1-Click wonder


Doris Spielthenner of Practice Insight discusses Amazon’s now expired ‘1-Click’ purchase patent and the problems with owning such a broad “super-patent”

September marked the expiry of Amazon’s original ‘1-Click’ US patent (5960411), which covered the technique of allowing customers to make online purchases with a single click, with the payment information needed to complete the purchase having been previously entered by the user.

According to Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, the originality of the concept had nothing to do with its implementation, which can be trivial to duplicate, but with the reframing of the problem. Amazon’s 1-Click method replaced traditional thinking when it came to online shopping, which was largely still based on a conventional real-world shopping experience where you pick up an item, put it in a cart, and carry it to the counter to buy it. On the internet with the 1-Click solution, all you had to do was point to an item and it was yours.

Putting aside the much-debated existence and grant of this patent, the re-examination by the US Patent and Trademark Office a few years ago, and its history around the European Patent route, the interesting aspect of this patent is the staggering number and variety of its forward citations. Over its lifetime, and until now, this patent received more than 1,000 forward citations. What’s interesting is the variety of the companies whose patents received the 1-Click patent as their examiner citation. Apart from the well-known licensing deal with Apple and the courtroom story with Barnes & Noble, this patent had other companies interested in a similar implementation—at least that’s what the citations tell us.

There were citations from, amongst many others, companies considered (or that were considered at the time) industry leaders, including Microsoft, eBay, Sony, AOL, Ford, Facebook, Google, IBM and more. Without taking into account the actual history of the 1-Click patent and Amazon’s policy and activities around licensing it, you can only guess the sheer amount of licensing deals possible with a patent as broad in application scope as this one.

Such a ‘super-patent’ would need constant attention in identifying potential leads for licensing. Particularly, in terms of tracking of its citations every day over years of its active life.

With such an important set of granted claims, it would need people screening through the citations, identifying people to contact, and engaging them to make sure opportunities to license the patent are not missed out. Moreover, if someone has many similar patents in their portfolio, they would need an entire team doing this exercise. But, that’s for traditional databases where you would have to track each patent family member (or the complete patent family in one go) for citation changes. You would receive an update every now and then, and you would have to sort through the update changes to figure out the examiner citations—because these are the real gems.

This is the process you must follow every day after you sort through the citations that have already been cited before you started the exercise. Practice Insight has made this process much simpler using our Citation Eagle tool. In this tool, all someone would have to do is enter their company name and search. The results will be all updated examiner citations for all the company’s patents with the name of the company whose patent received your company’s patent as an examiner citation.

Additionally, you can also track the citation changes by company in this tool, and you would receive updates for the citation changes in the entire patent portfolio of the company.

We provide the same citation data but we present it in a user-centric way and keeping the user interface simple and effective.
This saves time, and hence costs, and lets your team focus on other important aspects of licensing.
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