Google is in the legal crosshairs once again. On Monday, GraphOn announced it has filed a lawsuit against the search giant alleging infringement on four of the company's patents.
GraphOn, a developer of server-based application publishing and Web-enabling software solutions, filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas. This district is well known for its specialized rules for patent-infringement cases and judges well versed in patent law.
The complaint alleges Google is infringing on patents that protect GraphOn's method of maintaining an automated and network-accessible database. Specifically, the suit alleges that Google's Base, AdWords, Blogger, Sites and YouTube services infringe GraphOn patents. GraphOn is seeking a permanent injunction against Google as well as unspecified damages.
"The number of patents now owned by GraphOn as a result of the NES acquisition has increased to 23, a number that is expected to continue to increase as patent applications on file at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office mature into issued patents," GraphOn CEO Robert Dilworth said. "Aggressively protecting the technology represented in these patents is an important part of maximizing their value to GraphOn."
Yahoo Among Past Targets
Although GraphOn is clearly not a patent troll, the Google lawsuit is not its only attempt to protect its patents. The company filed a lawsuit against AutoTrader.com in November 2005 that also claimed infringement on some of the same patents Google is accused of trespassing on. In January 2008 GraphOn announced a license agreement and the end of its legal dispute with AutoTrader.com.
GraphOn also filed a lawsuit against Juniper Networks in August 2007. That lawsuit claimed infringement of GraphOn patents that protect the company's fundamental network security and firewall technologies.
GraphOn's lawsuits are becoming more frequent. The company filed suit in March against Classified Ventures, IAC/InterActiveCorp, Match.com, Yahoo, eHarmony.com and CareerBuilder alleging infringement of the four patents included in the Google lawsuit.
As Dilworth mentioned, GraphOn obtained patents and applications when it acquired Network Engineering Software in February 2005. In addition to the patents, GraphOn acquired intellectual property resulting from more than 10 years of NES development efforts.
Could GraphOn's Claims be Moot?
GraphOn is set on enforcing those patents, no matter how deep its opponents' pockets are, as evidenced by the suits against Google, Yahoo and CareerBuilder, in which Microsoft is a partner.
These patents are currently the basis for a motion to render them unenforceable through inequitable conduct before the patent office in the Classified Ventures litigation, said Joe Englander, a patent and copyright lawyer with Shutts & Bowen in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"According to the motion, GraphOn failed to tell the USPTO all relevant information to the patent examiner, as required," Englander said. "If the patents are rendered unenforceable in the Classified Ventures case, the patent-infringement claims in the Google case would be rendered moot."