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One Year Ago: Embattled Bezos Calls for Patent Reform

By Rob Conlin
Mar 12, 2001 6:30 PM PT


Originally published on March 10, 2000 and brought to you today as a time capsule.

One Year Ago: Embattled Bezos Calls for Patent Reform

After enduring months of criticism over his company's protective patent policies, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos suggested Thursday that the United States undertake a fundamental retooling of the current patent system.

In an open letter posted on his company's Web site, Bezos said that he has received several hundred e-mails regarding Amazon's lawsuit against rival Barnesandnoble.com for alleged infringement of its 1-Click technology.

Bezos added that numerous discussions with a vocal critic and some meditation on the subject have convinced him that the current patent system could well hamper the growth of Internet business.

However, Bezos did stop short of pledging to alter Amazon's patent policies. "I strongly doubt whether our giving up our patents would really, in the end, provide much of a stepping stone to solving the bigger problem," he said.

Out of Barnesandnoble.com

Barnesandnoble.com spokesman Gus Carlson told the E-Commerce Times Friday that his company will likely not comment on Bezos' letter while the lawsuit is still pending.

Carlson said that Barnesandnoble.com is currently appealing a judge's December ruling issuing a preliminary injunction in favor of Amazon.com.

Amazon brought suit against Barnesandnoble.com in October, saying that its Express Lane e-commerce shopping feature infringed upon its patented 1-Click feature.

Carlson said Barnesandnoble has since installed its Express Checkout feature, which requires shoppers to click on an additional button to confirm an order. The feature is more "user-friendly," Carlson said, and was in development when Amazon filed the lawsuit.

Fewer Patents, Shorter Length

Bezos suggested that patent laws need to recognize that business method and software patents are fundamentally different from other kinds of patents.

He also suggested that the lifespan of patents be reduced from 17 years to three to five years, and that any change be implemented retroactively so that current patents do not stay out of the public domain for so long.

Bezos, who was named Time Magazine's 1999 "Man of the Year," said that business method and software patents warrant a public comment period before a patent is issued.

He added that he has proposed a meeting with key members of Congress and other industry leaders to discuss the issues.


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