Anybody who is curious about what benefits software patents might bring to
Europe need look no further than UK
, entitled "A method of searching the internet and an
internet search engine." This patent, held by the Italian company Godado
Italia Srl, was first filed in May, 2000; it was assigned last February.
What does this patent cover?
Upon receipt of a search signification, a search is conducted for
web sites having a textual match with the search signification. In
addition, the thesaurus database is searched to determined the
category of meaning to which the search signification belongs and
the meaning of the search signification thus determined is used to
identify related significations having a correlation with the
meaning of the search signification. The enquirer is then provided
with a list of web sites having a textual match with the search
signification and with a list of related significations as a
suggestion for supplementary research.
In other words, a search engine with the advanced capability of looking up
additional search terms in a thesaurus and telling the user about those terms.
Godado is not content to sit on this patent. The company has applied with
the EPO for a
Europe-wide patent, and has also filed a claim in Italy. With those in
hand, Godado has selected its first target: the financial portal Portalino. For the curious, Portalino has
demand letter (in Italian); your editor has created an English translation to go along with it.
Essentially, the letter accuses Portalino of the heinous crime of running a
search engine, claims that said search engine is an infringement of
Godado's patent, and demands that the search engine be shut down
One might assume that Godado does not intend to content itself with
harassing Portalino; according to this Punto Informatico
article, the patent has already been filed in Spain, Portugal, Germany,
and France (along with the UK and Italy). A new litigation company, it
would seem, has been turned loose in Europe.
This patent was not filed until 2000; chances are that, with a bit of (yes)
searching, sufficient prior art can be found to invalidate it. This will
not be the last shakedown attempt by a company wielding a suspect patent,
however, especially if the European Union blesses software patents in their
full glory. Godado shows that U.S.-style software patent hassles
can become part of the European landscape. Unless, of course, the
EU manages to avoid the imposition of union-wide software patents.
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