Responding to a patent infringement lawsuit filed against them by Northeastern University and semantic search vendor Jarg, Google has said that the patent was wrongly issued and has filed a counterclaim requesting that the court dismiss the patent as invalid and unenforceable. At issue is the algorithm that Jarg and Northeastern University believe Google uses daily to serve up every single query result, and earn its billions in ad revenue.
The complaint was initially filed on November 6, 2007 in the Eastern District of Texas. Notably, this district is well known for its history of decisions that are quite favorable to plaintiffs in patent cases. Both Google and NU/Jarg have asked for a jury trial, but don’t expect any kind of a speedy decision. According to various reports, legal experts don’t think the case will be resolved for 18 months to two years.
Jarg and NU claim that Google uses specific technology described in Jarg’s exclusive license of the NU US Patent, No. 5,694,593, entitled “Distributed Computer Database System and Method.” This patent’s technology was invented and applied for in 1994 by Dr. Kenneth Baclawski, a Jarg co-founder and associate professor at NU’s college of computer and information science.
Michael Belanger, another Jarg co-founder and the current president, said that details of their technology were published in numerous academic journals in the mid-1990’s, and assumes that many computer science professors at the time taught it and didn’t bother to find out if it was covered by patents. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google, met at Stanford University in the computer science program, so it can only be assumed that Jarg is alleging they picked up and learned this technology here.
Google is also arguing that Jarg and NU, who finally obtained the patent in 1997, have waited far too long – an entire decade – to attempt to enforce it.
Jarg has also said that they believe it’s possible that the technology in this patent is also being leveraged by several other semantic start-ups, including Nervana, Radar Networks, Ingenuity, Powerset, Convera-Fast, Hakia, Semantra, and Collexis.
So, if they believe that Google isn’t the only one using their patented technology, will they be going after these guys too? Or, are they just out to make a few bucks and want to target the biggest of the bunch – Google?