The patent that helped Amazon dominate global e-commerce will expire next week, enabling other online retailers to deploy similar features on their platforms.
If you’ve ever bought anything on the internet with just one click over the past 20 years, it was probably Amazon.com that you were shopping on, or a retailer that paid Amazon a license fee to use its patented trademark “1-Click” technology.
Undoubtedly one the smartest moves Amazon has ever made was to patent its 1-Click purchasing system, enabling customers with pre-loaded credit card details and shipping information to complete a purchase with one single click.
Amazon filed its patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 1997 and in September 1999 it was granted its 1-Click patent for a period of 20 years. In 1999 Amazon famously sued Barnes & Noble for using the one click feature on its website it called “Express Lane”. Amazon ultimately won an injunction that forced the US book retailer to add more steps to its online payment process.
The patent not only gave Amazon exclusive run on one of the most popular e-commerce features ever, it revolutionised the online shopping experience for the customer, while also allowing it to license the 1-Click system to other retailers.
In 2000, Apple, for example, announced that it was licensing 1-Click technology for its online store: “A new version of Apple’s Online Store featuring 1-Click shopping went live today, and all products sold on The Apple Store™ can now be purchased with the 1-Click feature.” Apple went on to license the technology on its iTunes app following this. Until this month, Apple has paid Amazon a rather large sum of money to use its patented technology.
Amazon’s 1-Click patent will expire on 12th September 2017, giving online retailers free reign to use 1-Click technology without the need to go through and pay Amazon for this – the e-commerce giant is about to lose its competitive edge it has basked in for so long with this patent.
One click technology is seen as such a major asset to the world of e-commerce with many leading companies working on their own versions. Google, for example, started working on its version last year for its Chrome browser with other browser and tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft expected to follow suit and roll their systems out immediately after the patent expires.
But while Amazon is losing its 1-Click edge, it has been busy carving out other edges. The company has spent billions on its fulfillment and logistics capabilities to position itself at the forefront in fast delivery. As consumers increasingly demand quicker shipping, Amazon will benefit from its early investment in this area.
Amazon’s 1-Click-lured customers have without a doubt helped the company garner a tonne of brand loyalty. The company’s early adoption of its loyalty membership program Amazon Prime is another area of commerce envied by most retailers.
Amazon continues to patent its ideas, including mother zeppelin warehouses hovering over urban developments, drone towers and talking drones – these not granted as yet, but others with the promise of issue. Amazon’s patent application that references RFID (radio frequency identification) technology could be a game changer for omnichannel retail challenges, ensuring inventory management of online and in-store is seamless.
Perhaps while innovation is key, ownership of that innovation could be ground breaking. While the 1-Click technology isn’t revolutionary in itself, as any novice computer programmer can code a system to enable purchasing something with one click – the big innovation here was not building the system itself but rather Amazon’s decision to apply for a patent on it.