Latest Amazon Lawsuit Hypocritical?

Last Thursday, Amazon.com filed suit against barnesandnoble.com in U.S. District Court, alleging that its online book-selling rival illegally copied and implemented a patented shopping feature.

This legal action comes only a week after priceline.com filed a similar suit against software giant Microsoft Corp., claiming that Microsoft’s Expedia.com Internet travel service subsidiary violated priceline’s name-your-own-price hotel reservation patent.

Both companies’ suits are centered around patent infringement, but Amazon.com is trying to get an immediate and permanent court-ordered halt to barnesandnoble.com’s use of a copycat version of its 1-Click feature.

Patent Granted Last Month

Amazon.com officials said that the patent on this feature, which allows customers to shop without having to re-enter their shipping and billing information every time they buy, was just granted last month.

In a statement, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos cried foul. “We spent thousands of hours to develop our 1-Click process, and the reason we have a patent system in this country is to encourage people to take these kinds of risks and make these kinds of investments for customers,” Bezos said.

No Sympathy For Bezos

Last week, in this very space, I expressed sympathy for priceline.com with the proviso that the patent infringement charges against Microsoft be upheld in court.

But I don’t feel one bit sorry for Amazon.com.

Why?

Amazon is the same company that finally settled out of court in April after being sued by retailing giant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. for stealing its trade secrets.

In Wal-Mart’s suit, it alleged that Amazon.com had recruited its employees and business partners in order to copy the discount chain’s computer system.

The Settlement

In response, Amazon.com filed a counter-suit, accusing Wal-Mart of inhibiting its employees’ ability to look for work elsewhere. However, according to published reports, Amazon.com agreed to reassign at least one former Wal-Mart employee as part of an out of court settlement. Additionally, it limited the job responsibilities of the other former Wal-Mart employees it had hired.

Still, the thing that really grabbed me about the settlement was that Amazon agreed to have those employees return any Wal-Mart property they still had. No matter how innocent they may be of Wal-Mart’s accusations, it just didn’t look good.

Amazon Protests Too Much

The fact of the matter is that the Wal-Mart settlement speaks so loudly, it’s difficult to hear the words Bezos is mouthing.

After all, how can he blame other companies for trying to acquire and use its successful techniques if Amazon.com has appeared to have done much the same?

Isn’t that called hypocrisy?

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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