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.

Contact Sara Winge at sara@oreilly.com or 800-998-9938 x285, to schedule an interview with O'Reilly or to get more information.

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… To 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 computer science."

"…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."

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