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Google loses patent appeal

US court of appeals hands Google a patent setback

Some have likened AutoLink, introduced in early 2005, to an earlier initiative from Microsoft called Smart Tags, which sought to add links determined by Microsoft to certain keywords appearing on Web pages viewed through its Internet Explorer browser. The feature, included in beta versions of the browser bundled with Windows XP, was roundly rejected by users for the control it gave Microsoft over the appearance of Web pages, prompting the company to remove the feature from production versions in June 2001.

However, it left the function in its Office XP productivity software suite, released in May 2001, where it became the subject of another patent lawsuit brought by Hyperphrase. Microsoft won a summary judgement in that case in 2003.

In Wednesday's ruling on the Google-Hyperphrase case, the court of appeals upheld the judgement of the district court regarding AdSense. The way AdSense infers the topic of a Web page to associate it with keywords that may not appear on the page, and link those keywords to advertisements, did not constitute use of a "data reference" in the sense of the Hyperphrase patents at issue, the district court had found, and the court of appeals agreed.

A Google representative reached in London would not immediately comment on the court of appeals ruling.

The company's latest quarterly financial report warns that is subject to intellectual property rights claims, and may face more in the future. Such cases are costly to defend and could require it to pay damages or prevent it from using certain technologies

One such case, brought by Northeastern University in Boston and by Jarg, a company in Massachusetts that develops distributed search technologies, charges Google with infringing a patent for a method of breaking database queries into fragments and distributing them to multiple computers to get search results faster. Google has until January 11 to file a response in that case.


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