More on Sustainable Competitive Advantages in Web 2.0

Some weeks back Dion Hinchcliffe made an interesting post regarding how businesses can make Web 2.0 a commercial success. He suggested one way this will be achieved is through sustainable competitive advantages such as patents. He touched on Amazon’s “One-Click” patent and I commented back:

Amazon’s “one click” patent has always blown me away…not so sure everyone will be able to pull that sort of thing off…congrats to Amazon. Smart. Smells like the Patent officers may have been asleep at the switch that day though. If too many patents are put through that influence/restrict “usability” like one-click, healthy competition online will be jeopardized. Yes I know this is the purpose of patents, but I hope the patent office gets wise to the ensuing effects of granting too many “usability” patents like “one click”. The real purpose of patents is to encourage R&D spending by giving the incentive of a sustainable competitive advantage to companies that INVEST in trying to find a “break through”. This usually costs a lot of money. Patents like “one click” (and I have NOT read the patent details) seem like legal artistry, not the result of real R&D investment. I’ll bet they spent more on legal bills than R&D for it, but again I have not read it so I could be dead wrong.

I just came across the VERY SCARY patents Amazon has secured. Like “One-Click”, I have not read the patents, but the gist of each is clear in the article:

The [first] patent covers methods of forming circles and marketing to them, for example, by showing one person looking at a book detail page and who else in the circle has bought that book. The second patent covers a method of discovering and delivering as search results related products from multiple categories, such as books written by Steve Martin, as well as DVDs of movies in which he appeared.The third patent is the real kicker. It covers methods for encouraging consumers to write reviews of items they’ve purchased by determining the optimal times to send them e-mails or reminders.

Again, these patents are scary in that they affect usability and general business process. On the bright side, I gather Amazon has had a hard time defending “One-Click” (feel the joy). Apparently Amazon sued Banes & Noble over it and lost. I wish that was more widely known because I think “One-Click” makes some developers refrain from building the best suites they can.

This is a little righteous, but I think Amazon ought to be ashamed for even trying to patent these things, and I am glad that the truth is they are having trouble defending these patents. I guess we’re still looking for the sustainable competitive advantages in Web 2.0

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