I am a big fan of urban myths, Mythbusters and snopes.com, so when a friend told me a story about Amazon attempting to Patent ‘one click checkout’ I had to check it out. The story was as follows:
Amazon introduced a one click checkout system on their online stores. The system takes all the card details and address details of a customer and then when they are browsing the Amazon store they can simply press the one click checkout and the item is paid for and on its way.
Amazon decided that they ought to patent this idea. They filed all the paperwork and the patent was progressing and then the Internet community got wind and got very hot under the collar, the feeling being that this business process was too broad to be patented.
Then, as the protests grew, some bright spark noticed that others had already invented one click checkout before Amazon and once evidence was presented the Trade Mark was awarded to the other mystery person and Amazon was not allowed to use one click checkout anymore.
The Proof offered was that there is no one click checkout on Amazon.co.uk any more.
Investigating the Urban Myth
Obvious place to start, the Amazon.co.uk website. I seemed to remember that there had been one click checkout but I couldn’t remember seeing it recently (which is how this ended up on my radar). Unfortunately, the it was confirmed as a myth straight up. I had to log in to the secure server, but once I had one click checkout was there.
So where did this come from. I had to know, so I Google searched “one click checkout patent”
This threw up all kinds of interesting tidbits. The story seems to be that Amazon was using one click checkout and successfully applied for a patent in 1999. Straight after the patent was granted they sued a major US competitor, Barnes and Nobel. It was settled and Barnes and Nobel use the one click checkout system. Also Apple were the only other company that the one click system is licensed to.
Then our story takes a twist. In 2006 a New Zealand actor became annoyed at Amazon and their slow book delivery and decided to dish out some revenge. He dug up old patents that were filed before Amazon’s one click patent and applied for a re-examination at a cost of $2520 (an expensive way to show your displeasure in a delivery service).
In 2007 the broadest parts of the claim were rejected by the US patents office but other elements were confirmed. So a partial victory for both sides. A few years of legal stuff went on with revisions being filed by Amazon until the amened patent was confirmed by the US Patents office in March 2010.
So the Myth is partially confirmed, there was a legal challenge to the patent which led to a re-examination with previous work being cited as the reason for the challenge but Amazon do own a patent for one click checkout in the US. Amazon applied for Patents in Europe but they have never been granted.
What This Means to Your E-Commerce Store
I’m not aware of any e-commerce software that has a one click checkout feature, mostly due to the difficulty for smaller businesses in safely storing card details for any length of time. So if your are an SME then this will be the prohibitive factor.
On a wider scale of things, Amazon own the patent in the US for online stores that utilise a shopping cart system. This is quite normal for most stores, so these stores won’t be able to integrate one click checkout.
However, a mobile app that wants to allow users to press a button and buy, essentially make one click to buy, no other cart system will be in place and this will be permitted. This is the biggest key to the change, the future of mobile shopping.
Incidentally, talking of the future, the Patent runs out in 2017 anyway, so not that long until we can all use one click checkout if we want to.