Amazon, Google, Yahoo, And Others Sued For Automating Their E-mail

The companies are accused of violating a patent on automatic message routing
held by Polaris IP. The patent has a long history in litigation, but all the
cases have been settled out of court.

By Thomas Claburn
August 28, 2007 04:40 PM

Six major Internet companies have been sued for using computers to process
their e-mail.
AOL, Amazon, Borders, Google, IAC, and Yahoo stand accused of violating a
patent on automatic message routing held by Texas-based Polaris IP.

Attorneys representing Polaris IP filed a claim of patent infringement on
Monday in U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall,

The lawsuit charges the companies with implementing systems that "comprise
interpreting electronic messages with rule base and case base knowledge
engines" as described in the patent held by the plaintiff, "Automatic
message interpretation and routing system."

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against continued infringement. If
granted -- a remote prospect at best -- the injunction would have a
significant impact on the defending companies.

A more likely scenario appears to be a payday for the plaintiff. "It looks
like Polaris IP is in the business of licensing patent rights and has no
desire to enforce its requested injunction," said Dennis Crouch, associate
professor of law at University of Missouri School of Law and the author of
the law blog Patently-O, in an e-mail. "I expect that Polaris IP will be
willing to settle these cases for what it believes is a reasonable six- or
seven-digit figure."

Crouch pointed out that the message routing patent at issue has been
involved in litigation many times. "There are no published opinions
associated with these cases and they have all been settled," he said.

Polaris IP, Crouch observed, "appears to be part of a web of IP-related
companies associated with attorney David Pridham." These companies include
Orion IP, Constellation IP, IP Navigation Group, Cushion Technologies, CT IP
Holdings, Triton, Circinus IP, and Firepond.

Pridham did not respond to a request for comment.

The method and system detailed in the patent describes a way "for
automatically interpreting an electronic message including the steps of (a)
receiving an electronic message from a source; (b) interpreting the
electronic message using a rule base and case base knowledge engine; and (c)
retrieving one or more predetermined responses corresponding to the
interpretation of the electronic message from a repository for automatic
delivery to the source."

The Eastern District of Texas has become a favored venue for filing patent
lawsuits. Polaris IP has launched three other patent cases there in the past
two years against numerous technology companies, including Art Technology
Group, Oracle, and Sirius Satellite Radio. All three of these cases have
involved the same patent, which has a long legal history.

"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. "Interestingly, that reputation is rapidly changing as the court
invalidates more patents."

Attorneys representing Polaris IP did not return calls seeking comment.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.


I probably have some 'prior art' from VMS Mail in the mid-80's hanging
around on 9-track that I could get Google et. al. to buy from me to defend
this case.

Come to think of it, the legal system in Texas is a farce too.

OpenVMS - The never-advertised operating system with the dwindling ISV base.