A US company has sued Microsoft for allegedly infringing two search engine patents that a jury fined Google and AOL for infringing last year.
I/P Engine alleges Microsoft’s Bing has breached the patents covering the way search engines filter and then place high-quality adverts, highlighting Bing’s ‘quality score’ service, which calculates the relevance of key words to potential customers.
In the suit filed on January 31 at the US District Court Southern District of New York, non-practising entity (NPE) I/P Engine has demanded a jury trial and damages for past and current alleged infringement.
I/P Engine is a subsidiary of Vringo, which employs the patents’ inventors Andrew Lang and Donald Kosak. The men had worked with search engine Lycos when creating the inventions, which Lycos then sold to I/P Engine in 2011.
The NPE claims Microsoft knew of the ‘420 patent when litigating nine of its patents and the ‘664 patent when prosecuting 11 of its patents.
The suit adds: “Microsoft learned of the ’420 and ‘664 a second time when I/P Engine received a jury verdict for patent infringement against Google’s search advertising system on November 6, 2012 in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.”
In November 2012, a US court awarded I/P Engine $30 million in damages for Google, AOL and other smaller search engines’ infringement of the same disputed patents. The company had been seeking as much as $500 million in damages.
In the most recent case, I/P Engine alleges Microsoft wilfully infringed both patents but has not specified the amount of damages it should receive. If a court finds in favour of wilful infringement, it can triple any damages that it awards the plaintiff.
The dispute is likely to shed more light on the contentious behaviour of NPEs, known pejoratively as ‘patent trolls’, which license and enforce their patents but do not sell products.
On the one hand, defenders of NPEs say they are rightfully enforcing legally-granted patents. Critics argue, however, that the companies make spurious demands that lead to nuisance litigation.
Neither company has responded to requests for comment. The case is available here.
This article was first published on 11 February 2013 in World IP Review
microsoft, bing, google, aol, i/p engine