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NY Times: Patently Absurd

Mar 12, 2000, 22:45 (2 Talkback[s])

[ Thanks to Steve Wainstead for this link. ]

"Once the province of a nuts-and-bolts world, patents are now being applied to thoughts and ideas in cyberspace. It's a ridiculous phenomenon, and it could kill e-commerce."

"When 21st-century historians look back at the breakdown of the United States patent system, they will see a turning point in the case of Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com and their special invention: "The patented One Click® feature," Bezos calls it."

"In ways that could not have been predicted even a few years ago, the patent system is in crisis. A series of unplanned mutations have transformed patents into a positive threat to the digital economy. The patent office has grown entangled in philosophical confusion of its own making; it has become a ferocious generator of litigation; and many technologists believe that it has begun to choke the very innovation it was meant to nourish."

"Last September Amazon received its patent, and instantly sued Barnes & Noble over its similar Express Lane. In December Amazon won an injunction..."

"The one-click injunction capped a burst of skirmishing in 1999 -- the start of what promises to become furious, wide-ranging courtroom warfare -- over who will control electronic commerce. As the year 2000 begins, few of America's e-commerce leaders are not targets of patent litigation. The battles will determine whether the essential tools and building blocks will continue to spread rapidly through the community of software designers and Internet pioneers, or whether they will be cordoned off as the private property of particular companies."

Complete story. (Free site registration required.)

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