12 Mar

IBM targets AirBnB in new lawsuit, touting LOT membership to show good corporate citizenship

IBM continued an assertion campaign yesterday which has so far reaped it tens of millions of dollars as it filed a lawsuit against Airbnb, accusing the online business of infringing four patents.  

The case, which was filed in Delaware district court, follows similar infringement actions that Big Blue has brought recently against travel website Expedia and against property site Zillow. It comes a little under two years after the company won a $82.5 million decision against Groupon (the pair eventually settled for $57 million).

So far the IBM’s licensing campaign has seen it agree deals with a host of household names, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

According to the complaint, IBM attempted to negotiate a cross-licence with Airbnb for six years but when those talks failed to produce a deal the tech giant decided to act. “After six years, enough is enough,” the complaint says. “This lawsuit seeks to end Airbnb’s unauthorised use of IBM’s patented technology.”

In making its case the US’s most active patent filer cited its recent decision to join the License on Transfer Network as it clearly looks to position itself as a responsible IP player in the eyes of the court. “LOT Network affirms the traditional use of patents - safeguarding the innovations of companies who research, develop, and sell new technologies - while protecting its members against companies who purchase or acquire patents from others,” the complaint states.  

IBM joined LOT in January after its acquisition of open source software giant Red Hat closed last summer. While membership places significantly more encumbrances on a company’s patents should they decide to sell assets to an NPE, LOT CEO Ken Seddon has repeatedly made the case that becoming a member does not prevent a business from continuing to assert and monetise its rights.

The complaint against Airbnb (which also joined LOT in January) supports Seddon’s argument and also shows how active licensors such as IBM can brandish their membership to potentially enhance their position in court.

The four patents being asserted against Airbnb are:

6,778,193 – User context based distributed self service system for service enhanced resource delivery

6,966,038 – System and method for improved navigation using bookmarks for movement between locations in a windows environment

7,072,849 – Method for presenting advertising in an interactive service

7,631,346 – Method and system for a runtime user account creation operation within a single sign-on process in a federated computing environment

Two of the patents – the ‘849 and the ‘346 – were both asserted against Zillow, while the ‘193, the ‘849 and the ‘346 were asserted in the case against Expedia.   

Richard Lloyd

Author | Editor

[email protected]