US patent office to re-examine 1-Click

Amazon.com's controversial patent faces more scrutiny after a New Zealand actor uncovered 'substantial' questions over prior art

The US Patent Office is to re-examine the validity of Amazon.com's controversial patent for 1-Click online shopping facility after a New Zealand actor claimed that another patent for the same process predates Amazon's.

Amazon's 1-Click allows customers with an existing account to purchase an item via a single mouse click. It was granted in 1998, but only became controversial last year, when Amazon went to court to stop rival bookseller Barnes&Noble from using a similar process for its own Web site.

That complaint was upheld in November of last year, and Amazon was confirmed as the only Web site allowed to use the single-click feature.

Now, actor Peter Calveley, who has experience in patent law and has appeared in small parts in films such as Lord of the Rings, has challenged the patent. In February he wrote in his blog that the patent as granted to Amazon, seemed "to cover a lot of ground" and would work better if it were "narrowed a bit".

Through his blog, Calveley has been able to raise more than 2,000 US dollars (£1,060) to help cover the costs of his action. He has now persuaded the US Patent and Trademark Office to re-examine the case on the grounds that a patent for a similar technology was issued in March 1998 — 18 months before Amazon's.

Calveley had raised substantial questions about the appropriateness of Amazon's patent, according to the patent office.

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