Article March 17, 2016


E-retailing behemoth Amazon is well known for filing funky, if somewhat controversial patents: in 1999 it was granted a patent for “one-click” purchases which became the subject of much litigation and opposition. The patent survived these challenges, albeit in a somewhat narrower form, and is currently licensed to Apple, Inc. and Barnes & Noble.

Amazon now seeks to patent a process that would allow users to make a purchase by taking a photo or video of themselves, rather than using a password. The company already holds a patent that allows devices to authenticate a user via photo or video, the novelty of this latest application is that it links this authentication process to the completion of a transaction.

Facial authentication technology is of course nothing new – an existing Windows product, imaginatively dubbed “Hello”, already allows users to sign into Surface Book devices using their face alone. Whether Amazon’s linking of this type of established technology to an online purchase will be considered novel enough to warrant patent protection remains to be seen.
With companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Apple piling in to this new technology space, it seems only a matter of time before we are all winking, smiling and grimacing at our phones in order to prove we are who we say we are. Good for security perhaps, but it will make the morning commute on a busy train just that little bit more awkward.

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