Amazon.com has slapped a lawsuit on Barnesandnoble.com, which accuses its rival of copying a shopping feature on its Web site.
Amazon claims that Barnesandnoble "meticulously copied" its 1-Click feature, which enables consumers to shop without going through multiple steps or re-enter their shipping and billing information each time they buy. Amazon alleges its competitor's Express Lane facility is based on the firm's patented technology.
1-Click was introduced onto Amazon's Web site in September 1997, while Barnesandnoble's Express Lane has been available since May 1998.
In its suit Amazon argues: "The uniqueness and consistency of the experience consumers encounter using the Amazon.com site is crucial to Amazon.com's ability to successfully expand its business. The 1-Click feature is one of Amazon.com's signature strategies for differentiating itself."
But Barnesandnoble issued a statement denying the allegations and claiming the lawsuit was a "desperate attempt to retaliate for our growing market share".
It continued: "Traffic to our Web site was up substantially today because of the publicity. We thank our competitor for the incremental sales."
But analysts believe that this lawsuit and a similar one filed by Priceline.com, which accused Microsoft of copying its auctioning facility, could have a significant impact on the development of ecommerce.
Zona Research said that such innovations, which are intended to make online purchasing simpler, could be stifled due to fears of copyright infringement. In a bulletin on Amazon's lawsuit, it said: "The distinction between a technology or product and that of a customer service or buying behaviour is blurred. Blurred vision causes accidents."
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