Bone-headed patent lawsuit number 573482: a company called WebMap Technologies is suing a host of technology companies over an online map patent that was issued over 5 years ago, reports Law360 (requires registration).
The patent (ID US6772142) is titled “Method and apparatus for collecting and expressing geographically-referenced data” and covers a web-based implemented system in which observers may pinpoint locations on a scalable map in order to fix data by latitude and longitude and to collect data describing that location.
Who’s the company suing over this? None other than Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Travelocity, CitySearch, IAC/Interactivecorp, Yellowpages.com, The Washington Post Company, Ticketmaster, Zagat Survey and City Accommodations Network.
Wait, all of these? Yes, all of them.
The suit claims Google has been aware of the patent-in-suit for “some time” prior to the filing of the lawsuit and is seeking enhanced damages for willful infringement. WebMap is also reserving the right to allege willfulness against any of the other defendants that continue to infringe moving forward.
Here’s the funny part: WebMap Technologies doesn’t seem to be in business anymore, and webmap.com – which used to be the address for its corporate website – now features nothing but a GoDaddy placeholder. Judging from this CNET article from February 2001, WebMap was a startup from before the dotcom bubble burst earlier this decade that was backed by at least $13 million in venture capital funding.
I’m still trying to pin down what happened to the Boston/Tel Aviv company and if it’s effectively this one that is taking the companies above to court in Texas, but it’s safe to say the WebMap that was referenced in the CNET article didn’t exactly go anywhere. The company’s former CEO, Michael Iron, went on to found and lead a p2p video platform called StreamSoft. Iron is currently listed as director of ILCU, an event-sharing network (but his e-mail address bounces).
We’re trying to get in touch with some of the people that used to be affiliated to WebMap Technologies and will update if they get back to us.
Update: apparently, the WebMap Technologies that was led by Michael Iron in the late nineties and early 2000 wasn’t the same WebMap Technologies that filed the lawsuit – the confusion arose because of the fact that the names were exactly the same, as well as the field both startups operated in (digital mapping). So let me make this entirely clear: the former WebMap Technologies nor Michael Iron has got anything to do with this lawsuit. To my knowledge, the ‘new’ WebMap Technologies doesn’t have a website or any contact details so we’re still trying to get more information about the suit in other ways.