E-commerce players think they've heard last of patent seeker

Local e-commerce companies are hopeful that they've seen the last of DE Technologies, the Canadian firm that tried to claim licensing fees from New Zealand e-tailers last year, but the company's CEO says the matter will be resolved by the courts.

Local e-commerce companies are hopeful that they’ve seen the last of DE Technologies, the Canadian firm that tried to claim licensing fees from New Zealand e-tailers last year, but the company’s CEO says the matter will be resolved by the courts.

DE Technologies contacted about 15 local retailers and hosting firms in June last year suggesting they were infringing against its e-commerce patent and asking for licensing fees.

The convenor of InternetNZ’s patent advisory group, Jim Higgins (pictured), says he doubts DET will try to enforce its patent.

“It’s something that we’re thinking has probably gone away,” he says. “We presumed that they were not exactly scared off, but possibly decided that it wasn’t worth the effort.”

DET set a deadline in July last year for businesses to respond to its licensing claim, but Higgins says he’s not aware of any communication from DET or its lawyers since then.

The patent advisory group was set up to warn the industry about potential issues from patents such as DET’s e-commerce patent and Amazon.com’s application to protect its controversial “one-click” process. The group has created the Patent Watch website for notification and discussion of potentially awkward patents.

Discussion has largely moved on from DET’s patent, which “will never stand up in court,” Higgins says. “I would be really surprised if we hear anything from them.”

However, DET says it intends to collect. In an email to Computerworld, chief executive Ed Pool says the licensing claim will be resolved by “the proper judicial authorities”.

“Indeed by the actions of parties engaged in piracy and infringement we are left no other recourse,” Pool says, adding that “infringers and pirates” would be held legally accountable.

Richard Shearer, CEO of e-commerce host WebFarm, is unfazed. “We think it was a bit of a fishing expedition and they seem to have gone away,” he says.

Shearer is sceptical that DET could convince a court that its patent has been infringed. “We did confirm during our review of the patent that you do need to be infringing all elements of the patent, not just one.” He doubts any local website would be affected.

However, the DET saga has alerted the industry about patent issues, Shearer says.

“I think a couple of things have been really good about this. Firstly, that the industry can work together when it needs to, and I think that’s great that people can cast aside their differences and work together.

“The second thing is the Patent Watch site. Previously, it hadn’t been in my job description that I had to prepare for patents. Now it appears that it is.”

James & Wells, the legal firm that sent letters for e-tailers on DE Technologies’ behalf, refused to comment on DET’s intentions.

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