Google Hits Back On Questionable Search Patent

from the our-patent-system-at-work dept

Back in November, we wrote about a rather bizarre patent lawsuit filed against Google. It concerned a patent held by a professor at Northeastern, named Kenneth Backlawski, and had to do with doing searches across a distributed database. The key point was that Backlawski himself didn't even think that Google infringed on the patent (which had been granted years earlier) until a patent attorney told him he should sue over it -- and even then it took two and a half years to actually find a patent attorney who thought the patent was worth suing over. Google has now struck back, claiming that the patent is clearly invalid and even if it was valid, the company isn't infringing. It also claims that Backlawski didn't file the suit in a timely manner, invoking the doctrine of laches, which is used occasionally in patent disputes, but is far from common. Basically, Google is throwing everything in the book at this patent. Once again, this is a clear example of how the patent system was not supposed to work. No one is accusing Google of "stealing" this idea or benefiting from the work done by Backlawski. The fact that Backlawski himself didn't even realize that Google potentially infringed on his patent is quite telling. It is clearly a case of someone trying to squeeze money out of a successful company, using a patent as the weapon of choice.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Jan 14th, 2008 @ 9:03pm

    Don't be evil !!!

    Whatever happened to that famous Google's slogan:
    "Don't be evil"

    It's just evaporated once the company reached the size of the tech behemoth

    Yeah, what else can you expect from a big infringer with deep deep pockets...
    The in-house legal councels just play the usual corporate patent infringement defence game:
    1. patent is invalid
    2. patent is not infringed upon
    3. patent holder defrauded PTO and/or the courts
    4. patent holder is a troll (the most recent argument)
    actually all of the 4 above at the same time...

    if you take time to browse PACER database it's kind of funny to see infringer's arguments before, during and after patent trials
    Actually, there is a standard discovery procedure (deposition of witnesses etc.) to answer all of the questions
    Until discovery is finished there is no 100% certainty if Google infringes or not - they haven;t released their source code to the public after all...

    "the fact that Backlawski himself didn't even realize that Google potentially infringed on his patent is quite telling"

    The only telling thing in the above sentence is that you are a clueless idiot Mikey ! (or an evil corporate stooge, which is worse)

    Big deal.... I am about to sue some foreign company for patent infringement and I am still not 100% certain that the court will find actual infringement of patent claims as written...
    First of all, you need to reverse-engineer the actual accused products, which is clearly impossible in this case because Google's search technology is on the server side
    In fact, it's never 100% percent, even after discovery.
    Patent claims are not absolute, just mere wording by the mortals trying to grasp the true essense of the invention... (I am talking about my patent here, not the junk owned by the likes of Google and MShit)
    Words can be wrong

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2008 @ 9:18pm

    Re: Don't be evil !!!

    Good luck with your patent on being an ass. Watch out for those lawsuits.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    nonuser, Jan 14th, 2008 @ 9:43pm

    I think I found prior art

    excerpt from RFC 1436 (The Internet Gopher Protocol) March 1993:

    3.7.2 Building full-text search servers

    A full-text search server is a special-purpose server that knows
    about the Gopher scheme for retrieving documents. These servers
    maintain a full-text index of the contents of plain text documents on
    Gopher servers in some specified domain... (snip)

    By using several index servers (rather than a monolithic index
    server) indexes may be searched in parallel (although the client
    software is not aware of this). While maintaining full-text indexes
    of documents distributed over many machines may seem a daunting task,
    the task can be broken into smaller pieces (update only a portion of
    the indexes, search several partial indexes in parallel) so that it
    is manageable. By spreading this task over several small, cheap (and
    fast) workstations it is possible to take advantage of fine-grain
    parallelism. Again, the client software is not aware of this. Client
    software only needs to know that it can send a search string to an
    index server and will receive a list of documents that contain the
    words in the search string.

     

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  4.  
    icon
    Ben (profile), Jan 14th, 2008 @ 10:46pm

    It's like the telephone ...

    He who gets to patent first wins. Bell patented the telephone. It had also been invented by (iirc) a German. Bell submnitted his patent first (and had the notes to prove his process or invention), and won.

    Just because Google, or Prof Baclawski, developed something does not give them the rights to it until they get it patented. Prof Baclawski got the patent; it is up to the courts to decide if (a) it was patentable [sufficiently new, prior art, obviousness, etc], (b) who actually should get the patent, and finally (c) is there infringement. I'm not even sure how Trade Secrets work into patent claims, but it is a business decision someone at Google had to have made, and may very well lose at a result of that decision.

