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Google is in the hot seat again in courts this week, this time for alleged patent infringements concerning AdSense and AutoLink.

Google Inc., no stranger to lawsuits, suffered a setback in the U.S. Court of Appeals this week after the court upheld parts of an appeal by Hyperphrase Technologies concerning Google's AdSense and the Autolink feature of its popular toolbar for browsers.

Charges filed in April of 2006 alleged that Google's features infringed on four patents held by Hyperphrase concerning the contextual linking and display of information. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin found in Google's favor in the case and dismissed the suit. Hyperphrase appealed and now has gotten some headway within the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Revolving around the argument that the patents held by Hyperphrase concern "data reference," the Court of Appeals decided that two of the infringement allegations, which related to AdSense, did not apply and upheld the lower court's finding. Two others concerning the AutoLink technology were re-examined, however, and the court has remanded the case to the federal district court.

The Court of Appeals ruling stated that the lower district court used a faulty interpretation of "data reference," a term used in the patent to describe the way links are made between text in a website and an element contained in a database which contains the actual link information. The court found that AutoLink may in fact infringe upon the existing Hyperphrase patent.

The AutoLink feature reads through a web page's text and parses out information in familiar formats. Some examples are linking ISBN numbers to online book stores, tracking numbers to delivery status pages and even linking street addresses to further information. The connection between parsed text keywords and a database of information is what relates AutoLink to the Hyperphrase patents.

As AdSense does not parse information in the same way as AutoLink, but rather infers a topic and displays advertisements it finds relevant; the feature does not infringe upon the "data reference" patents, the Court of Appeals said.

This will likely not be the end of patent infringement cases for Google. Another such case brought by Northeastern University and a company called Jarg alleges that Google's method of breaking database queries into fragments to distribute amongst multiple computers touches on an existing patent. Google has not yet responded to the allegation and has until January 11 to do so.

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By Inkjammer on 12/28/2007 1:20:17 PM , Rating: 5
Y'know, it occurs to me that we seem to have almost as many patents as we do people on this planet. I'm all for securing a good idea, but it seems like companies are crippled out for fear of intruding on a patent. And those that do manage innovation seeem to stumble over patents owned by companies that, 9 times out of 10, never did jack with it.

Patents can both protect innovation and smite it at the same time.

RE: Patents
By MrPickins on 12/28/2007 1:36:53 PM , Rating: 3
IMHO, patents should not cover software, that should be the realm of copyright law.

RE: Patents
By soxfan on 12/28/2007 3:49:57 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, software should be in the realm of copyright.

RE: Patents
By soxfan on 12/28/07, Rating: 0
RE: Patents
By Pneumothorax on 12/28/2007 5:04:16 PM , Rating: 3
Quite an unbiased source. I sure wouldn't shoot your own gold egg laying goose.

RE: Patents
By mindless1 on 12/30/2007 1:58:08 AM , Rating: 2
On fact #1, that's largely because of the massive number of whimsical patents granted. Take any basic tech and there's a shedload of people trying to be leeches by just filing many many patents for tech they did not develop at all.

Fact #2, what does this have to do with anything? It could be interpreted many different ways.

Fact #3, completely unsupported. Often people try to make these kinds of statements, deliberately ignoring that if there was not such duplication of research and reinvention of the *wheel*, our tech might have evolved much further than it had already. The idea nobody would do research if there wasn't such strong direclty linked profits is incorrect, that is human nature. We might even say it would be better if only those interested in the benefits, instead of the money, were driving technology. Arguments can be made for either strategy but factually we cannot assume they do more good than harm because we don't have a parallel universe where we get to see how things would've turned out without these patents, instead only a system where you try to abandon part of it and then claim the rest can't stand, which is no proof of anything except the fragility of the system.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan
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