Northeastern Univ. and private corp. sue Google

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November 14, 2007

7:21 PM

__Lawsuit claims Google used patented technology unlawfully__

Northeastern University and a private company, Jarg Corp., filed a patent infringement lawsuit with California-based internet leader Google Inc. last week.

p. Jarg Corp., a company co-established by Northeastern Associate Professor of computer science Dr. Kenneth Baclawski, cited that Google used database technology that the university had patented in 1997, a year before Google was founded.

p. The case pertains to U.S. patent No. 5,694,593, which is owned by Baclawski and titled “Distributed Computer Database System and Method.”

p. “This particular patent has to do with the fundamental database architecture, which [Google] use[s] to serve up every single result they serve to you,” Michael Belanger, president of Jarg Corp., told the Boston Globe.

p. Google itself receives 99 percent of its revenue from online advertising, which comes in response to database keyword searches made by users.

p. Northeastern and Jarg Corp. both claim that Google never checked or received an opinion as to whether their technology infringed upon Baclawski’s patent. The plaintiffs also claim that although Google formally became a company in 1998, they were not aware of the violation until two-and-a-half years ago when an unnamed legal firm advised Belanger that Google’s database system strongly resembled Northeastern’s patented technology.

p. “When a law firm tells us that it’s very likely that the Google architecture is the fundamental architecture on which our company is founded, we have a fiduciary responsibility to our investors to do something,” Belanger said.

p. However, due to an inability to pay legal fees, Jarg Corp. did not file suit until Nov. 2, 2007, when Texas-based law firm Vinson & Elkins agreed to pay the costs of the case on a contingency-fee basis. Northeastern joined Jarg Corp. in the suit not long afterward.

p. Google, based out of Mountain View, Calif., remains adamant that the claims are unfounded.

p. “We are aware of the complaint and believe it to be without merit based on our initial investigation,” Jon Murchinson, spokesman for Google, said.

p. Northeastern declined to comment on the issue.

p. The case was brought forth in the U.S. District Court of Marshall, an eastern district of Texas that is known for rewarding an average of 78 percent of cases to patent plaintiffs, according to research firm LegalMetric. However, Northeastern’s case may have to wait two years before it can go to trial.

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