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Search Engine Wants Overture Patents Invalidated

Pay-for-performance search engine operator FindWhat.com is challenging a patent issued to rival search engine operator Overture Services Inc., claiming Overture's patent was obtained illegally.

FindWhat.com said it is seeking a declaration in federal court that Overture's U.S. Patent No. 6,269,361 is invalid and unenforceable. The company also wants a ruling that FindWhat.com does not infringe on Overture's patent.

FindWhat.com claims the patent is invalid because it describes a system that was in use when Overture was known as GoTo.com. The company changed its name to Overture in September. The system was widely covered in the media more than a year before the then-GoTo.com's filing for the patent. Patent law requires that an application be filed less than a year after any public use or disclosure of the invention.

The company also claims Overture misrepresented to the Patent Office “the nature and extent of its prior and public uses” of its technology.

“The statements made to the Patent Office, which were material to the Patent Office's decision to grant the patent, were clearly false and misleading,” FindWhat.com said in its filing.

Overture would not comment on the case.

In July, Overture was awarded two patents on its technology. One was issued for its “System and Method for Implementing a Position on a Search Result List Generated by a Computer Network Search Engine,” which it claims FindWhat.com infringes. The other patent was for Overture's account management system. FindWhat.com said that in December, Overture offered to license its technology to its search engine rival but that its terms were “economically and structurally oppressive.”

“FindWhat.com respects the valid intellectual property rights of others; however, we believe that Overture's patent was improperly obtained and should be found invalid and unenforceable,” said Craig Pisaris-Henderson, FindWhat's president/CEO. “FindWhat.com would have preferred to find a mutually agreeable business solution to this matter, but Overture's overreaching demands concerning the '361 patent forced us to seek to vindicate our rights in court.”

The company said it is not challenging the structure of Overture's patent, just the method used to obtain it. FindWhat.com has several patents pending for its search technology. It would not say whether its patent applications influenced its decision to challenge Overture's patents.

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