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MasterObjects sues Amazon, Google over instant search

Small tech firm MasterObjects has filed patent infringement suits against Internet giants Amazon.com and Google, claiming the companies’ instant search technologies—which provide search results and recommendations as users type—are built on technology that MasterObjects submitted for patent all the way back in 2001. MasterObjects’ first legal action was against Amazon earlier this week, and Google is apparently the next company on their list. Similar features are employed by a number of high-profile Web sites, including offerings from eBay, Microsoft, and Apple.

MasterObjects’ patent (U.S. patent 7,752,326) was granted on July 6, 2010, although the company filed all the way back in August 2001 and updated the application in 2004 and 2005. The patent describes a way of using asynchronous calls between a client and server to produce query results as a user types, rather than waiting for a user to finish formulating a query and submit it as a separate action. On its face, the method describes a technology Internet users would recognize today as instant search.

Neither Google nor Amazon have responded to the actions. Google rolled out its instant search technology back in September 2010; rival search engine Bing just introduced a similar feature this month.

Technology patent disputes can take years to wend through the courts, and if the likes and Amazon and Google feel like fighting this battle, they will undoubtedly claim MasterObjects’ patent is invalid, forcing the company to endure time-consuming re-evaluations of the patent applications in light of new regulations that are beginning to close the doors on many software patents. However, the suits will no doubt be closely monitored by search engines and major Web sites, who will not want a black cloud of litigation hanging over them for implementing instant search-like capabilities.