The Latest Patent Suit Against Google

from the just-noticed,-huh? dept

One thing you can be sure of in the technology world today is that if you're even remotely successful, someone somewhere will attack you for patent infringement. Google has certainly been on the receiving end of more than its fair share of such cases, and the latest one seems particularly bizarre. Based on patents held by a computer science professor at Northeastern University, Kenneth Baclawski, the lawsuit claims that Google has been violating the patent pretty much for its entire existence. Northeastern owns the rights to the patents and is a part of the lawsuit with a company named Jarg, who has licensed the patents from the University. Baclawski claims to have 10 patents, which you can find here. The one that seems likely to be at the center of this lawsuit is on a distributed computer database system and method.

What's odd, of course, is the fact that the lawsuit is just occurring now, so many years after Google has been widely known. The story that is being spun is that Baclawski and the president of Jarg, Michael Belanger, had no idea that Google might be infringing until an unnamed Boston patent attorney contacted them and pointed it out (after hearing a presentation on how Google works) in 2005. Of course, that was still quite a while ago, and the company explains that away by saying that they didn't want to pay a lawyer upfront and it took all this time to find one who would sue (in Marshall, Texas, of course) on contingency. However, as one patent attorney notes: "I find it equally unbelievable that it took them 2.5 years to find a contingency lawyer to take the case. Unless the patent is really crappy...." Indeed, with the number of patent lawsuits being filed these days on contingency (many of which would appear much weaker than this one), it seems hard to believe it would take so long.

Either way, this is yet another perfectly good example of how the patent system is not supposed to work. No one is accusing Google of somehow "stealing" this idea by seeing the patent and building it themselves. No one even seems to be saying that this is central to the company's success (the fact that the inventor himself didn't even think Google was infringing until after a patent attorney pointed it out is pretty telling here). Yet, now Google is being sued for supposedly infringing. In other words, this is clearly a case where even if there is infringement (and that may be questioned) it's quite clear that Google developed their own version independently, and Google's success has nothing to do with Jarg or Baclawski. While independent invention is (for reasons that still don't make any sense) not a valid defense to infringement claims, it still seems ridiculous to think that Google caused any kind of "damages" to this other firm (or Northeastern) at all. The patent system is supposed to spur innovation. Google clearly did innovate and did so in a big way totally independent of this patent. To then punish the company goes against the very principles of the patent system.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Le Blue Dude, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 11:42am

    Burn down the patent office and destroy their file

    Well, at least that should help. They'd have to refile them all. Under new laws, hopefuly. Do you know how many patents there are for systems to throw out bad patents?

    There's apparently a reason the gov isn't doing it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    I like Mike, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 11:52am

    "While independent invention is (for reasons that still don't make any sense) not a valid defense to infringement claims..."

    Tell that to Apple when they sued M$ for infringement on Apple's GUI. M$'s defense was that while it had the same 'look & feel' they independently developed their own GUI. Seems to me these guys will be hard pressed to prove Google 'stole' their patent. But then again, since the patent office lets you file an idea for an invention Google may just have to pay these guys to go away.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Kevin, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 12:04pm

    Look and feel

    But if I recall correctly, Apple did not win their case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Nov 12th, 2007 @ 12:28pm

    Re:

    Tell that to Apple when they sued M$ for infringement on Apple's GUI. M$'s defense was that while it had the same 'look & feel' they independently developed their own GUI.

    That was a copyright suit, not a patent suit, where the defenses are quite different...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    I like Mike, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 12:35pm

    Thanks

    Thanks for the heads up on Apple vs M$. Maybe Apple would have more luck on the patent front.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  

    Decisions, decisions.

    So now Google is confronted with the same question every deep pocket company is faced with when sued. Is it cheaper to settle now or do we want to defend our rights to the end regardless of the cost?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    teknosapien, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 6:00pm

    funny

    The diagrams look a lot like the architecture of an OpenVMS system, maybe a ported idea at best?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Avatar28, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 6:25pm

    Apple vs MS was settled anyways

    The case never made it to judgement anyways. It ended up being settled (in Microsoft's favor) via a patent that Apple had apparently already licensed to MS.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Alfred E. Neuman, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 6:36pm

    Just curious ...
    How does east texas come up with a jury of peers for such cases ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    T, Nov 13th, 2007 @ 9:11am

    The plaintiffs are using the legal system as a lottery.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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