back to article Nice try, Amazon: 'One-click' payment too obvious to patent

A payment system devised by online retail giant Amazon is too obvious to patent, the European Patent Office (EPO) has ruled. Amazon had hoped to patent the way its customers pay for products through the click of a single webpage button. The company was previously granted patent rights to the payment system in the US. An …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    total bollock...

    thats what that is, go and invent something real and clever, then come back - tossers.

    1. Alex 14

      Real and clever

      Like the Kindle?

      1. Graham Marsden

        Like the Kindle?

        Prior art: Star Trek's PADD...

        1. Alex 14

          Star Trek's PADD

          Fails the "real" test... :-p

          1. Matt Siddall

            Doesn't have to be real

            Robert Heinlein described a bed filled with water as a relaxing way for a wounded man to recover from his injuries (having some experience of medical problems himself) and this prevented the patenting of the waterbed, as it constituted prior art.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Kindle. Errr...

        The Sony Librie of 2004? (Japan only)é

  2. hexx
    Thumb Up

    nice to see

    common sense in place

  3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Obvious to Europeans maybe

    But here in the good ol' US of A we have problems getting our head around this one ... just One Click (TM) to purchase stuff? Nah, that will never work.

    Hey Bubba, ya'll hold me beer while I click this button ....


    I just bought a Barbie Doll with one click !!!! Let's shoot it.

  4. AndrueC Silver badge

    Only one comment to that:

    I hate software patents.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      It isn't a software patent. Amazon's proposed *implementation* might be in software, but you could also implement this mechanically, with a big button labelled "push me to buy one". The patent covers the idea, not the implementation. Or doesn't, as in this case.

  5. Anonymous Coward


    As usual Dogbert was on top of this over ten years ago

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Thank you, European patent office. Not packaging a separate order for every individual purchase someone makes, but instead waiting half an hour or so for them to finish browsing, then bulking them into one order isn't exactly the height of technical invention.

    1. Peter Holgate

      Not quite

      Try getting them to ship 2 dvds in one parcel. Not if it comes from Jersey!

      Yes I know it's the way they avoid VAT but it's a real pain balancing your credit card statement with multiple entries for one order price

  7. Ian Tresman


    Most software patents are "too obvious". Can you think of any software features that were new and innovative?

    1. Richard Gadsden 1

      Innovative software

      The original RSA patent on public-key cryptography was really innovative.

      Someone (Cerf? Postel?) could probably have patented route discoverability on the internet (that which is now implemented through BGP) - pre-planned routing was the obvious approach (cf NCP).

      WIMP interfaces (though Xerox didn't).

      1. Anonymous Coward

        RSA patent not new innovation

        At least one state secret service had been using asymmetric key algorithms that were precursors or special cases of RSA over 20 years prior to their patent-filing! Specifically, it is public information that James H. Ellis, Clifford Cocks, and Malcolm Williamson at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in the UK in 1973 had already created these algorithms.

        Software patents are just a dumb idea, period. From an origination perspective, they are too closely related to fundamental mathematical expression or are trivial extensions of existing procedures or methods. I'm not even going to mention all the other issues surrounding any IP protection overlap, utility or enforceability of software patents.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: RSA patent not new innovation

          "Specifically, it is public information that..."

          Well it is now, but it certainly wasn't at the time and therefore this doesn't count as prior art. (The deal with patents is disclosure in return for legal protection, so those who don't disclose can't complain that someone else was awarded the protection.)

          Also, one could point to the claim that this discovery was kept secret "for over 20 years" as a clear demonstration of the non-obviousness of the inventive step. (Cryptography is a respected academic discipline, so it's not like there weren't smart people working in the same field trying to come up with ideas like this one.)

          1. Lee Dowling Silver badge


            However, the fact that it was invented twice, by two groups, without knowledge of previous work, means that it was probably "obvious to one skilled in the art".

            Basically, "encryption" has been about since the Ancient Greeks. The only step forward was public key cryptography using products of large primes. Prime have been around since the Ancient Greeks, and were always known to be an interminable difficult problem to solve even when it was incredibly simple (in comparison) to create such a problem.

            By the same token, elliptic curve cryptography is hardly "novel" except in the use of elliptic curves to replace primes, and associated countermeasures and other things needed to take into account when using something other than primes. To call them patentable is really pushing your luck because then it takes seconds to push patents through the system claiming cryptography using just about any mathematical process that's difficult to unravel without the original "key". By the same token, quantum encryption really is a whole new way of doing things but, again, still mathematically based on knowledge that's been around for decades.

            The only patents worth applying for, especially in the EU, are hardware patents - a piece of quantum-encryption kit that uses fibres to encrypt between banks would have qualified as "new" ten years ago even if the algorithm wouldn't, a use of encryption to provide (say) a certification that a card belonged to an authorised cardholder via certificate exchange, or similar - all patentable - and ALL in hardware first and most importantly.

            Otherwise you get into things like the DVD CSS debacle - where people "can't" describe the algorithm even if it's just a series of mathematical steps that have been known about for centuries.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Big Brother

            Re: RSA patent not new innovation

            "Cryptography is a respected academic discipline, so it's not like there weren't smart people working in the same field trying to come up with ideas like this one."

            Which is why it is totally unethical to have someone work on a topic, produce something useful and then tell them, "Sorry, but these other people already did this and now own the idea. You'll have to pay *them* to exploit the work *you* did."

