A recent post by a member on WebmasterWorld alerted me that GeoTag is widening their local search technology lawsuits to include many more companies. WebmasterWorld sharply limits forum members from mentioning particular links, but I think the member was referring to this GeoTag Inc. v. Royal Purple Inc. et al patent suit.
The WebmasterWorld forum member refers to GeoTag as a “patent troll“, which I think may be deserved. He mentions that this company went after Superpages, YellowBot, Yelp, Local.com, Yellowpages.com, and many other IYPs in the past. I was aware of some of this where it concerned Superpages, but I will not comment upon that.
There has been some supposition that GeoTag might be going after relatively small targets before eventually working up to go against a major target such as Google. It’s my opinion that a number of these companies have likely settled in order to remove a nuisance or to avoid risk of an outright loss in court.
It’s also my opinion that a larger target such as a Google Maps or Bing Maps might eventually stand up to them if they were to go after them, and force a legal decision which could void out their ability to enforce this sort of claim any further. I think it may be that their claim might not have merit when considering the full scope of related prior art — although I’m certainly not an attorney.
This is one of those cases which really compells one to think that our technology patent system really should have some sort of an overhaul. These sorts of suits have an extremely chilling effect upon the growth of the marketplace.
From the expanding number of companies involved — many of which have zero to do with local search technology, the company begins to take on a rather parasitic appearance, and you get a sense of the cancerous nature of the litigation. I suspect that many of these companies did nothing more than use other, smaller companies’ store locator software or else wrote their own database search functionality in order to enable consumers to find their local outlets. Some may’ve done little more than just use the Google Maps API.
To see how wide this starts to go, see some of the list of those named in this particular patent infringement suit:
ROYAL PURPLE, INC.
A&W BRANDS, INC.
A&W RESTAURANTS, INC.
AT&T WIRELESS, LLC
CHURCH & DWIGHT CO., INC. D/B/A TROJAN BRAND CONDOMS D/B/A TROJAN
DEERE & COMPANY
GATES THAT OPEN, LLC. D/B/A MIGHTY MULE
KUBOTA TRACTOR CORP.
LELY USA, INC.
LJS RESTAURANTS, INC.
LONG JOHN SILVER’S, INC.
MATCH.COM SN, L.L.C D/B/A SINGLESNET.COM; MATCH.COM, INC.
NATIONAL INTERLOCK SYSTEMS, INC.
PEOPLE MEDIA, INC. D/B/A BBPEOPLEMEET.COM D/B/A SINGLEPARENTMEET.COM D/B/A SENIORPEOPLEMEET.COM D/B/A BLACKPEOPLEMEET.COM
PIZZA HUT OF AMERICA, INC.
PIZZA HUT OF NORTH AMERICA, INC.
PIZZA HUT OF NORTH AMERICA, INC.
PIZZA HUT, LTD.
REMINGTON ARMS COMPANY, INC.
REMINGTON ARMS CORPORATION, INC.
RITE AID CORP.
SCHLOTSKY’S FRANCHISE, LLC
SERVICE MAGIC, INC.
SOLUTIA, INC. D/B/A GILA
TACO BELL CORP.
TACO BELL OF AMERICA, INC.
THE BOEING CO.
WENDY’S/ARBY’S GROUP, INC.
WENDY’S INTERNATIONAL, INC.
WENDY’S/ARBY’S RESTAURANTS, LLC
YUM! BRANDS, INC. D/B/A A&W D/B/A KFC D/B/A PIZZA HUT D/B/A TACO BELL D/B/A LONG JOHN SILVER’S
SAFEWAY, INC. D/B/A TOM THUMB
GFM HOLDINGS LLC
RANDALL’S FOOD MARKETS, INC.
RANDALL’S FOOD & DRUGS LP
THE VONS COMPANIES, INC. D/B/A VONS
CARR-GOTTSTEIN FOODS CO. D/B/A CARR’S
THE KROGER CO.
DILLON COMPANIES, INC. D/B/A DILLON FOOD STORES D/B/A DILLONS D/B/A BAKERS SUPERMARKETS D/B/A CITY MARKET D/B/A KING SOOPERS D/B/A GERBES SUPERMARKETS
FOOD 4 LESS GM, INC.
FOOD 4 LESS HOLDINGS, INC.
FRED MEYER STORES, INC. D/B/A QUALITY FOOD CENTERS D/B/A QFC
KROGER LIMITED PARTNERSHIP I D/B/A JAYC FOOD STORES
KROGER LIMITED PARTNERSHIP II
KROGER TEXAS L.P.
PAY LESS MARKETS, INC. D/B/A PAY LESS FOOD MARKET
RALPHS GROCERY COMPANY D/B/A RALPHS D/B/A FOOD 4 LESS D/B/A FOODS CO.
GENUARDI’S FAMILY MARKETS LP D/B/A GENUARDI’S
SMITH’S FOOD & DRUG CENTERS, INC. D/B/A SMITH’S FOOD & DRUG CENTERS, INC. D/B/A SMITHS FOOD & DRUG STORES D/B/A SMITH’S D/B/A FRY’S FOOD STORES