Net's big guns sued over competitive pricing patent

The internet's most famous companies are the subject of a patent suit claiming rights to a method for conducting business over the internet. The suit has been filed in a court renowned for patent violation cases.

The internet's most famous companies are the subject of a patent suit claiming rights to a method for conducting business over the internet. The suit has been filed in a court renowned for patent violation cases.

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL are all named in the suit. Performance Pricing is seeking an injunction against the companies to stop them using the technology it claims to own and is also seeking damages.

The patent at issue in the case is called 'systems and methods for transacting business over a global communications network such as the internet' and is US patent number 6,978,253.

The patent describes a process by which a seller fixes a price range for a product or service. A buyer can then perform a task – such as a video game, card game, sports bet or any other activity – and 'win' the chance to pay the lowest possible price.

The case claims that Google's AdWords, AOL's Search Marketplace, Microsoft's AdCenter and Yahoo!'s Search Marketing infringe the patent.

"Plaintiff has been damaged by defendants' infringement of the '253 patent and will suffer additional irreparable damage and impairment of the value of its patent rights unless defendants are enjoined from continuing to infringe the '253 patent," said the claim in the case.

The suit does not specify exactly how the named systems are supposed to have infringed the patents.

The suit has been filed in the Eastern District of Texas, which is renowned as being a court which often sides with patent owners.

Google, Yahoo! and Amazon were sued last month in that court by a patent holding company which claimed that the companies were violating its patent for routing email messages.

In relation to that case, though, Dennis Crouch, Associate Professor of Law at Missouri University and author of the Patently-O blog, told OUT-LAW.COM that the court was beginning to lose its reputation as a patent-friendly forum.

"The Eastern District of Texas has seen a flood of patent litigation in recent years based on its reputation as a patent friendly court," said Crouch. "However, that reputation is shifting as the court invalidates more patents."