            The notion of non-obviousness is merely a way of guessing whether people are likely to be wronged or not if you award monopolies on things. It can in no way be used to justify the unethical nature of granting monopolies in the first place: if even one person has their work effectively taken from them (and especially if it involves a discipline that is "hard"), then a wrong has been committed.

  8. Robert E A Harvey


    well done, the EU!

  9. CADmonkey

    I did some Amazon shopping last night

    I had to click more than once to checkout.

    1. Arrrggghh-otron

      I've always wondered about that...

      I've seen and heard about it, but never experienced that '1-click' to buy 'magic' either. I guess I missed the point but it usually involves logging in etc...

      Either way trying to patent it is bloody stupid. If we keep on allowing software patents we won't be able to do anything in software without infringing a patent somewhere...

      <skulks off to patent gesture-to-buy>

    2. AndrueC Silver badge

      It works..but maybe a little too well.

      I used to use it a lot but have never set it up on new machines.

      Basically it's what it says - you click a button and the order is placed. If I remember correctly you have 90 minutes in which to modify the order. After that the item is on its way. No need to enter CC details or select the address or anything.

      I think the main reason for not using it any more is that it makes the buying process too convenient. Some times the act of clicking through the confirmation pages has given me time to reflect and cancel something. On balance(*) I'd rather have that additional time/effort during which to reflect on how necessary the order really is.

      (*)Credit card balance mainly :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Amazon probably dont care that much

        As with things like '3d secure' 1-click buying is surly becoming harder to do?

        Although I think I'm with pretty much everyone else in the world who is happy to see such silliness struck down. Now smack them with a nice big 'administration' charge to stop them trying to file such frivolities again!

      2. CD001


        It's REALLY dangerous if you're in the Amazon MP3 shop... "Oooh - new album from {INSERT_BAND_NAME_HERE}" -> click -> download -> done.

        Curse you OneClick!

  10. A J Stiles


    This is the right decision.

    Looking forward to more patents being invalidated on the grounds of obviety .....

  11. Harry
    Thumb Up

    "Inventions must be new ..."

    "Inventions must be new, take an inventive step that is not obvious and be useful to industry to qualify for patent protection."

    US patents office please read.

    And now read it again, because you obviously didn't understand it the first time.

    And now read it a third time, because we really don't believe there is anybody in the US patents office that is capable of understanding it.

    Now all of you, resign and lets have your replacements fully and fundamentally tested on their understanding of the above.

  12. Keith Bee

    1-Click Patent

    Have a "click to patent" button and they would clean up.

  13. Anonymous Coward


    a sensible result.

    now, will they fix all those other stupidly assigned patents?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    GET SOME!!!!!!!!

    The forces of reasonableness prevail this time.

    Ah thenk yew.

  15. Finbarr Saunders

    What a terrible article

    OMG this article is absolutely terrible. It discusses an EPO decision issued in January - nearly 6 months ago - and in such an amateurish way as to be of no real benefit to anyone. Sorry OUT-LAW but how did you get to write for The Register?

  16. Arctic fox
    Thumb Up

    I think it is wonderful, I congratulate Amazon on a top class attempt to.........

    ..........discredit the patent system even further (if that is in fact possible). They quite obviously agree with us here at El Reg are doing their bit to bring about reform by satirising the system with a patent application of transcendent idiocy. I mean, they are aren't they? It could not possibly have been a *serious* application that they thought they could get away with could it?

    On a slightly more serious note I think that the "big boys" should start thinking a bit. Much more of this kind of crap and they actually will in the end provoke the kind of reform that they would sooner gnaw their own legs off than have implemented.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yay for the EPO

    A sensible decision on patents in the first instance? What's going on here then?

    The usual action seems to be to grant the patent and then later revoke it when somebody challenges it's validity.

    Amazon claiming that the use of cookies makes this a patentable invention is ridiculous. Yes it was a new use for cookies, in so far as nobody had used them in that very specific way before. But it was not a patentable invention any more than using a motor vehicle for home deliveries of shopping. Yes, somebody had to be the first person to do it, but they didn't take some enormous creative step to come up with the idea.

  18. ZenCoder

    Almost nothing that actually works is new or innovative.

    The new idea's all get kicked around and reinvented years or decades before the technology exists. Then the technology gets toyed at for years before its practical to get put into a commercial product.

    For instance the general public was exposed to video conferencing in the 1964 worlds fair, the idea waited in the background until the early 1990's when cheap webcam combined faster dial up speeds to make it practical for mass consumption.

  19. Peter Mc Aulay

    "Wade through" a shopping cart?

    Either there's something about US shopping habits that I don't understand, or Amazon thinks their customers have the intelligence of pond scum. Probably both.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      why am i even doing this?

      You do know that The Amazon is a river, right? Do you know what 'wade' means in context? Its a joke.

  20. NoneSuch Silver badge

    I think that is cool...

    Now my two-click, three-click, four-click and five-click patent applications will sail through.

  21. Mage Silver badge


    Not a new or innovative invention.

    Not even the first with eInk stuff. Just successfull

  22. James Woods


    Have they patented not paying taxes anywhere? They seem to be very good at it in the united states.

  23. wraith404

    Now turn the gaze on apple

    nothing of theirs will pass that muster.

  24. elderlybloke

    Amazon can get f**ked

    I haven't anything to do with Amazon since they started their one click extortion antics.

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