Google Inc., no
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
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
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
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.