In the 1960s and 1970s, the great thinkers of the day worried about what would happen if Dr. Strangelove had a nervous twitch and pushed the Doomsday button. Today, their apocalyptic scenarios feature a different type of twitch and what it means for electronic commerce.

While customers of Amazon.com, Inc., can order a book with a single mouse click, those of Barnesandnoble.com LLC must click twice to buy the same book. The reason is that Amazon.com has a patent on one-click shopping on the Internet and won a court ruling barring its chief rival from using the method.

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