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The whole point of offering patents is to encourage innovation. It’s extremely doubtful that the offer of patent exclusivity played any part in their push to develop this technology which makes this an obvious failure of the patent system, this would still have been invented in a world without the ability to patent it. Less money would have been burned through the legal system and instead could have been put to more productive use. While we accept some amount of failure in order to benefit from the theoretical upsides of the patent system, it’s also important to call things as they are so we can improve the average results for our economy.



I don’t think that you can look at a specific patent in isolation and 30 years later hand waive that it wasn’t worth it.

The existence and availability of obtaining patents on new publicly disclosed inventions heavily incentivizes R&D efforts overall. The disclosure and exclusivity properties encourages constant innovation and novel discoveries in order to compete. There is unquestionably a constant arms race to patent new ways to provide features which amaze users. I assume Amazon was then and continues to be now absolutely laser focused on developing patentable user-facing features which increase conversion.

The same patent system which gave us 1-click also gives us technology like Apple Pay, which is a delight to use along with impressively secure. In 30 years I assume people will be lamenting how obvious that was too.


Indeed, the only "benefit" we received is that everyone ordering merchandise online had to use multiple clicks for 20 years, and Amazon probably received a nice settlement from their competitor. The implementation is fairly obvious and shouldn't have been patentable.


So obvious that ~30 years after the first IP packets were sent, they were still the first to ever do it.

Do you remember what the Amazon website looked like in 1997? Wayback Machine doesn’t even have a snapshot that old.

And the collection of patents that Amazon has been issued, which affords them protection of their published IP, are part of what enables them to spend those Billions every year developing all the new technologies they continue to create and publish today.


No, Amazon weren't the first to have one-button buy. Filed in 1994 (the year of the first WWW):

> the client computer will know which item is currently being offered for sale. In such a case, the viewer will be able to order it by Simply pressing one button on the TV remote

https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/0a/99/bd/431ac01...

They were the first do this "with a shopping cart", and needed a patent examiner tell them how to get the patent claims approved. Genius(!)

> The Patent Owner is also advised that claims 1 and 11 would be considered to be patentable if they were amended to recite providing a shopping cart model

http://homepages.uc.edu/~armstrty/AmazonReExam-20071009.pdf

This is what is wrong with the US PTO: old inventions are patentable for new applications as long as it is novel, without consideration for inventiveness. Is it the "Guinness World Records" of invention, where you can be awarded for using a saw "in a musical ensemble".


From that first patent from 1994 that you reference;

> "It is also possible that permanent information about the viewer (i.e. the name, address, method of payment and credit card number) may be preentered once by the viewer, so it is not necessary to solicit that information each time an order is placed. The information is stored in permanent memory in the client computer. In such a case, when an order is placed, that information is retrieved from the permanent memory, appended to the item number and transmitted to the central computer."

Aha, but you see of course this isn’t at all how the Amazon 1-click system works.

The most important thing about patents is you cannot patent the overall concept. You can only patent a specific implementation, and only that specific implementation technique is covered by the patent.

Likewise, if we didn’t let people patent distinctly different implementations of the same overall concept—if Amazon’s unique implementation of a one-click online purchase was not novel or non-obvious—that would imply that this earlier patent somehow covered what Amazon was trying to do! So now you’ve made the problem exponentially worse by making patents absurdly broad, patenting the overall concept of buying an item with 1 click, versus a specific method and apparatus for achieving the functionality.

The abstract notion of making purchases through a computer as simple and take as few steps as possible is “obvious” but it’s also not patentable. But it you invent a new way to make that feature possible you can patent that.

I go back to the Apple Pay example, which is the result of massive R&D effort to find new ways to essentially make 1-click possible, but; orchestrated in a very particular way between machines at the merchant, Apple, card processor, and client in order to achieve better scale, across many merchants, with a consistent UI that is manifestly simple to access and configure, and with a heightened level of security.


> The abstract notion of making purchases through a computer as simple and take as few steps as possible is “obvious” but it’s also not patentable.

The point was that the invention of 1-click buy is patentable as applied to "a shopping cart".

> After all, what did it take B&N; to work around the 1-click patent? They had to add a second click for the user to confirm the order.

https://web.archive.org/web/20071218184903/http://www.oreill...


In a web browser, identifying the user through a session cookie, associating a session with a login, to which is attached a plurality of addresses and credit cards, of which one has been selected as a default to be used with one-click, then presenting a separate button next to the “Add to Cart” button which allows a one click purchase, which upon clicking will...

That specific implementation, in 1997, was patentable. And now anyone can freely do the same, if they went to, although we now know that isn’t really the best way to do it.




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