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.