Customers who clicked the "one click" order button have to have previously given payment and address details to the company and be logged in to the company's website for the system to work.

The EPO said Amazon's payment system relied on the exploitation of cookies. Cookies are small text files websites place on users' computers that remember users' activity on the site.

Amazon argued that its use of cookie technology was inventive because it meant customers' payment and address details would be automatically accessed when customers clicked the "one-click" button to place an order. The company argued that this was a fast and secure way for customers to buy online.

Prior knowledge about what functions cookies could perform meant that Amazon's payment system was too obvious to patent, the EPO ruled.

"In view of the indexing function of cookies, the skilled person would have realised that any sensitive data traditionally requiring a login could be accessed by cookies," the EPO ruled.

"The obvious trade-off between the two processes, namely security vs simplicity, cannot establish an inventive technical contribution," the EPO ruled.

"The invention was not a situation of a long felt want, but more an immediate application of this new [cookie prior art] as soon as it had become available in that field. In the Board's view, this outweighs the fact that the invention was subsequently very successful," the EPO ruled.

The EPO also ruled to reject Amazon's patent claims on a time-interval system the company had devised for "one-click" purchases. The system allows customers to compile multiple single product orders made for the purposes of receiving only one delivery as long as the single orders are made within a certain period of time.

The European Patent Convention states that methods of business cannot be patented unless they solve a technical rather than administrative problem, but the EPO said that whilst the system may involve a technical solution it was too obvious to patent.

Amazon won the right to patent its "one-click" payment system in the US last year. The company was forced to narrow the scope of the patent after objections by New Zealand actor Peter Calveley over the obviousness of the system. The US Patent and Trademarks Office rejected 21 of the 26 patent claims Amazon had originally submitted.

At the time, Calveley said it that protecting the "one-click" system from broader patent coverage would prevent more time-consuming systems being introduced by other companies.

"Despite the Amazon corporate spin permeating the web, the amendment of the claims was significant and opens the way to the use of one-click shopping in a wide range of settings, and would be very useful, for example in mobile devices where people do not want to wade through a shopping cart," Calveley said.

Copyright © 2011, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Whoever you vote for, Google gets in
Report uncovers giant octopus squid of lobbying influence
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.