Google's AutoLink faces legal challenges

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A federal appeals court cleared all patent infringement claims against Google's AdSense on December 26, but the Internet search company's AutoLink product still faces legal challenges.

In its decision, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington vacated a district court ruling stating that Google's AutoLink did not infringe on two patents held by HyperPhrase Tech­nologies LLC and HyperPhrase Inc.

If neither party files a re-hearing peti­tion within 14 days of the decision, then the district court will receive jurisdiction over the case by January 16, said Robert P. Greenspoon, the Chicago-based pat­ent attorney representing HyperPhrase in its appeal.

Google's AdSense matches ads to pub­lishers' Web sites by scanning the content of its pages. In contrast, AutoLink is a toolbar feature that can identify strings of characters, such as tracking numbers or vehicle identification numbers and addresses, and automatically link to rel­evant information about that string.

“We're very pleased that the Federal Cir­cuit agreed that AdSense does not infringe any of HyperPhrase's patents,” Michael Kwun, Google's managing counsel, said in an e-mailed statement. “We continue to believe the remaining claims in the lawsuit are without merit, and will vigorously defend against those claims.”

Carlos de la Huerga, the founder and president of HyperPhrase Technologies, said, “We're just pleased to have the opportunity to present our case in court now that the appellate court has ruled.”

On April 13, 2006, HyperPhrase first filed suit against Google asserting that it had infringed on four of HyperPhrase's pat­ents. On December 20, 2006, the District Court for the Western District of Wiscon­sin issued a judgment stating that neither AutoLink nor AdSense infringed on any of HyperPhrase's patents. HyperPhrase then sought an appeal of that decision.

HyperPhrase also filed a lawsuit against Microsoft Corp., alleging that the Smart Tags feature in the Microsoft Office XP suite of software products infringed on three of HyperPhrase's patents. The case was heard by the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in 2003. That lawsuit ended when the case was on appeal, Greenspoon said. It was an “agreed dismissal,” he said.

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