The gift ordering patent
was granted by the European Patent Office in Summer 2003. This patent was created by dividing the European version of Amazon-One-Click
into two patent applications. The Amazon-1-Click patent had become famous in 1998, when Amazon used it to obtain an injunction against its competitor Barnes & Nobles during the chrismats season. By a FFII press release, the public took notice of the EPO's decision to grant a successor of the 1-Click patent in August 2003. Until then, the proponents of the EU Commission's software patents directive had regularly claimed that patents like "Amazon-1-Click" would be impossible in Europe. Besides the FFII, two more parties have filed opposition: the Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V.
and the flower delivery service Fleurop.
FFII's legal representative is Olaf Koglin of Lenhardt Rechtsanwälte.
André Rebentisch, press speaker of FFII, explains:
The patent system produces broad monopolies in combination with expensive administrative and judicial procedures. It has thereby created a paradise for patent professionals, who again promote the system by claiming that it benefits the economy as a whole. This claim has always been doubted and often negated by those economists who have endeavoured to subject it to scrutiny. When granting patents, at least special caution is needed. Increasing the number of patents by extending the invention concept
, as practised by the European Patent Office since the mid eighties, leads to a flood of harmful low-quality patents. Very many of the patents which the EPO has recently been granting are of similar breadth and triviality as the gift ordering patent of Amazon. Nowadays it is difficult to operate a webshop
without infringing European patents. In the USA, the Federal Trade Commission has, after intensive hearings, concluded
that software patents are damaging to innovation and competition. Claims to the contrary can be safely assumed to be empirically falsified. This is also the view of the European Parliament, which amended
the European Commission's software patent directive proposal last September. But patent professionals are pushing
governments and sectoral bodies to block the Parliament's decision. The European Patent Office is also persisting on its unfortunate path.
Hartmut Pilch, president of FFII, explains:
In the past, e.g. in the "Controlling Pension Benefits System"
decision, the European Patent Office has abused opposition procedings against trivial business method patents as an opportunity to extend the limits of patentability while at the same time killing the trivial patent in question. Especially a patent such as Amazon Gift Ordering is susceptible to such manoeuvres. The opposition of GI seems to point into that direction.
By our opposition we remind the board of the context of its action. A new call Appeal signed by politicians, entrepreneurs and organisations urges the European Patent Office to immediately stop the illegal granting of software and business method patents. When the president of the European Patent Office, Dr. Ingo Kober, was asked about this during a hearing in the European Parliament, Kober referred in his published written answer to the decisions of the technical board of appeals, which were not bound to his orders. Also national governments like to duck behind the Technical Boards of Appeals of the European Patent Office (EPO). It is time that we directly contact this de-facto patent legislator. The opposition procedure offers a good opportunity.
In our opposition we only referred to the valid law in the consistent interpretation given by case law and examination guidelines of the 80s or the European Parliament Vote of 2003. In contrast to the Pension Benefits doctrine the straightforward interpretation of the law gives a secure basis for withdrawing the contested patent as well as many other monopolies on algorithms and business methods framed in terms of general-purpose computing equipment.
The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) is a non-profit association registered in several European countries, which is dedicated to the spread of data processing literacy. FFII supports the development of public information goods based on copyright, free competition, open standards. More than 500 members, 1,200 companies and 75,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.