Online Retailer Amazon Scores Victory in Canadian Patent Case

What had become a court case that took over ten years to resolve ended Oct 14 with the online giant emerging victorious. In 1998, Amazon filed to patent its one-click shopping method, which enables users to shop online quickly and efficiently by saving customers’ personal information such that they don’t have to re-enter it in subsequent purchases.

While the online retailer successfully patented one-click shopping in the United States, it encountered opposition in Canada. Canada’s Commissioner of Patents denied the patent application on the grounds that a business method could not be patented under Canadian law.

Amazon subsequently appealed the commissioner’s decision in a federal court. According to a recent article, Justice Michael Phelan ruled that business methods could indeed be considered patentable material under certain circumstances. The commissioner justified her initial decision to deny the patent application by invoking the patent guideline that requires the invention or technology to be “the change of character or condition in a physical object.” Phelan noted that the commissioner had inordinately emphasized the “physical” component in her decision to deny the application, arguing that what makes an invention patent-eligible above al is its innovative practical applications and commercial usefulness.

Phelan moreover castigated the commissioner for deferring to U.K and European patent law, which, he asserted is based on exclusions whereas Canadian, Australian, and American patent law primarily hinges its patent regulations on the definition of invention.

While it is as yet unclear how Phelan’s decision might affect innovation and litigation in Canada in the future, it is possible and expected that the commissioner will file to appeal the decision. A Toronto Sun article reported on the story, quoting University of Ottawa law professor Michael Gist, who stated, “There are those that want to see that happen, who argue it can be helpful from an innovation perspective. There are many others who disagree. What they see is abuses of the patent system in the U.S.”

Judge Phelan’s full decision on the case can be found here in PDF format.


This guest post is contributed by Olivia Coleman, who writes on the topics of online colleges and universities.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: olivia.coleman33

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