Friday, May 30, 2014

Appeal Court Affirms District Court Favoring Google over Snippet Technology

Case Filed: May 07, 2013

Case Closed: May 27, 2014

Origin Case: 1:12-cv-00625

Case Summary:
Bridgewater, New Jersey-based company, Suffolk Technologies filed case against Google and AOL accusing them of infringing two BT patents that have been assigned to Suffolk. The patent infringement suit concerned the use of "snippet" technology by Google and AOL where a customized summary is generated for a person conducting a search on the Internet. The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia in Jun 2012.

The patents involved in the suit were:
  •      US6081835 entitled ‘Internet server and method of controlling an internet server,’ issued on Jun 27, 2000 and expires* by Apr 04, 2016
  •        US6334132 entitled ‘Method and apparatus for creating a customized summary of text by selection of sub-sections thereof ranked by comparison to target data items,’ issued on Dec 25, 2001 and expires* by Apr 16, 2017

The patents are currently assigned± to Suffolk Technologies and were originally issued to British Telecommunications Plc. (source: MaxVal’s Assignment Database.)

The '835 patent provides a means by which an Internet server determines whether a webpage requesting a file is authorized to receive that file and customizes its file response in one of two ways depending upon the identity of the requesting webpage. The ‘132 patent provides a means by which a customized summary of a set of data responsive to a user's search request is generated.

As in Complaint:
Suffolk alleged that Google's servers and Google conducts the search for itself and AOL and returns a list of webpages that Google calls a "snippet." A "snippet" is selected text from the webpage that represents the content of the page.

It further alleged that Google and AOL infringe the '835 patent by providing Internet advertising services to selectively place paid advertisements for a company's product or service, including AOL’s and Google’s  AdSense service. 

Thus defendants made or adapted the methods and services in a manner covered by the patents-in-suit with knowledge as written notices were sent by Suffolk informing of the '835 and ‘132 patents.

Suffolk requested court to enter a permanent injunction against Google and AOL from infringing the patents and treble damages for willful infringement.

District Court Proceedings:
In Jan 2013, AOL was dismissed with court ordering all claims and counterclaims dismissed with prejudice. In Apr 2013, judgment was entered to dismiss the case with prejudice followed by final judgment, which was entered in favor of Google. It was ordered that each party will bear its own fees and costs. The order also stated that the parties can meet and confer to reach an agreement on which the court will enter an appropriate Order.

Appeal Court Opinion:
Suffolk appealed the summary judgment issued by the district court that certain claims of the ‘835 patent are invalid. Appeals court affirmed that the district court correctly construed the claims and granted summary judgment of invalidity.

See 2013-1392 for more details. To get alerts on cases filed/closed, subscribe to our Litigation Alerts.

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* Expected expiration date. Patent Term Estimator is a free web-based tool that automatically calculates patent terms and expiration dates for U.S. utility patents.

± MaxVal offers Patent Assignment Alert service where subscribers receive email alerts when assignments relating to target applications, patents or entities of interest are recorded.

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