Google Instant Search
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After Amazon, Masterobjects Takes Google To Court Over Instant Search Patent

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Yesterday, I broke the story of a small search software outlet named Masterobjects taking on Amazon.com in a notable patent infringement lawsuit.

The patent-in-suit, US patent no. 7,752,326, describes a method to immediately start showing search results even while a user is still typing his query into the search box – instant search if you will.

I and others wondered why Amazon.com was singled out specifically, and not for example Google or Microsoft, which both offer custom search engines that start showing results while a user is entering his query, or Apple (App Store search) or eBay (another ecommerce giant that employs such search technology on its website).

Well, turns out Google is indeed the next target on the list.

I asked Masterobjects why they waited until now to sue Amazon.com, which started offering ‘search suggestions’ (using technology which Masterobjects alleges infringes it patent) back in 2008. I also asked why they singled out Amazon specifically.

In a brief response, the company tells me that they will not comment on either this case or the complaint they’ve just filed against Google, revealing that the search giant is effectively already under legal attack by the software maker.

Google premiered its instant search feature at a special event in San Francisco back in September 2010 (see introduction video below). Furthermore, back in December 2004 the company debuted Google Suggest, providing users with search suggestions, in realtime, while they type.

For your background, here is the summary of the patent, originally filed in August 2001 and entitled “System and method for utilizing asynchronous client server communication objects”:

A session-based client-server asynchronous information search and retrieval system for sending character-by-character or multi-character strings of data to an intelligent server, that can be configured to immediately analyze the lengthening string and return to the client increasingly appropriate search information.

Embodiments include integration within an Internet, web or other online environment, including applications for use in interactive database searching, data entry, online searching, online purchasing, music purchasing, people-searching, and other applications. In some implementations the system may be used to provide dynamically focused suggestions, auto-completed text, or other input-related assistance, to the user.

The obvious next question: is this just the beginning and are others giants such as Microsoft, eBay and Apple next on the hit list?