Can you spell “patent troll”?
Software developer SpeedTrack has filed suit against nearly two dozen major online retailers, including Amazon.com, Best Buy, Overstock.com, Nike, Costco and Dell, accusing the major online retailers of infringing some patent that supposedly covers a search mechanism customers can use to locate products on their websites.
The complaint, filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, accuses the defendants of infringing U.S. Patent Number 5,544,360, titled “Method for accessing computer files and data, using linked categories assigned to each data file record on entry of the data file record”.
Dubbed GIA (Guided Information Access), originally developed and patented by SpeedTrack co-founder and CTO Jerzy Lewak, the system is designed to guide users to contextually relevant information when searching specific keywords, ensuring a result rather than a page that says “no result can be found” or whatever. According to its website, law enforcement agencies like police departments use SpeedTrack’s GIA software to sort through massive criminal records data, which supposedly helps them solve crimes faster.
Evidently, this type of software is important for Internet retailers’ conversion rates, because such technology enables users to discover related or similar products on their websites when specific items cannot be found. But I can hardly imagine that SpeedTrack’s technology is so unique that the e-commerce giants should have to pay as much as a penny to the software company. Of course, a jury may very well be persuaded otherwise.
Message to Lewak and the rest of the SpeedTrack team: how about you focus on sales to mark up your balance sheets rather than turning to courts in the hopes that Amazon and Co. will come fill your pockets for you.