Shoestring Theory

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eBay settles 7-year patent spat with MercExchange

March 2, 2008 at 2:05 pm by thetheorist

Buy It Now button
Looks like eBay has agreed to fork over some money to MercExchange and finally end the long patent battle over eBay’s “Buy It Now” feature. The San Francisco Gate is reporting:

As part of the agreement, eBay will buy three patents for e-commerce from its adversary, along with some additional assets. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In 2001, MercExchange, a tiny Virginia company, sued San Jose online giant eBay in federal court for allegedly infringing on its patents that allow consumers to buy products online for a fixed price. The case centered on eBay’s “Buy it now” button, a popular feature for shoppers who prefer to buy products outright rather than bidding in an auction.

It’s probably worth pointing out how the Bits blog at the New York Times described MercExchange:

Every big high-tech company, it seems, has at least one intellectual property adversary whose job is to harass the firm to the ends of the legal system, if not the earth itself.

For the e-commerce giant eBay, it was MercExchange, a Virginia-based intellectual property company whose business is asserting patent rights in courts against large companies.

If you really want to, you can read one of the patents here.

This patent essentially describes an auction run by a computer on the Internet, using a computer database, that “is terminated when the auction process reaches predetermined criteria.” Of course, it takes 16 pages to describe this in the patent.

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The Submit button may not be appearing or working correctly in IE6. I would suggest upgrading to IE7 or Firefox 2 for full functionality (I'm still looking for a solution to this if anyone knows one).

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 AtTheBat Mar 2, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    I’m hoping that there was seriously some more legal merit to the case than that little bit right there. Based on that quote, EVERY auction process would apply. That said, I don’t feel compelled to read through the 16 pages to try and find any additional substance.