IBM filed two infringement lawsuits for five patent violations against Amazon. The patents in question include online product recommendation schemes and other features Amazon uses at the foundation of its business, some of which IBM says it developed as early as the 1980s. IBM has approached Amazon since 2002 to reconcile the alleged infringement through licensing–which several other companies do.
From the WSJ:
The patents at the center of the dispute are broad, and IBM alleges they cover parts of Amazon’s elaborate product-recommendation system. That system shows customers products related to the one they’re looking at, and also shows them other products purchased by like-minded customers. The patents also cover the way Amazon displays advertising on its site to match customer preferences, and how the retailer stores shopping data to build customer profiles.
“Given that time frame, these are very fundamental inventions for e-commerce and how to do it on the network,” said John E. Kelly, IBM’s senior vice president for intellectual property. “Much, if not all, of Amazon’s business is built on top of this property.”
…IBM received 2,941 U.S. patents in 2005, for the 13th year more than any other company.
Amazon’s relationship with patents has been more heavily contested; the company’s patent of the “one-click” checkout method in 1999 was famously derided as overly broad and obvious. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is re-examining that patent.