I have no idea if this is for real, but apparently a Norwegian company, Bellboy International has a patent on Internet shopping which covers much of Europe.
The IBM patent database lists the patent as applied for in 1993 and covering the following countries: AT, BE, CH, DE, DK, ES, FR, GB, GR, IE, IT, LI, LU, MC, NL, PT, SE. It is referred to as a "method and system for ordering services" - a method to conduct real-time lookup and ordering over IT-networks or telephone systems.The company's lawyers are now expected to demand formal contracts and money from the entire Internet sector. Digi.no is covering the story here, and firstname.lastname@example.org has posted a partial translation on the Slashdot forum. You can see the relevant page in the IBM database here. "Norwegian Patent Number 17 98 88 describes a system that allows a user to view the delivery situation then order and subsequently get an order confirmation in realtime. Thus the patent covers most booking and trade systems on phonelines and the internet." This sounds pretty harsh if it turns out to be valid and enforceable. It has been suggested that the European Patent Convention could disallow the patent: "Methods of doing business are grouped with methods of performing mental acts and rules for playing games as being unpatentable", but regardless, the company is currently seeking money to support legal challenges against the patent which are likely to arise from the USA, Canada and Japan. I'm sure any additional news/viewpoints would be very much appreciated - especially by evolters in Europe.