7 March 2002 Amazon.com and Barnes &Noble.com have settled their long-running patent infringement lawsuit centred on Amazon’s ‘one-click’ technology.
However, the two online retailers have refused to give details of the terms of the settlement, freshly filed with the district court in Seattle, Washington. It is currently unclear in whose favour the dispute was settled.
Online retailer Amazon started legal proceedings against rival Barnes &Noble in October 1999, when it accused Barnes &Noble of copying Amazon’s patented one-click technology for its own web site. One-click enables users to return to a commerce site and order goods with a single click of their PC’s mouse, without having to re-enter personal data every time. This helps make online shopping faster and easier.
Amazon’s one-click patent filing caused a storm of protest, since many argued that it was merely a combination of simple pre-existing web-based technologies and not innovative per se. The patent that was subsequently granted to Amazon was derided by many in the American technology industry who said that it would serve to stifle innovation rather than foster it.
Analysts in Europe have pointed out that the patenting of such a ‘business method’ would have been impossible under European patenting laws, which are far more restrictive than those in the US. Indeed, Amazon tried to patent one-click in Europe – and failed.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos insisted all along that his company’s patent was legitimate. Simultaneously, Bezos had called for a reform of patenting laws and went as far as to sponsor an organisation that looks into patent claims deemed dubious.