Patent News | "Yahoo's unit Overture Services Inc faces patent roadblock for paid-search technology"

By: Sanjay Vijayakumar & Sangeetha Kandavel
Categoty : Patent News

CHENNAI: In a setback to internet major Yahoo, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board in Chennai has rejected a patent filed for a paidsearch technology by its unit, Overture Services Inc, after opposition from India.

A victory for Yahoo would have given the company the right to legally challenge the use of similar technologies by rival websites, including Rediff.Overture's technology has been patented in the US but has failed to get clearance in Europe and now in India.

It was in 2004 that Overture first applied for a patent in India and failed. Then, it was objected to by Rediff, which said there's no novelty in the model and that it is just a computer system. The case then moved to the Intellectual Property Appellate Board.

"The ground of refusal is that the said patent is a business method and hence prohibited from being patentable under Indian patent laws," said GK Muthukumaar of GMS Law Associates, who along with Sunita Sreedharan, appeared for Rediff. "So now Rediff or for that matter any one else in India and Europe are free to use the said patent concept and it would not amount to infringement of Yahoo's patent rights," he pointed out.

Yahoo couldn't be immediately reached for comments. Feroz Ali Khader, counsel for Yahoo, had argued that similar patents have been granted to search market leader Google. But the Tribunal rejected this line of argument.

"We are not going into the question whether Google ought to have been granted the patent or not," said Prabha Sridevan, chairman, and DPS Parmar, technical member (patents). "We have found that this (Overture's) invention cannot be granted patent.

However, it cannot be disputed that there should be a uniform practice, when similar inventions come up for grant of patent." They further said, "If indeed the Patent Office had been adopting different standards, it is not desirable. If the patents granted to Google suffer from the same vice then as and when the question arises it will be dealt with." It was after it bagged patent for this technology in the US that Yahoo bought it for $1.63 billion.

As per Overture's technology, search lists are based on advertiser's bids. For example, Toyota comes top in a search, after having agreed to pay 2 cents for anyone clicking on its list. Honda, then, could choose to pay 3 cents per a click and rise above Toyota in listings. Foreign media had pointed out how Microsoft's interest in Yahoo owed a lot to what Overture brought to the table.