Appeals Court Hands Barnes & Noble.com a Legal Victory over Amazon.com

A federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned a preliminary
injunction granted by a lower court judge in Seattle in December
1999 prohibiting Barnes & Noble.com from using one-click
shopping technology that allegedly infringed on arch-rival
Amazon.com’s online shopping tool.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
found, after careful review, “that BN has mounted a substantial
challenge to the validity of the patent in the suit.”

“Because Amazon.com is not entitled to preliminary injunctive
relief under these circumstances, we vacate the order of the
district court that set the preliminary injunction in place and
remand the case for further proceedings,” the Circuit Court wrote
in an unusually harshly worded ruling.

But Amazon.com officials were quick to counter that Wednesday’s
ruling “in no way resolves the ultimate question of validity” of
the patented technology. The online book reseller remains confident
that its one-click patent is valid.

The case involves a patent for one-click shopping technology
that was awarded to Amazon.com on Sept. 29, 1999. On Oct. 21, 1999,
Amazon.com sued Barnes & Noble.com for allegedly infringing on
the technology with its “Express Lane” feature, which refers to
single-action ordering of items in a client/server environment such
as the Internet. In its case, Amazon documented the development of
the “shopping cart model” purchase system for electronic commerce
purchasing events.

U.S. District Court Judge Marsha J. Pechman for the Western
District of Washington granted injunctive relief in December 1999
barring Barnes & Noble from using what Amazon.com termed its
“copycat version.”

“What this means is that the case goes back to trial,” said Gus
Carlson, BN spokesperson. “Because the case is ongoing, our policy
is to not give further comment at this time.”

In official statement released by BN, the company had this to

“We are pleased with the ruling today, and gratified by the
court’s statement that BarnesandNoble.com ‘raised substantial
questions as to the validity’ of the one-click patent. We believe
the ruling validates our position that the allegations brought
against us by Amazon.com are completely without merit and we will
continue to vigorously defend our position when the case is
returned to the trial court.

“We have said throughout this case that we do not intend to sit
back and allow Amazon.com to stake a claim upon any technology that
is widely used. Allowing them to do so abridges our rights as a
leader in e-commerce, but more important limits the choices of
customers. We consider the customer, not the retailer, to be at the
heart of e-commerce,” the company said.

The trial is currently scheduled for September 10, 2001 in
Seattle, WA.

By Carol King, InternetNews.com

Michael Chait, associate editor of
seattle.internet.com, contributed to this article.

Get the Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Developer Insider for top news, trends, & analysis