The US Patent and Trademark Office has demolished Amazon.com's bid to patent its 1-Click online purchasing system — thanks to the efforts of a New Zealand actor and amateur patent watcher.
In its decision, dated 26 September, the three-judge panel reversed an earlier decision, rejecting most of Amazon's claim because of evidence that other patents predated it, and referred the issue back to the patent examiner.
The patent was challenged by Peter Calveley, a New Zealand actor whose credits include appearances — digitally remastered — among Sauron's evil armies in The Lord of the Rings films.
Amazon's 1-Click system allows account holders to make a purchase with a single mouse click. The patent was granted in 1998, and Amazon went to court the following year to block rival online retailer Barnes & Noble from using a similar one-click checkout system. The case was later settled out of court.
"Amazon has the opportunity to respond to the Patent Office's rejection, but third-party requests for re-examination, like the one I filed, result in having the subject patent either modified or completely revoked about two-thirds of the time," wrote Calveley in his blog. Calveley has described his patent activities as a "hobby" and has also said it grew from frustration over an Amazon book that took too long to arrive, according to Out-Law.com, a law site that promoted his campaign.
The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected 21 of Amazon's 26 claims, in response to a 22-page list of prior art from Calveley, including a 1994 patent for one-button ordering over interactive TV, and patents filed by Digicash, an electronic money start-up that went bankrupt in 1998.
Amazon could still have patent rights on one-click systems that use a shopping cart however, says Out-Law.com, as none of Calveley's list of prior art included a cart.
Amazon has refused to comment but plans to file a response by the deadline of 9 December.
CNET News.com's Elinor Mills contributed to this article.