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Just recently, a controversial United States patent expired 20 years after the application underlying the patent was filed. The patent was granted in 1999 to Amazon, a company then in its infancy, and covered the “1 click” method of online order placement which has become so familiar on the Amazon website. Other websites may be using this ordering technique, but they are licensing it from Amazon under the patent.
Now the technology described in Amazon’s U.S. Patent No. 5,960,411 will enter the public domain and be free to be used by anyone without having to seek a license from Amazon. The methodology protected by the Amazon patent is typically referred to as a business method.” Patent protection for business methods has become much more controversial since the Amazon patent was issued and there is some debate as to whether the patent granted almost 20 years ago would have been allowed under the current state of the patent law. Nevertheless, the Amazon patent has resisted legal challenges over the years and only the passage of time ended its protection of the technology first implemented by Amazon on its website.
Most importantly , Amazon also has a U.S. federal registration for as a service mark which continues in effect and theoretically could remain in effect forever. Trademark and service mark registrations, unlike patents, can be repeatedly renewed as long as the owner of the mark continues to make use of the mark in commerce.
Originally published by Jeffrey Proehl for the Sioux Falls Business Journal
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