IBM sues Amazon.com over use of key web applications

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Armonk (NY) - IBM today announced that it has filed two lawsuits against Amazon.com, which claim that the web retailer infringes on at least five patents that relate to the core of interactive services Amazon provides its users today.

IBM said that it has tried since 2002 to resolve the claims but found that "Amazon.com has shown no willingness to have meaningful discussions." To enforce its intellectual property, the company now is taking legal steps at two District Courts for the Eastern District of Texas, one suit in the Tyler Division and the other suit in the Lufkin Division, and goes after an unspecified amount of damages.

In detail, IBM believes that Amazon.com infringes on five patents that were granted to IBM between July 1994 and July 2006 (with four patents granted before 2002). If confirmed by the court, IBM's claim could have a significant impact on the etailer, as each of the patents describes a core functionality Amazon depends on. Specifically, IBM claims that its patents "Presenting Applications in an Interactive Service" (5,796,967), "Storing Data in an Interactive Network" (5,442,771), "Presenting Advertising in an Interactive Service" (7,072,849), "Hypertext Links with Weighted User Goals and Activities" (5,446,891) and "Ordering Items Using an Electronic Catalogue" (5,319,542) are infringed upon.

"We filed this case for a very simple reason. IBM's property is being knowingly and unfairly exploited," said John Kelly, senior vice president of IBM Technology and Intellectual Property (IP). However, it is worth mentioning that patents are not just created and protected for actual products, but with the simple purpose to enforce licensing. IP has become a major business and significant revenue portion for many companies - especially for larger corporations such as IBM. IBM currently holds more than 40,000 active patents and has been leading the ranking of most submitted patents per year for several years.

Amazon has not responded to the lawsuits so far.