February 29, 2000
Tim O'Reilly responds to Amazon's 1-Click and Associates Program patents in his "Ask Tim" column.
Tim O'Reilly, the Founder and CEO of Internet pioneer O'Reilly &
Associates, argues that Amazon's patents are bad for the Web, and in the
long run, bad for Amazon itself.
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A few excerpts from O'Reilly's response:
"In the first place, this patent should never have been allowed. It's
a completely trivial application of cookies, a technology that was
introduced several years before Amazon filed for their patent
characterize "1-Click" as an "invention" is a parody. Like so many
software patents, it is a land grab, an attempt to hoodwink a patent
system that has not gotten up to speed on the state-of-the-art in
a patent on something like "1-Click ordering" is a slap in the face
of Tim Berners-Lee and all of the other pioneers who created the
opportunity that Amazon has done such a good job of exploiting
Patents like this are also incredibly short-sighted! The web has
exploded because it was an open platform that sparked countless
innovations by users. Fence in that platform, and who knows what
opportunities will never come to light?"
the situation has gotten worse, since the patent office has also
granted Amazon a patent on their Associates program. They haven't yet
tried to enforce this patent against their competitors, but if what
they've done with 1-Click is any sign of their intentions, I imagine
that it's only a matter of time unless their customers and suppliers
speak out about their reckless behavior."
And, in an email to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, O'Reilly says:
"In short, I think you're pissing in the well. Patents such as yours
are the first step in vitiating the web, in raising the barriers to
entry not just for your competitors, but for the technological
innovators who might otherwise come up with great new ideas that you
could put to use in your own business
.You've gained enormous
competitive advantage by making use of technologies that were freely
given to the world. If players like yourselves succeed in replacing
that gift economy with a dog-eat-dog world in which everyone tries to
keep their advances to themselves, and worse, tries to keep others from
replicating them, you'll soon find yourself either spending a larger
and larger part of your budget on developing your own technology, or
more likely, you'll find yourself hostage again to commercial software
vendors whose interests may not be aligned with your own."
O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.
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