    Also, my understanding of this specific case is that Northeastern University is part owner of the patent in question, and it/they are the ones pressing the patent suit; Prof Baclawski has to go along because his name is the top one on the patent.

     

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  5.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Jan 14th, 2008 @ 11:09pm

    Re: It's like the telephone ...

    He who gets to patent first wins.

    Actually, in the US, it's not a first to file system, but a first to invent. In most of the rest of the world, it's a first to file, but not in the US.

    However, that's not the argument here anyway.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Richard, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 1:57am

    Daft idea of patenting ideas

    Some of this comes down to the daft idea of patenting ideas. If you invent (make) a thing then you can patent it and that's fair enough but to patent a concept is just plain silly. The only people that really benefit from this are lawyers.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 2:10am

    These stories are sadly becoming so common place I'm sick of hearing about them.

    I'd actually prefer an in-depth article describing the reforms you think should be made to the patent system, in total, along with all arguments. I don't *think* you've done that, but I could be wrong as I only check the RSS feed every couple of days.

    And man, what is with you guys and attracting second rate trolls / knee-jerk asshats? Between Dorpus and angry dude it's a wonder some people don't get an anerism just from reading their garbage.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Alfred E. Neuman, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 5:33am

    Re: Don't be evil !!!

    I think AD forgot his meds today.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 5:45am

    Re: Don't be evil !!!

    "just mere wording by the mortals trying to grasp the true essence of the invention"

    Oh my god, did you just compare yourself to god?

    How about you tell us about this great patent that is so much better that the "junk" owned by Google and Microsoft. That way us mere "mortals" can understand what you’re so damn angry about.

    And why is it that just because a company gets to be a certain size it automatically becomes "evil"? Google isn't evil they are just trying to stop this guy from wrongfully taking their money. This guy wasn't just unsure if they were infringing, he didn't think it at all.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Jason Still, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 5:53am

    the best part...

    My favorite part of this is right here:

    The key point was that Backlawski himself didn't even think that Google infringed on the patent (which had been granted years earlier) until a patent attorney told him he should sue over it -- and even then it took two and a half years to actually find a patent attorney who thought the patent was worth suing over.

    Attorney: "Hey man, you should totally sue them over that!"
    Backlawski: "Oh, ok, let's do it I guess."
    Attorney: "Oh, well, you see....uh, you might not really have a case, so I don't think I can do it. But hey, I'm sure you can find someone who will. See ya!"

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 6:58am

    Re: Re: Don't be evil !!!

    Well, dude

    what can I tell you ?

    When you try to solve some very very hard problem a lot of other people failed to solve for many many years, you spend months and years of your life trying to find the right angle to look at the problem..
    Then one late night suddenly all the pieces fall into right places and you have what's called a true invention
    I'm not religious but this moment of epiphany definitely has something to do with God's will
    Of course, the useless punks like most of Techdirt readership will never understand how it feels to first come up with some wonderful new concept, a pure product of your imagination
    It's better than sex, dude

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 7:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Don't be evil !!!

    Surprise, surprise. I know that feeling but I don't patent it and I don't compare myself to god for having them. I use them to help my company get ahead. Everyone has that feeling at least once in their life. Some of us mere mortals are just more humble about it.

    You still haven't told us what your patent is. Who knows, maybe if you put that much work for that long into it then we may be on your side. Or it could be like the VoIP patent and blatantly, glaringly obvious.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Gruff, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 7:47am

    Re: Daft idea of patenting ideas

    The only people that really benefit from this are lawyers.

    Well, if you're a lawyer doesn't that make sense?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 8:47am

    Re: the best part...

    Idiot

    There are two kinds of patent attorneys: prosecutors and litigators

    While any of them can give you a qualified advice about patent infringement, you really need an experienced litigator with sufficient horsepower (deep enough pockets to sustain the fight for years) to after Google or another tech giant

    Do you homework punk

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Jason Still, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 9:17am

    Re: Re: the best part...

    Angry dude, I'll concede that it may be that he was told to sue by an attorney who wasn't of the type or didn't have the resources to do the deed (though at first glance the story sounds as I described, and I still think such a scenario is pretty amusing). See, some of us are civil and can admit to our own failings. Don't take that as any sort of vindication, though. I still think you're a belligerent tool.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Dan, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 1:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: the best part...

