NY Times: Patently Absurd

[ Thanks to Steve
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

“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.)