This year’s 9/11 remembrance will be followed but an anniversary of a different sort.
September 12 marks the day that Amazon’s controversial “1-Click” patent is set to expire and the invention placed in the public domain.
One-click has generated significant profits and market share for Amazon over the past eighteen years, but its expiration is expected to have minimal impact on the giant online retailer, whether or not other sites adopt similar transaction practices after the patent expires.
Amazon first applied for a patent on 1-Click in 1997, and it was granted in 1999 in the heart of the Christmas selling season. The core of the invention revolves around storing customers’ payment and address details, so only single click or tap on a smartphone in required to fulfill an order. This means that there are fewer steps to ordering, which is less time-consuming and more seamless.
In 2015, Amazon launched the “Dash” Button, a proprietary method for quick ordering. “Dash Button devices are WiFi-connected devices to place in your kitchen, pantry, or anywhere in your home you use your favorite Prime-eligible products,” says Amazon. “Simply press the button to reorder when you’re running low, and your products are on their way.”
Virtual Dash Buttons, introduced in 2017, are shortcuts to that make it easier to find and reorder favorite products on Amazon’s mobile app and website, and are available for free for millions of products that ship with Prime.
The website Rejoiner says that the 1-Click patent has been worth as much at $2.4 billion to Amazon over the years. Amazon, which licensed the patent to Apple in 2000 for an undisclosed amount, has never been able to secure a patent for one-click for online retail in Europe.
Google is already working on a one-click payments system for its Chrome browser, and other browser companies are expected to follow.
Payments.com says that Google’s version of one-click payments will provide customers with a drop-down menu of stored shipping addresses and credit cards when shopping on a participating merchant’s website. The customer can click on the address and card to be used, enter the three-digit security code on the card and hit “pay now.” Other browser companies may choose to use a fingerprint instead of the security code.
Question: Would Amazon, or for that matter an independent inventor, be able to secure and defend a patent on one-click transactions today? It’s highly doubtful.
“Amazon may be prepared to lose its one-click payments advantage,” reports Business Insider, “as it looks to build an edge in other corners of the e-commerce market. For example, it has spent billions to strengthen its logistics and fulfillment operations to position itself as a leader in faster delivery.
“And as consumers increasingly demand speedier shipping, Amazon should benefit from its early investment in this area. Moves like this one indicate that the company is focused on carving out new advantages as the e-commerce space evolves.”
Amazon was recently issued a patent on a system for an “on demand apparel manufacturing system,” which can quickly fill online orders for made-to-order suits, dresses and other garments. Go here to see how it works. It’s clear that Amazon has not given up on trying to dominate the e-commerce space with inventions that are timely and which it can defend.
Amazon is all about brand loyalty and delivering a wide range of goods, at the best price, quickly. Prime and other customers are unlikely to go elsewhere just because other online stores have the same single button to make purchases easier. With a growing patent portfolio, Amazon is likely thinking of new e-commerce solutions that generate more profits and command more customers.
A good question is would Amazon, or for that matter an independent inventor, be able to secure and defend a U.S. patent on one-click online retail transactions today? It’s highly doubtful.
“Amazon has many different ‘one-click’ patents,” write Rolf Claessen, German IP attorney on Quora. “Which one do you mean? Do you mean all of them? Many also have been invalidated or not even granted – at least in Europe.
“In other countries like Australia, Amazon also could not successfully enforce the patent(see ZDNet). It seems that since about 2011, Amazon no longer tries to enforce the patents to collect royalties. I am not aware of any court action, where Amazon was successful enforcing any of these patents.”
Amazon’s Custom Clothing Patent
Image source: forbes.com; nyt.com
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