Google Acquires iLOR Patent Used to Sue Google

Might Google start providing more link options in Google Instant Previews as a result of this acquisition?

A company that filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Google in 2007,on the day that their last patent was granted, has now assigned all of their patents to Google. The flowchart below is from one of their patents and shows multiple link options available when someone hovers over a link.

A flowchart from one of the iLOR patents, showing link options available after hovering over a link

The company, iLOR, LLC, applied for a preliminary injunction against Google’s Notebook application, and Google successfully filed a motion for summary judgment to terminate the claims against it, and was awarded around $660,000 in attorney’s fees. The case set a new standard (pdf) on appeal on when attorney’s fees should be awarded in patent infringement cases when the decision regarding the fees was reversed on appeal.

The technology involved is described in a patent entitled Method for Adding a User Selectable Function to a Hyperlink U.S. Patent No. 7,206,839 (described below), which presents a box with a number of user selectable options to viewers when they hover over a link. Interestingly, Google Instant previews recently changed to now popup to show previews and sometimes a link to the cached copy of pages when you hover over them.

The iLOR hover box described in the patent would offer features such as:

  • Opening the selected link in a new window
  • Opening the selected link in a new window with that window minimized
  • Creating a thumbnail presentation of the page which could be clicked upon later to visit
  • Downloading the page and associated files to view later offline

Google Notebook was a clipping service from Google where you could save a link, text, and possibly even images from a web page to your notebook. When it was turned on, a small icon would appear in the progress bar at the bottom of your browser window, and you could highlight text upon a page and then click upon that icon, and it would capture your highlighted text to your notebook along with the URL of the page. Google Notebook stopped being offered a good while back, though it may still have worked for some people who had it installed. Support for it is being terminated completely as part of Google’s recent Spring Cleaning announcement.

A quick comparison of the iLOR link selection box and Google’s Notebook shows two different tecnologies with very different functions and approaches, but the features that iLOR offered are interesting and useful. At least, it appears that Google thought so.

Starting in the year 2,000, iLOR offered a search service originally based on top of Google search results, but instead of offering the option of just clicking on those results, you were instead given 4 basic options similar (but not exactly the same) as the 4 I’ve listed above.

The iLOR service was praised on Search Engine Watch in those early days by Danny Sullivan in the post, iLOR Makes Google Even Better. In early 2002, iLOR changed from Google results to Ask Jeeves results (iLOR Dumps Google for Ask/Teoma).

According to the resume of ILOR’s VP of software development, Patrick Hanna (pdf), iLor had licensed their “hydralinks” technology to Ask Jeeves for use in their toolbar, offered a PC based quoting system to businesses, offered a social search engine Prefound.com, as well as other accomplishments.

The assignment of the patents was executed on August 31st, and recorded by the USTPO on September 3rd.

The patents are:

Method for adding a user selectable function to a hyperlink
Invented by Gerald W. Ingram and Steve Mansfield
Assigned to I-LOR, LLC
US Patent 7,206,839
Granted April 17, 2007
Filed: February 14, 2005

Abstract

An enhanced hyperlink and method for providing an enhanced hyperlinked are provided. This invention permits the user to interact with a hyperlink in a variety of ways without necessarily having to open and/or follow the hyperlink. This is accomplished by detecting the presence of a cursor near a hyperlink. When the cursor has remained near the hyperlink for a predetermined time period, a toolbar is displayed containing one or more link enhancements that the user may select. In response to the users’ selection of a particular link enhancement, then that link enhancement function would be performed without requiring the any further action. Examples of link enhancement include, but are not limited to, opening the selected link in a new window; opening the selected link in a new window with that window minimized; creating a clickable graphic/text string, and/or icon that would enable the user to return to the selected link at a later time; or anchor the current page by creating an icon or other clickable item that would return the user to the current page; or view off-line which would, in the background download the files associated with the selected link to a memory device for viewing later off-line.

Method for adding a user-selectable function to a hyperlink
Invented by Steve Mansfield and Patrick Hanna
US Patent Application 20050259120
Published November 24, 2005
Filed: January 21, 2005

Abstract

A multifunction hyperlink and method for providing an multifunction hyperlink are provided. This invention permits the user to interact with a hyperlink in a variety of ways without necessarily having to open and/or follow the hyperlink. This is accomplished by detecting the presence of a cursor near a hyperlink. After detecting the hyperlink, a toolbar is displayed containing one or more link functions that the user may select. In response to the users’ selection of a particular link function, that link function would be performed without requiring any further action by the user.

