Amazon’s U.S. patent for use of its one-click purchasing capability expires in September of this year, meaning that other retailers will be able to use the one-click function without having to license it from Amazon, according to Forbes.
The patent was granted in 1999, but applied for in 1997, and so-called “utility” patents expire 20 years after the patent filing date — in this case, Sept. 12, 1997.
The most notable licensee of Amazon’s one-click technology (which by some estimates has a multi-billion-dollar value attached to it) is Apple, which licensed one-click in 2000, and has used it on multiple products and services, including Apple Pay.
It's probably not going to be clear for quite a while how much, if anything, the expiration of this patent will mean to Amazon. A $2.4 billion valuation was associated with the one-click business back in 2012, but it's not clear how accurate that estimate was — and by the way, it's now 2017. Also, while the e-commerce giant earned a U.S. patent on one-click way back when, it never did receive a European patent on the capability, having seen its application denied.
Some percentage of Amazon customers (and Apple customers) certainly use the capability, which essentially leverages cards and payment account credentials stored with Amazon. However, it's not clear how many of those customers might buy something with one click at Amazon specifically because the capability is on that site and not other retailer sites.
Aside the certain effect of losing its grip on the one-click patent, Amazon may not have much to fear, as it has moved pretty far beyond one-click as a competitive edge. Judging by the timing of the patent filing, it was one of the first really great ideas the company had not long after its founding, but it has proved to be just one of many from from a company that has proven to be a relentless innovator (and relentless seeker of patents.)
If one-click did give Amazon a head start at winning the e-commerce era, it has managed to build on its early lead and take e-commerce in whole new directions by coming up with things like its Prime program and Alexa virtual assistant. If there is some urgency out there among other retailers to copy Amazon's inventions, one-click might not be the one the first one on their minds.