Saturday, November 10, 2007

Northeastern Univ. goes after Google over patent

In another story of non-manufacturing academics exercising their patent rights, Northeastern University in Boston is going after Google.

The Boston Globe reports:

Northeastern University and a start-up company cofounded by an associate professor have filed a patent-infringement suit against Google Inc., claiming that database technology patented in 1997 was misappropriated by the world's most popular Internet search service.

"This particular patent has to do with the fundamental database architecture, which they use to serve up every single result they serve to you," said Michael Belanger, president of Jarg Corp. in Waltham. Jarg is a privately funded developer of advanced search technology. The company was cofounded by Northeastern associate professor Kenneth P. Baclawski and holds an exclusive license to the patent, which is owned by Northeastern.

The asserted infringment was discovered in an interesting manner:

Though Google was incorporated in 1998, Belanger said he and Baclawski had no idea the company might be infringing the patent, until about 2 1/2 years ago. That's when a representative of a Boston-area law firm, which Belanger declined to name, told him of seeing a presentation by Google that described the company's Web search technology. The database search technique described in the presentation resembled Northeastern's patented technology, the law firm told Belanger. "When a law firm tells us that it's very likely that the Google architecture is the fundamental architecture on which our company is founded, we have a fiduciary responsibility to our investors to do something," Belanger said. He did further research and became convinced Google was using the patented technology. But the law firm that provided the original tip refused to take the case unless it was paid in advance, and Jarg couldn't afford the fees.

And, yes, there is a connection to ED Texas:

Belanger said it took him 2 1/2 years to find lawyers who would take the case on a contingency basis - meaning they only get paid if they win. On Tuesday, those lawyers filed suit against Google in US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall, a venue that specializes in patent cases.

According to the research firm LegalMetric, patent plaintiffs who sue in Marshall win 78 percent of the time. In addition, said Jay Sandvos, partner at Bromberg & Sunstein, an intellectual property law firm in Boston, the Texas court tends to issue higher-than-average financial awards to victorious plaintiffs. "If you're going to take on a contingency case, you want to feel you're going to get a big payoff," said Sandvos. "The Eastern District of Texas tends to be friendly that way."

Patent troll, or not?

See also


Post a Comment

<< Home