Amazon.com, Inc.(NASDAQ:AMZN) has shown time and time again that serious reform is needed in how the states regulate commerce. From its avoidance of sales taxes-something it finally gave up fully earlier this year-to its wily navigation of anti-trust law, the firm’s exploits are as insightful as they are attention grabbing. One of the worst ways the firm ever took advantage of the system, though, is soon going to be taken away.
Quartz’s Keith Collins reported on Saturday morning that the Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) patent on 1 Click buying is going to expire on September 11th. The firm applied for the patent in 1997 and it was granted in 1999. It doesn’t protect specific lines of code, or even a specific step by step approach to buying online. Instead it protects the general concept of buying something with just one click using pre-loaded payment and delivery details.
Amazon got the world’s worst patent
In the age of software design, patents are important but the system around them is cumbersome. The Amazon patent makes it costly for another other firm to adopt this part of the shopping experience. It certainly weighs in favor of Jeff Bezos firm, simply because they decided to patent it first.
Many firms have licensed the “technology” since the patent was granted. Apple is a famous example cited by Collins. The Quartz author also cites a legal case against Barnes and Noble over the book sellers use of a one click store design.
The problem with the 1 click patent, and this was deeply important when it was granted, is that it opens the door for a broad range of “ideas” to be patented. That’s something that appears to be negative to innovation rather than a guarantor of it.
This is still an expanding area of law. Software patents appear to be a concern to many different groups and some legal groups have tried to have design ideas like that of Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) declared unprotected. That would see them be considered like the “rules systems” of board games which are considered unpatentable.
Amazon runs into problems
The patent issue is a very interesting part of Amazon history. There’s no way to tell if the firm would have been as successful without that advantage, but it probably didn’t hurt. The way the firm uses the law to its advantage, however, could be used against it in turn. Laws can change. If they change to target business models, though, few corporations can change fast enough to avoid the consequences.
The big worry is anti-trust law. There has been a lot of talk about Amazon being a monopoly in recent months. The firm appears to be dominant in the e-commerce market in the US, but that doesn’t prove abuse. Under current competition law in the US, harm to consumers would have to be demonstrated.
Some in the competition world would like to see that changed. They want the outcomes of smaller firms, in this case Amazon suppliers, to be considered. It’s likely that we’re a good distance from this revolution, but it will be interesting to see if Amazon, which held onto its one click patent for 18 years, is able to keep skirting the authorities despite the concerns.