If frictionless online ordering is the Holy Grail of e-commerce, then Amazon’s U.S. patent on one-click ordering is its Excalibur. The company has been on the leading edge of many innovations in e-commerce (and could be taking the same path in the brick-and-mortar retail world) but perhaps no technology is as important to e-commerce reaching its potential as one-click ordering. Jeff Bezos and company realized it in 1997 when they applied for a patent that broadly protects any e-commerce transaction executed with one-click or action by a customer who has previously stored a validated payment method and shipping address with the retailer. That patent, granted in 1999, will expire during 2017 just as widespread one-click ordering becomes most important with the explosive growth of m-commerce. The company was unable to successfully secure a similar patent in Europe.
Any U.S. retailer that offers one-click ordering—notably Apple in its iTunes and App Store—currently does so under a license from Amazon. Presumably, when the patent expires, many U.S. retailers will implement one-click ordering. Their task could be easier as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Internet’s standards-setting body, has been working with tech and e-commerce industry titans like Google, Alibaba, Microsoft and others to develop online payment standards for browsers that could make one-click ordering widely available. Just as Amazon’s patent is expiring, the W3C said it expects wider review of its Payment Request API this month and hopes to begin testing and exploring merchant adoption issues as well.