The End of an Era: The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) Allows Amazon.com’s “One-click” Patent

Published January 12th, 2012

Following a recent Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) decision ordering Amazon.com’s “one-click” patent application to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) for expedited re-examination, CIPO has now issued notice that the application has been allowed.

Amazon’s patent application, entitled “Method And System For Placing A Purchase Order Via A Communication Network” (Canadian Patent Application No. 2,246,933), relates to a system and method for simplifying the online shopping process by storing a client identifier, known as a cookie, on the Internet user’s computer.  The user can subsequently purchase items with a single mouse click while still being immediately recognized by the server for security and payment purposes.  The “one-click” business model thus removes the need for the user to enter such information repeatedly.

The FCA’s decision accorded, for the most part, with the Federal Court (FC) decision on which the appeal was based.  However, whereas the FC had ordered the CIPO to expedite examination “with the direction that the claims constitute patentable subject matter,” the FCA ordered the application back to the CIPO to expedite examination “with a mind open to the possibility that a novel business method may be an essential element of a valid patent claim.”  Noting that the FC had construed the claim language of Amazon’s application in a literal manner, the FCA stated that claims of a patent application must be construed in a purposive manner when assessing whether claimed subject-matter meets the requirements of patentability under Section 2 of the Patent Act.  And, rather than embark on its own purposive construction, the FCA referred the task back to the CIPO.

Under the direction of the FCA, the application underwent expedited re-examination and, with the exception of a minor amendment to the description, was allowed without further amendment by CIPO on December 23, 2011.  Amazon shortly thereafter paid the final fee, and the patent will soon issue.

While many expected that the FCA’s decision would be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, the allowance of the application precludes this possibility.  With the CIPO apparently now having acquiesced to the purposive construction requirement, it is expected that a great deal of certainty will return to prosecution of patent applications in the business-method and computer arts.  As a result, it is expected that the backlog of patent applications that have been experiencing prosecution delays because they involve such subject matter will soon be significantly reduced.

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