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Ebay stung by USD 30 million patent bill

U.S. District Judge Jerome Friedman (opens in new tab) has condemned Ebay to pay USD 30 million for violating a patent held by MercExchange LLC.

The patent covers the use of one of Ebay's most popular features, BIN or Buy It Now, which allows interested buyers from purchasing products or services before the auction ends.

The judge however, stopped short of demanding that Ebay removes the Buy It Now feature altogether; which has reportedly brought nearly 40 percent of eBay's revenues.

Ebay plans to appeal the reprimand in this dispute which has lasted for more than six years already.

MercExchange holds a number of vital e-commerce auction related patents such as "name a price (opens in new tab)" systems, dynamic pricing models, desktop messaging, as well as streaming and multicasting.

MercExchange is desperate to get some money from these patents; according to AP, the company has seen its number of employees dwindle from 40 to only three.

Its president is now promising to go after other e-commerce websites in a bid to get even a tiny portion of the market share.

It would be interesting to see whether a much bigger and much powerful company could take over MercExchange, giving it the necessary funds to bring in more patent money.

Ebay is also embroiled in a number of other cases; Tiffany and Co claim that the auction site does not do enough to tackle online fakes on its website and BBC's Watchdog have recently rapped the auction giant for failing to act against rogue sellers.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.