The United States Patent and Trademark Office, after finally having done something right for a change, recently reversed a which rejected Amazon’s patent on One-Click ordering. The USPTO it seems wasn’t able to figure out why One-Click ordering isn’t an innovation that deserves a patent.
That the patent application was approved in the first place is yet another example of the frivolity of so many tech patents being issued nowadays. One-click ordering was described by the Examiner as “obvious”, and clearly it is a natural evolution of the marketplace. U.S. patent law requires patents to be sufficiently . The Amazon patent is about as obvious and non-inventive as it gets. The purpose of patents is to encourage innovation, and rejecting patents like this will certainly not have a detrimental effect on the incentive to invent.
With One-Click ordering, Amazon just stores its users’ credit card information and billing address so they can order products with a single click, rather than jumping through a series of confirmation screens. This isn’t innovation-it’s just another online ordering option that any semi-competent web merchant could have thought up. Amazon, once an innovative startup, is starting to act more like a rent-seeking dinosaur when it actually tries to have patents like this enforced. AOL has a patent on instant messaging, but decided not to seek monetary compensation from Yahoo and MSN whose messenger services have become very popular. Does Amazon really think people will start shopping elsewhere if Amazon isn’t the only web retailer with One-Click ordering?
There isn’t even a real intellectual debate on this subject–every reasoned argument I’ve read on the subject of patent reform discusses the absurdity of the current system that rubber-stamps patents like One-click ordering which merely describe a simple, obvious process in complex, technical terms to make it sound like a unique innovation. Most patent reform proposals like the one Congress is considering are just skirting the real issue: patents should be tougher to get, and anyone ought to be able to challenge a patent in a court of law. Until real patent reform comes about, consumers will continue to suffer as big companies bully start-ups, like Verizon which has “dimmed Vonage‘s prospects” of offering an innovative, popular VoIP service.