Patent Office to re-examine 1-Click

Amazon.com's patent faces more scrutiny after New Zealand actor raises questions over prior art.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decided to re-examine the validity of Amazon.com's patent for 1-Click online purchasing after a New Zealand actor claimed that another patent for the same process predates Amazon's.

Amazon's 1-Click enables customers with an existing account to purchase an item via a single mouse click. The patent was granted in 1998 but only became controversial last year, when Amazon went to court to stop rival bookseller Barnes & Noble from using a similar process for its own Web site.

In response to the complaint, the patent was upheld in November of last year, and Amazon was confirmed as the only Web site allowed to use the single-click feature.

Now actor Peter Calveley, who has experience in patent law and has appeared in small parts in films such as "The Lord of the Rings," has challenged the patent. In February, he wrote in his blog that the patent, as granted to Amazon, seemed "to cover a lot of ground" and would work better if it were "narrowed a bit."

Through his blog, Calveley has been able to raise more than $2,000 (1,060 pounds) to help cover the costs of his action. He has now persuaded the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to re-examine the case on the grounds that a patent for a similar technology was issued in March 1998--18 months before Amazon's.

Calveley had raised substantial questions about the appropriateness of Amazon's patent, according to the Patent Office.

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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