Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Amazon obtains patent for 'one-click' payment method in Canada

Out-Law News | 06 Jan 2012 | 2:17 pm | 2 min. read

The Canadian Patent Office has granted online retail giant Amazon a patent for a 'one-click' payment method for processing transactions, according to reports.

Amazon was granted the patent following a protracted legal battle in the country and despite the fact the payment system was deemed unpatentable by the European Patent Office (EPO) last year.

Amazon lets registered users pay for products using a 'one-click' payment system. Customers who clicked the 'one click' order button have to have previously given payment and address details to the company and be logged in to the company's website for the system to work.

The Canadian Commissioner of Patents had previously determined that Amazon's 'one-click' system was not patentable because it did not constitute an 'invention' under the definition of the word in Canadian patent law. However, Amazon successfully appealed and in a Federal Court ruling the Commissioner was ordered to re-examine the company's patent application. The Commissioner refused and appealed against the Court's judgment but in November the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal largely upheld the Federal Court's ruling and reiterated that the Commissioner had to re-examine the company's application.

The Canadian Patent Office has now received Amazon's final payment for its patent application for the 'one-click' payment system, according to intellectual property blogger Barry Sookman.

"It appears that the Patent Office has now determined that Amazon.com’s patent application ... is eligible subject matter. Patent Office records show that following an amendment made on December 22, 2011 a Notice of Allowance was issued on December 23, 2011. The records also show that the Final Fee was paid on December 28, 2011," Sookman said in his blog.

Last year the EPO ruled that Amazon's 'one-click' system was "too obvious" to patent as it relied on existing inventions, called 'prior art' in patent law. Inventions must be new, take an inventive step that is not obvious and be useful to industry to qualify for patent protection. The ruling backed the findings of a previous EPO examination into Amazon's application.

The EPO said Amazon's payment system relied on the exploitation of cookies. Cookies are small text files websites place on users' computers that remember users' activity on the site.

Amazon argued that its use of cookie technology was inventive because it meant customers' payment and address details would be automatically accessed when customers clicked the 'one-click' button to place an order. The company argued that this was a fast and secure way for customers to buy online.

However, prior knowledge about what functions cookies could perform meant that Amazon's payment system was too obvious to patent, the EPO ruled.

The EPO also ruled to reject Amazon's patent claims on a time-interval system the company had devised for 'one-click' purchases. The system allows customers to compile multiple single product orders made for the purposes of receiving only one delivery as long as the single orders are made within a certain period of time.

The European Patent Convention states that methods of business cannot be patented unless they solve a technical rather than administrative problem, but the EPO said that whilst the system may involve a technical solution it was too obvious to patent.

In 2010 Amazon obtained patent rights to the 'one-click' system in the US.

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