The US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has invalidated most of Amazon's One-Click patent. The patent, Number 5,960,411 uses complex language to describe the process by which a user “effects the ordering of the product by selection of the order button.” Which means the purchase is made by a single click. After getting the patent in 1998, Amazon has used this patent to stop other companies, including Barnes and Noble, from implementing similar single-click purchasing systems.
Last year, blogger Peter Calveley filed a reexamination request based on prior art he had located. Reexamination is when the PTO goes back to a patent it had previously granted and uses new evidence to reassess its validity. Calveley submitted prior art based on another patent, No. 5,729,594, an online single-click-based financial transaction system, and on the now-defunct DigiCash payment system.
Although Calveley only challenged Claim 11 and a few dependent claims, which gave Amazon a monopoly over single-click shopping. This week, however, the PTO invalidated 21 of 26 claims. Amazon will likely appeal the decision, and an Amazon spokeswoman told press they “expect to file a response to this initial action by the deadline of December 9.” The prior art is compelling, however, and I don't expect Amazon to reclaim its legal monopoly over the idea of clicking to purchase things.