Munich, 15 January 2013 - The king of trivial software and business methods patents, Amazon's "one-click gift order", is still not dead in Europe. After 15 years of existence, the European Patent Office (EPO) today revoked it on precarious grounds which warrant another appeal.
This patent EP0927945 was already revoked once in 2007, after being granted in 2003. However the Technical Board of Appeal (TBA) revived the patent in 2009 and resubmitted it to the Opposition Division, because the “single action” (one click) had not yet be proven to be known in the prior art. In today’s hearing, the Opposition Division considered this feature both patentable and novel, but not inventive. However the Opposition Division considered its combination with the gift ordering process to be not inventive enough.
FFII expects that Amazon will appeal to this decision again so the opposition procedure will likely continue even more. The patent was filed in 1998, 15 years ago, while a patent maximum life is 20 years.
FFII analyst Georg Jakob, who represented the FFII in today's hearing, explains: "The obvious action that should have been taken 15 years ago was to reject the patent as a software patent on the grounds of Art. 52(2)c European Patent Convention (EPC). The claims mention only elements of standard data processing units (i.e. a plain and simple computers) and instructions how to operate it - software. That is exactly how we define a software patent."
"Amazon's infamous patent can be considered a perfect showcase for much of what is wrong with today's patent system in Europe.", adds FFII board member Stephan Uhlmann.
The patent application dating from 1998 outlines a "method in a computer system for co-ordinating delivery of a gift from a gift giver to a recipient, the gift and recipient being specified in a gift order." In 2004 the FFII e.V. as well as the Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. and Fleurop-Interflora European Business Company AG opposed to Amazons one-click gift order patent granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) as EP0927945. Contrary to different reports the patent was still valid and in force in Europe. Due to the opposition by FFII et al. the patent was revoked in 2007. But Amazon appealed to this decision leading the EPO to set the revocation aside and the case was remitted to the opposition department.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, who is cited in the patent as a co-inventor, was recently quoted: "Patents are supposed to encourage innovation and we’re starting to be in a world where they might start to stifle innovation. Governments may need to look at the patent system and see if those laws need to be modified because I don’t think some of these battles are healthy for society." (http://metro.co.uk/2012/10/15/jeff-bezos-kindle-e-readers-will-soon-become-part-of-our-everyday-lives-606545/)
More detailed report from the hearing: https://a2e.de/phm/13/01/amazon/
Chronology and background information: http://action.ffii.org/oneclick
Press release 2013-01-14: "FFII still challenges Amazon one-click gift order patent"
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About the FFII
The FFII is a not-for-profit association active in twenty European countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, open standards. More than 1000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.