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Amazon Patent Victories Threaten to Chill Consumer Reviews & Recommendation Engines

Media fragmentation and declining trust in traditional brand advertising have produced wide-scale acceptance of consumer generated media (CGM) strategies by major marketers. Moreover, the role of user-driven content has lurched into the forefront of social search technologies and local shopping applications embraced by Yahoo!, Google and MSN. This week, Amazon announced three new patent victories that provide the groundwork for lawsuits that constrict community recommendation systems in  e-commerce applications.

Specifically, the patents focus on three key social media functions. First, Amazon's "purchase circles" represent a venue for accessing the preferences of communities of interest, from hobbies to industry type. Second, multi-category search results enable marketers to expose consumers to related products and services based on search results. Third is the mechanism by which marketers can encourage customers to review and post online reflections on experiences with products and services.

Taken together, these patent victories could represent a significant threat to social search applications and marketing strategies that harness the power of Internet-based word-of-mouth promotion, co-creation of marketing communications, and long tail business models. The question is the degree to which Amazon exercises its right to defend these patents and the latitude granted by the courts examining the patents' language.

Related Coverage:
InternetNews.com, "Amazon Gets Patents on Consumer Reviews"
Red Herring, "Amazon Wins Patents"
Search Engine Journal, "Amazon Patents Consumer Reviews? Absurd!"


November 12, 2005 | Permalink


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