I’ve got a patent, you’ve got a patent. It seems that nearly everyone running an Internet company has a patent nowadays. Local.com is the latest to announce a patent in the local space. The patent (no. 7,231,405), which I was unable to locate through a USPTO and Google Patents search, “covers local search technology related to identifying location information from web documents, indexing that information and making it searchable geographically” according to the press release.
Jingle Networks, which operates 1-800-Free411, was recently awarded a locally oriented patent for ad supported directory assistance. And IP holding company Geomas has sued Verizon in U.S. District Court to enforce its extremely broad local search patent.
These patent announcements emerge as something of a marketing (and potential M&A) vehicle for these companies. The whole technology patent area seems to be in some disarray. Given all the patents, one has to expect litigation in order to resolve the confusion and competing claims. And even then we’re probably talking about appeals. The whole process gets extremely expensive. But unless these companies are willing to litigate numerous would-be licensees will likely balk.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court KSR v. Teleflex decision seems to put the courts somewhat at odds with the U.S. Patent Office itself. The court is trying to provide some limits on the enforceability of “obvious” inventions or those that would come in the course of “ordinary innovation.” Postscript: I was sent a link to the patent from Local.com. It appears to have been acquired from a third party.