After Amazon And Google, Masterobjects Sues Microsoft Over Instant Search Patent

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We recently broke the story of a small search software outlet named Masterobjects taking on Amazon.com in a notable patent infringement lawsuit, later also taking Google to court.

Now it’s apparently Microsoft’s turn to get sued by the company, and my guess is more will follow. 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.

That search functionality, call it instant search if you will, is evidently used by many major online website operators, particularly e-commerce companies.

Microsoft uses similar technology to power its Bing Instant search engine.

Masterobjects alleges that Microsoft has been infringing on its patent since 2006, however, when the company introduced Suggestions, a feature that suggests to the user possible search queries as the user types. The suit also mentions an upcoming HTML5-flavored version of Bing, which will likely incorporate instant search functionality as well.

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.

For what it’s worth, Masterobjects isn’t your typical patent troll but a real company that has been actually making and selling software products powered by the technology it claims to have invented.

The obvious next question: are others giants like Yahoo, eBay and Apple next on its hit list?


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