Patent 7,702,540 (2-19-1999) was finally awarded to eBay after 11 years. It reads:
Computer-implement method and system for conducting auctions on the internetIf I wish to implement a simple online bidding process for items without all the bells and whistles (fixed price, etc.) is that in infringement of that patent?
Methods and apparatus for a system for facilitating electronic commerce transactions with a first data storage location for holding information about an item for auction from a first participant in a data packet network, a verification process that verifies the user identification of the first participant in said data packet network, the verification process confirming a user identification before allowing the participant in said data packet network access to place information about an item for auction in the system, a display process for displaying information of the item for auction to a plurality of data packet network users, the display process displaying an advertisement with the item for auction to the plurality of data packet users, an auction process for receiving bids on the item for auction from at least one of said plurality of data packet network users, the auction process also verifying a user identification from said at least one of a plurality of data packet network users before allowing receipt of the bid and a notification process for notifying the plurality of data packet network participants that said bid was accepted by said system.
Or do I have to wait until 2-19-2019 (or get a license from eBay). I'm guessing that a license for a small player like me would be way too expensive.
Obviously companies do get sued over patents, but it's rare that it is a smaller startup.
I wouldn't worry about it (not a lawyer)
You may also be surprised to know that patents are issued for things that aren't patentable. The US gov has given multiple people 'patents' on similar / same things... which once someone sues someone it comes to light during more detailed patent searches and they find someone who filed something sooner, or find 'prior art' to make that part of the patent void. I imagine the ebay one had been reviewed in quite some detail, but other patents are issued when another filed patent covers something similar.
5 words: talk to a patent lawyer. Good luck.
The legal power/teeth in a patent rest in its claims section. For this particular patent see these: http://www.google.com/patents/US7702540?printsec=claims#v=onepage&q&f=false