    "Yeah, what else can you expect from a big infringer with deep deep pockets..."

    So, immediately prior to saying that "there is no 100% certainty if Google infringes or not", angry dude automatically assumes Google's guilt based on...personal bias.

    angry dude apparently hates companies that have developed successful business models and are profiting from them. And when a poor college professor is informed that his broad method patent from 1997 may cover Google's search methods, well that obviously means that Google is a big, evil company that steals ideas from innocent people. What other possible conclusion could anyone make?

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: the best part...

    For your information, big tech companies DO steal ideas all the time, including stealing from each other...

    Whether Google is guilty or not will be established in the Court after completing all of the required legal procedures

    It is a common practice on this shitty blog to ALWAYS assume that patent holder is doing something inappropriate by suing a patent infringer

    Well, this is the Law of the Land
    Get used to the fact that patent gives you the right to sue the infringer

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    another mike, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 2:14pm

    lawyer types and laches

    I was wondering why Baclawski's first lawyer didn't take the case. I didn't know there were prosecuters and litigators; I thought they were all the same type of scum-sucking ambulance chaser.
    As for the laches defense, I can see that gaining sudden popularity in patent cases. If you think you have a case, sue quick before the infringing company grows and gets enough money to make it worth suing them.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 2:20pm

    Re:

    Abolish it.

    That is the best you can do with a patent system.

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    Dan, Jan 16th, 2008 @ 9:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: the best part...

    "It is a common practice on this shitty blog to ALWAYS assume that patent holder is doing something inappropriate by suing a patent infringer"

    And it seems to be your common practice to always assume that 'big tech companies' are at fault, regardless of the facts. Juvenile insults and unfounded claims also seem to be a fairly regular practice of yours as well.

    "Get used to the fact that patent gives you the right to sue the infringer"

    Actually, it gives you the right to sue the alleged infringer. I'm not questioning that right, I'm questioning the validity of the claim, and your condemnation of Google defending itself in your initial post.

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Jan 16th, 2008 @ 9:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: the best part...

    "And it seems to be your common practice to always assume that 'big tech companies' are at fault, regardless of the facts"

    Let's see...

    Outsourcing american tech jobs to cheap countries..

    Bringing hordes of dirt-cheap H1B folks from india and elsewhere into US to lower the salaries across the entire tech industry

    Stealing inventions from little guys left and right...

    Bribing US politicians to bail them out when they are actually sued by the little guys

    Who does all of it ?

    Dude, don't get me started...

    And you think that Google is somehow magically different form the rest of the crowd ?

    Maybe it was at some point.... long time ago...

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Dan, Jan 16th, 2008 @ 10:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: the best part...

    You do realize that's not really a defense of your position, right? For someone who is so fond of the "Law of the Land", there is nothing illegal about your first two points.

    "Stealing inventions from little guys left and right...

    Bribing US politicians to bail them out when they are actually sued by the little guys"

    And sometimes the 'little guys' are simply looking to make a quick buck from broad patents that should never have been issued in the first place. These 'little guys' that you seem to be so fond of aren't always the innocent, downtrodden inventors you make them out to be.

    In any case, you're attempting to justifying your bias with broad accusations against an entire industry, i.e. All big tech companies are evil, Google is a big tech company, therefore Google is evil. That's flawed logic at best, and lacking in any real evidence.

    I'm basing my opinion on my observation of the patent and the facts presented in the article, you've formed an opinion based on a personal bias.

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Jan 16th, 2008 @ 11:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: the best part...

    "All big tech companies are evil, Google is a big tech company, therefore Google is evil."

    Correct, more or less..

    it's a dog-eat-dog world by corporate design

    "...you've formed an opinion based on a personal bias."

    I've formed my opinion based on my own personal experience

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    Dan, Jan 16th, 2008 @ 11:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: the best part.

    Thank you. You've just made me realize why none of your arguments make any logical sense and are consistently lacking in evidence.

     

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

  25.  
    identicon
    anon, Apr 2nd, 2008 @ 11:44am

    You're all fucking douches. Mr. B is planning on donating all the monetary gains from the lawsuit to charity. Enough of that bull shit about milking money from corporate behemoths.

     

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


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