Method for adding a plurality of user selectable functions to a hyperlink
Invented by Gerald W. Ingram and Steve Mansfield
Assigned to I-LOR, LLC
US Patent 7,076,743
Granted July 11, 2006
Filed: May 4, 2001

Abstract

An enhanced hyperlink and method for providing an enhanced hyperlink are provided. This invention permits the user to interact with a hyperlink in a variety of ways without necessarily having to open and/or follow the hyperlink. This is accomplished by detecting the presence of a cursor near a hyperlink. After detecting the hyperlink, a toolbar is displayed containing one or more link enhancements that the user may select. In response to the users’ selection of a particular link enhancement, that link enhancement function would be performed without requiring any further action by the user.

Method of Enhancing Hyperlinks by Adding User Selectable Functions to Hyperlinks for Capturing Displayable Elements and the URL Associated with a Link Snapshot Based upon the Hyperlink
Invented by Gerald W. Ingram and Steve Mansfield
Assigned to I-LOR, LLC
US Patent 6,925,496
Granted August 2, 2005
Filed: June 16, 2000

Abstract

An enhanced hyperlink and method for providing an enhanced hyperlinked are provided. This invention permits the user to interact with a hyperlink in a variety of ways without necessarily having to open and/or follow the hyperlink. This is accomplished by detecting the presence of a cursor near a hyperlink. When the cursor has remained near the hyperlink for a predetermined time period, a toolbar is displayed containing one or more link enhancements that the user may select. In response to the users’ selection of a particular link enhancement, then that link enhancement function would be performed without requiring the any further action. Examples of link enhancement include, but are not limited to, opening the selected link in a new window; opening the selected link in a new window with that window minimized; creating a clickable graphic/text string, and/or icon that would enable the user to return to the selected link at a later time, or anchor the current page by creating an icon or other clickable item that would return the user to the current page; or view off-line which would, in the background download the files associated with the selected link to a memory device for viewing later off-line.

Conclusion

The enhanced link approach developed by iLOR would work with any link, and not just links shown in search results. One of the examples in an article about iLOR’s technology described using the enhanced link approach on links from banner advertisements as well as other links.

Google’s Instant Search Previews recent change (after the acquisition of the iLOR patents) to show snapshots of pages when you hover over the little box next to results, and include a link to a cached copy of a page sounds a lot more like what is described in the iLOR patents than Google Notebook ever did.

I’m wondering if Google was inspired to make that change by the acquisition of these iLOR patents, and if we might start seeing some other link options when hovering over search results in Google.

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7 thoughts on “Google Acquires iLOR Patent Used to Sue Google”

  1. LOL! Well that’s one way to do it. HAHAHA!

    Google will be acquiring SEO By The Sea next, Bill…;)

    Mark

  2. Hi Mark,

    The facts around this acquisition are pretty ironic, and I have no idea why iLOR immediately targeted Google when their patent was granted in 2007. The Google Notebook really just wasn’t like the link enhancement approach that iLOR came up with.

    Hopefully Google won’t be acquiring SEO by the Sea anytime soon. :)

  3. When you are a company without almost infinite power like Google, simply buying out a company/business that is attempting to sue them is probably the simplest of things they are capable of. Google is an unstoppable company.

  4. Matt.

    The company (iLOR) lost the lawsuit because they had no case. Google notebook was nothing like their invention.

    Google filed a motion for summary judgment, and the judge granted it, so the case never even got to trial.

    Google didn’t buy the patents until this year, after a couple of levels of appeals – appeals that weren’t about the merits of the case (there were no merits) but rather about whether or not Google should get reimbursed for their own attorney’s fees because the initial filing of the case was so ridiculous.

  5. That’s one way for winning patent battles. I wonder if SCO was hoping for a similar resolution when they sued every Linux using company on the planet some years back. Something is seriously wrong if the sole reason for existence for a lot of these patent holding companies (aka patent trolls) is to sue large companies in the hopes of being bought out.

  6. Hi Alex,

    Google won this particular patent battle by defending themselves in court against a claim that their notebook feature was infringing upon iLOR’s patent, and they filed a motion for summary judgment which was grated by the Court.

    The company iLOR wasn’t a patent troll, but rather a company that was actually developing products and using them itself as well as licensing the technology to other companies.

    Like many startups, there may have been some hope that they would be purchased by a larger company, but that didn’t seem to be the incentive behind their suit against Google.

    We don’t know the situation around iLOR putting their patents up for sale, and it is somewhat ironic that Google ended up buying the patents given the earlier litigation, but this is a different situation than the holding companies that are out there acquiring patents for the sole purpose of filing infringement lawsuits.

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