Internet Purchasing Patents

Index of Selected Internet Purchasing Patents


Amazon.com's "1-Click" Patent

  • 5,960,411. Awarded September 28, 1999. This is Amazon.com's "1-Click" patent, entitled "Method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network." Here is the abstract:
    A method and system for placing an order to purchase an item via the Internet. The order is placed by a purchaser at a client system and received by a server system. The server system receives purchaser information including identification of the purchaser, payment information, and shipment information from the client system. The server system then assigns a client identifier to the client system and associates the assigned client identifier with the received purchaser information. The server system sends to the client system the assigned client identifier and an HTML document identifying the item and including an order button. The client system receives and stores the assigned client identifier and receives and displays the HTML document. In response to the selection of the order button, the client system sends to the server system a request to purchase the identified item. The server system receives the request and combines the purchaser information associated with the client identifier of the client system to generate an order to purchase the item in accordance with the billing and shipment information whereby the purchaser effects the ordering of the product by selection of the order button.
    Litigation Involving Amazon's "1-Click" Patent

    On October 21, 1999, Amazon.com filed suit against Barnesandnoble.com in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, alledging that the defendant's "Express Lane" ordering function infringed upon Amazon.com's "1-Click" patent.
    Siding with Amazon.com, the Court issued a preliminary injuction on December 1, 1999. Here is an excerpt of the Court's conclusion:

    Therefore, the Court hereby ORDERS that Defendants Barnesandnoble.com LLC and Barnesandnoble.com Inc., their officers, agents, servants, employees and attorneys and those in active concert or participation with them or Defendants ARE HEREBY RESTRAINED AND ENJOINED from continuing to infringe on United States Patent No. 5,960,411, including by continuing to make or use within the United States Defendants' Express Lane feature as currently configured or any other single-action ordering system that employs the methods or systems of the '411 patent.

    The CAFC (Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit) overturned the preliminary injunction against Barnesandnoble.com on February 14, 2001, and raised questions about the validity of of Amazon.com's '411 patent. According to a summary of the CAFC decision by Arent Fox (referenced below):

    The CAFC believed that the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington improperly determined that BNís challenges to the validity of the patent lacked substantial merit. In a lengthy decision, the CAFC found that after a full trial on the merits, it is very possible that the Amazon Single-Click patent will be found to be valid and infringed. However, the Court stated a clear position that, based upon the prior art references brought to light by BN, and some expert testimony set out during the preliminary injunction hearing, a substantial challenge to the validity of the patent had been raised. Thus a showing of a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits had not been made by Amazon.com. The preliminary injunction, therefore, was vacated, and the case remanded to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington for a full trial on the merits.

    Also see:

    Here are some some articles relating to Amazon's "1-click" patent and the subsequent lawsuit:

  • Also see: Open Letter by Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos on Business Practices Patents in response to Tim O'Reily's An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos.
    Walker Digital's Internet Purchasing Patents

  • 5,797,127. Awarded August 18, 1998. This is Walker Digital's "Airline Ticket" patent, entitled "Method, apparatus, and program for pricing, selling, and exercising options to purchase airline tickets." Here is the abstract:

    An apparatus, method, and program for determining a price of an option to purchase an airline ticket, and for facilitating the sale and exercise of those options. By purchasing an option, a customer can lock in a specified airfare without tying up his money and without risking the loss of the ticket price if his travel plans change. Pricing of the options may be based on departure location criteria, destination location criteria, and travel criteria.

  • 5,794,207. This is Walker Digital's "Name Your Price" Patent, entitled "Method and apparatus for a cryptographically assisted commercial network system designed to facilitate buyer-driven conditional purchase offers." Patent '207 was filed on September 4, 1996 and granted on August 11, 1998. Here is the abstract:

    The present invention is a method and apparatus for effectuating bilateral buyer-driven commerce. The present invention allows prospective buyers of goods and services to communicate a binding purchase offer globally to potential sellers, for sellers conveniently to search for relevant buyer purchase offers, and for sellers potentially to bind a buyer to a contract based on the buyer's purchase offer. In a preferred embodiment, the apparatus of the present invention includes a controller which receives binding purchase offers from prospective buyers. The controller makes purchase offers available globally to potential sellers. Potential sellers then have the option to accept a purchase offer and thus bind the corresponding buyer to a contract. The method and apparatus of the present invention have applications on the Internet as well as conventional communications systems such as voice telephony.

    Litigation Involving Priceline.com's '207 Patent

    Marketel v. Priceline

    According to Priceline.com's February 14, 2001 SEC S-8 form (referenced below), Priceline was sued by Marketel International Inc. in 1999 concerning the '206 patent.

    "In its third amended complaint, Marketel alleges, among other things, that the defendants conspired to misappropriate Marketel's business model, which allegedly was provided in confidence approximately ten years ago. The third amended complaint also alleges that four former Marketel employees are the actual sole inventors or co-inventors of U.S. Patent 5,794,207, which was issued on August 11, 1998 and has been assigned to us. Marketel asks that the patent's inventorship be corrected accordingly...

    On February 1, 2001, the United States District Court for the District of California entered final judgment in favor of priceline, dismissing all of Marketel's claims with prejudice."

    Priceline v. Microsoft

    Priceline.com sued Microsoft and Microsoft subsidiary Expedia in U.S. District Court on October 13, 1999 in the U.S. District Court in Connecticut for alleged infringement of Priceline's '207 patent. Priceline filed an additional patent infringement suit against both parties on July 14, 2000. These lawsuits centered around Expedia's "Price Matcher" service pertaining to hotel rooms and airline tickets.

    Priceline's October 13, 1999 SEC 8-K form (referenced below) contains detailed information about the prior infringement suit pertaining to meetings and discussions between Microsoft and Priceline. According to this document, Microsoft and Priceline had discussed possible collaborative ventures in the summer of 1999.

    "During that conversation, Mr.Gates surprised Mr. Walker by informing him that Microsoft had no intention of allowing patent rights to stand in its way. Mr. Gates went on to say that many other companies were suing Microsoft for patent infringement and that priceline.com could, in effect, get in line. A few weeks following the discussion between Mr. Gates and Mr. Walker, Microsoft launched Expedia's Hotel Price Matcher service, which directly infringes priceline.com's '207 patent"

    Priceline attorney Evan R. Chesler commented in a Priceline press release incorporated into the SEC Filing that:

    "Even after Mr. Gates told Mr. Walker that Microsoft would not let priceline.com's intellectual property rights stand in its way, it was hard to believe that Microsoft would really act in that manner. Then, of course, its copycat hotel service was launched..."

    Priceline, Expedia and Microsoft settled the two patent infringement lawsuits in early January 2001, with Expedia agreeing to pay royalties for its "Price Matcher" service to Priceline.

    Also see:


  • Questions, comments and suggestions to Vergil Bushnell vbushnell@cptech.org

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