IBM Sues Amazon for Patent Infringment

Dennis Faas's picture

Besides increased efficiency, widespread access to information, and improved communication, the advent of the Internet brought something else: confusion over legal rights.

Recently, IBM joined the slew of snubbed patent owners and filed two lawsuits against, citing patent infringement. (Source:

The lawsuits, which were filed in U.S District Court in Texas, allege that Amazon is using five IBM patents at the core of their operations. Ari Fishkind, Public Affairs Manager at IBM, stated that the patents "include technology that help present applications, store data, present advertising, adjust hypertext links and order items." (Source:

Buy why has IBM rushed into litigation?

Actually, it hasn't.

The company claims that it has been attempting to solve the issue outside of court since September 2002. IBM says that it has contacted Amazon over a dozen times in the past four years to get the company to pay for their use of the technology.

IBM maintains that Amazon has not exactly been forthcoming; the suits states that "while pretending to desire resolution, Amazon has refused to engage in any meaningful discussion, resorting instead to foot-dragging, posturing and non-responsive excuses." (Source:

The decision to file a lawsuit is uncharacteristic of IBM. Robert Yoches, a Washington, D.C. patent lawyer, comments that "IBM is a very aggressive licensor but almost never sues." (Source:

On the flipside, lawsuits aren't exactly uncharted territory for Amazon. The company has been sued three times in the past three years for patent infringement, and has also filed a few suits themselves.

The most recent suit was settled last August, when Amazon agreed to pay $40 million to Soverain Software. Soverain Software had filed two lawsuits against Amazon claiming that the company infringed five patents dealing with online payment, shopping carts and user identification. (Source:

If the past is indicative of the present, it is likely that the lawsuits will be settled, perhaps with Amazon paying royalties to IBM for the use of the technology. Maybe next time Amazon will avoid a lengthy court process and return IBM's phone calls.

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