Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Amazon Awarded Patent for 1-Click Purchase

Boo for the US Patent Office:
Adding an extra step, even if it is just a pop-up or confirmation page, has huge negative consequences. At every step of the purchase process users drop out (it’s a significant percentage) and now companies have to choose between paying Amazon for 1-click or adding an extra step and losing a significant amount of sales....

An interesting side-effect is that ebook stores and ereaders that want to increase purchases (by making them convenient) will have to give Amazon a share of their revenue. It’s hard to beat a competitor on price when they make money every time your customers do a 1-click purchase.
In my opinion, this is a particularly bad patent that sets a very bad precedent. Purchasing something with one-click does not pass muster for being non-obvious. If businesses are allowed to patent every little idea they come up with, this will have a tremendous stifling effect on innovation. Imagine if you could get a patent on things such as:
  • Printing text on a piece of paper.
  • Selling things in buildings.
  • Selling two things together in the same package.
  • Sending communication electronically.
  • Selling things on the Internet.
  • Painting something the color green.
You get the idea. All of these things are relatively obvious extensions of pre-existing technologies (other than perhaps printing) and granting patents on these sorts of ideas seem to be non-sense.

There is a whole body of law supporting awarding patents for technological innovation, but not much that I am aware of for protecting business methods. By suddenly awarding these kinds of intellectual property protections, the Patent Office is creating a system that is almost sure to stifle innovation and an incentive for large companies to patent every tiny idea they have. In the long run, that's bad for everybody.

1 comment:

Clint D said...

Wow. One-click purchases, huh? I'm going to patent being able to write my entire name without lifting my pencil.

Maybe no one has patented cursive writing yet - that would be a big one. Or scratch-and-sniff checks - now that's an idea.