IBM sues Amazon.com over e-commerce patents

IBM is suing Amazon.com in a US court alleging that the online retailer infringes its patents. Two lawsuits have been filed in two different Texas courts, IBM said.

IBM says that Amazon.com's system is built on technology patented by it as long ago as 1990. The company says that it has tried to negotiate licensing deals with Amazon.com over a four-year period, but that Amazon.com rejected its attempts license the technology to it.

"Dating back to September 2002, IBM has notified Amazon.com numerous times of the infringement, but Amazon.com has shown no willingness to have meaningful discussions," said an IBM statement.

"We filed this case for a very simple reason. IBM's property is being knowingly and unfairly exploited," said Dr John Kelly, senior vice president of IBM Technology and Intellectual Property. "IBM is one of the world's leading creators of intellectual property. Everything we do is premised on the fundamental principle that IBM's intellectual property is one of our core assets, and represents the work product of tens of thousands of scientists and engineers and billions of dollars of investment."

Five IBM patents are in dispute, and they cover technology for "ordering items using an electronic catalogue", "storing data in an interactive network", and "presenting advertising in an interactive service", amongst other things.

IBM applies for more patents per year in the US than any other company, spending $6 billion a year on research and development and earning $1 billion a year in patent royalties.

IBM said that it would be seeking damages but did not specify how much. “When someone takes our property, without our permission through a license, we have no option but to protect it through every means available to us,” said Kelly.

"We believe that Amazon's entire business model is built upon these patents and that damages could be substantial," IBM spokesman Scott Brooks told the Reuters news agency.

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