Amazon 1-Click Patent About to Expire

Twenty years ago this September, Amazon filed for a patent on its new “1-click” on-line ordering idea.  Now, its about to expire.  See http://www.patentbuddy.com/Patent/US-5960411-A?ft=true.

For those of you that were not around when it issued, or the several years following, there was quite a lot of complaining about how unfair it was for Amazon to get this patent, and how it represented how bad patents are for software.  Jeff Bezos himself even, for a time, was promoting a shorter term for software patents, in response in part to the criticism he received for the 1-click patent.  Of course, now all the doomsday predictions look silly, with the e-commerce revolution having quite handily survived Amazon’s 1-click patent.  Twenty years go by awful fast, we find out, as it seems like yesterday that the 1-click patent was issued.

One thing that has always fascinated me is that people can get incredibly upset, if a novel invention, that has been absent from civilization for thousands of years, is kept proprietary to an inventor for a mere additional twenty years, before it can be freely exploited by all.  Did it really hurt competitors of Amazon to have to wait twenty years to offer 1-click ordering?  If it did, we should see all of Amazon’s competitors make some big e-commerce gains in the next few years, as they deploy 1-click ordering to their heart’s content.  But I suspect that won’t be the case.

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