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VNU Net: Developers threaten to boycott Amazon.com

By John Geralds, VNU
Net

Thousands of software developers are threatening to boycott
Amazon.com after the online bookseller angered them by suing rival
Barnesandnoble.com over an alleged patent infringement.

Amazon sued its competitor in October last year for allegedly
copying its 1-Click feature, which enables consumers to shop
without going through multiple steps or needing to re-enter their
shipping and billing information each time they buy. Amazon alleges
that Barnesandnoble.com’s Express Lane facility is based on its
patented technology.

But talks are now taking place between Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s
founder and chief executive, and Tim O’Reilly, president of
technical book publisher, O’Reilly & Associates, who is leading
the charge against the giant etailer.

O’Reilly wrote to Bezos expressing his concern that the
company’s decision to sue Barnesandnoble.com would stifle the
further development of ecommerce. He also asked the company to stop
enforcing the patent.

“It is our belief that this patent was granted without adequate
review of prior art, and further, that even were it ultimately
found valid, such broad patents serve only to hold back further
innovation,” O’Reilly wrote.

When he didn’t receive a reply from Bezos, he asked supporters
to sign a petition and received 10,000 responses in five days
before closing the drive.

While many of the signatories are clamouring for a boycott,
O’Reilly appears to be holding back. While the petition
brought Bezos to the table, O’Reilly seems to be holding the
petition threat as an ace card.

Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software
Foundation and one of the original developers of what became the
Linux operating system, has urged the boycott to go ahead,
however. He fears Amazon will use a series of follow-up suits
to suppress internet commerce.

But in Bezos’ view the 1-Click technology is patentable, not
because of how it is implemented, but because of how it changed
ecommerce from a shopping cart to a one simple click model, and
because the idea was innovative when it was introduced.

Bezos also explained that the move against Barnesandnoble.com
was a defensive one, noting that by retail standards his company
was small, while Barnes and Noble was huge and could put Amazon.com
out of business. “We don’t want to be another Netscape,” he
said.