Amazon’s One Click patent has been an interesting point in the world of online payments. The technology allows customers to buy items online and checkout with one click. The mechanism of achieving this wasn’t the core of it all, rather the fact that Amazon was able to beat everyone else in being the first to apply for a patent. Therefore if anyone else tried to make internet payments simple they still had to pay Amazon handsomely to license the technology. The question that begs an answer is – was it fair to grant the patent?
Debate has raged on this subject and it would be fair to interrogate whether a clear description of how a certain technology or process is implemented is what should be protected under a patent or just the general idea. Maybe it’s time to review why we have patents and under what circumstances should they be granted.
Some may argue that markets are the only solution to spur innovation and invention. This forms part of what are called public goods which may not necessarily be consumable or tangible in the literal sense. The problem herein is that there is a tendency to attach the production of public goods to reward, absence of which decline in production will result. This is not always true. A good example would be limiting people from using Newton’s equations unless they pay for it. That would take away a lot of riches that would otherwise be available to the general public.
Some public goods can be produced by people who will just be happy to be acknowledged and not necessarily paid. But the general proposition would be to have a system of reward in order to optimize the amount of production.
In the process of creating a system of reward we will have to go back to innovation as a public good and then regard every aspect of it that requires effort – maybe not so much effort in the case of one click shopping – keeping in mind that it’s the first instance that matters and then if everyone is allowed to copy, our conclusion will be that no great effort will be applied to make it better.
The only working solution is therefore granting of patents, trademarks and copyrights where an inventor will charge others for using their innovation over a period of time for example the 17 years 1 Click patent has been generating income for Amazon. It may not be a perfect solution but as we all know no solution is perfect when it comes to economics.