Amazon.com have suffered another setback in their struggle with the European Patent Office to get a European patent granted for their 'one-click' internet shopping invention (some history and commentary on the subject here and here).
Right: One click and they're yours
The original US application was granted as US5960411 back in September 1999, but Amazon have failed as yet to get anything similar granted at the EPO.
The original EP application (published as EP0902381) didn't seem to be getting anywhere, so Amazon decided to file a divisional application from this and then withdrew the original (which they were entitled to do). Effectively Amazon were relying on being able to keep the application pending for as long as possible, there being a faint possibility that their chances might improve in the future as more favourable caselaw developed in Europe. They also neatly sidestepped the issue of oral proceedings, scheduled to address the apparent failings of the application, which were automatically cancelled when the application was withdrawn. This was back in 2001.
Since then, the divisional application EP01113935.9 has slowly trundled through the same examining process, finally resulting in refusal after oral proceedings before the examining division, the minutes for which were published recently. One of the EPO's arguments against the application was that it was an "abuse of process" under Article 125 EPC. This did not, however, get very far in the proceedings, since the EPO did not follow the argument through with any enthusiasm, and merely stated that is was a "general principle that abuse of proceedings are not to be accepted", referring to the Spanish civil code, without coming to any conclusion.
As expected, Amazon lost anyway on more conventional grounds, the examining division deciding that they couldn't see any features in the various alternative requests submitted that provided a technical solution to a technical problem, the standard EPO test for assessing inventive step.
It seems inevitable that Amazon will appeal the decision, having gone this far (and presumably having spent a good deal of money). We could be waiting a little while longer though for any appeal to be heard and decided.
Merpel thinks that, the way things are going, both Amazon and the EPO are in danger of stirring up apathy in the whole process of getting European patents. If they could only speed things up and get this one-click thing over one way or another we could all move on to more interesting things.