Google, the internet giant, is being sued by Northeastern University and an associate professor who runs a startup. The complaint states that Google is infringing on a 1997 patent. This patent relates to how data is pulled from a database. The suit, filed in a patent court of Eastern Texas, says Google is using their method of breaking up database queries into multiple portions and having each portion processed by a different computer. According to Boston.com, this allows for faster results displayed by Google.
While the legal merit of this suit is up in the air, there is some controversy surrounding it. Apparently, the university and Jarg Corp, the fore mentioned startup, were approached by a Boston law firm 2 and a half years ago in regards to binging this suit to court. The university and Jarg Corp waited 2 and a half years to file the suit because they were looking for a firm to take the case on a contingency basis. Duncan Riley over at Tech Crunch calls this ‘patent trolling’. I tend to disagree with him. I personally would not take on the 5th largest company in the US without being prepared. And let’s be honest, a lot of court battles comes down to who has more money to outlast the other. It is a sad fact of the US legal system, but it is true. A company could easily put millions and millions up for their legal efforts, be in the right, but still loose because Google just has more resources. Not to mention all the bureaucracy that has to happen for a university to do anything, yet alone sue. Seems like the commenters on his article may agree.
While the technology behind the patent seems like a natural progression for high traffic database computing, someone does own a patent on it. And as a patent owner, they have the right to defend their intellectual property. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future.