Friday, January 04, 2008

E-Business Patent Infringement Cases: Complex Issues to Unravel

Certainly, Google has already earned its place in history as the most-sued Internet Company. Every novel intellectual property ("IP") cause of action has been filed against the search engine giant. First, we witnessed the copyright infringement round. Google has been sued for every type of copyright infringement on thumbnails, meta-tags, keywords, etc. Concomitant with these copyright infringement lawsuits, Google was also accused of trademark violations in keywords, sponsor links, etc. Now, it is the time for the e-business patent round. Google was sued for business patent infringement and, like in most of the other IP lawsuits, it was triumphant (well, partially) this time.

A United States Court of Appeals recently held that Google is not liable for patent infringement when it uses two methods that link online records and provide users with relevant web pages. The plaintiff, Hyperphrase Technologies, LLC, and Hyperphrase, Inc. ("Hyperphrase"), held two business patents related to some systems and methods that linked online records. The technical process used by these systems and methods is similar to the one used by Google through its "AdSense" and "AutoLink" methods. "AdSense" is an advertising method used by Google that combines the advertiser's content with contextually related websites. AutoLink is an online application incorporated into people's computer browser that that helps Google identify relevant web addresses and information according to some ‘string of characters' that they call tokens. Hyperphrase claimed that Google violated its online linking and patented methods through the use of "Autolink" and "AdSense."

"We're very pleased that the Federal Circuit agreed that AdSense does not infringe any of Hyperphrase's patents. We continue to believe the remaining claims in the lawsuit are without merit, and will vigorously defend against those claims," Michael Kwun, Google's managing counsel for litigation, recently said after the US Court of Appeals held (on December 26, 2007) that Google's ‘AdSense' did not infringe on Hyperphrase's patent. Yet, the case was remanded as to Google's business patent infringement with respect to the use of "Autolink" system.

This intriguing case so far has two significant juridical teachings. First, we learned that business patents and its electronic use are slowly but steadily becoming the object of intellectual property litigation. For the time being, this litigation is centered at a domestic level; but, the legal community must be vigilant of how transnational litigation and jurisprudence on e-business patents evolves. Second, we also learned that business patents, especially e-business patents, create extremely complex litigation cases. E-business patent infringement cases involve highly technical computer methods and systems (some related to mathematical equations) and sharp legal and semantic analysis. In other words, computer/business science and sophisticated legal reasoning merge when dealing with a business patent case.

No comments: