MasterObjects sues Microsoft on search

Another day, another lawsuit. 

MasterObjects has squared up to Microsoft, claiming that the company has infringed some of its search patents, which in particular relate to a “request-response loop” problem.

This is a process that MasterObjects claims “hampered” and complicated search. It delayed the amount of time it took for us to get results, as a user would type a query into a static input field, and click a “submit” or “search” button.

However, there would then be a delay in gathering the results as users would have to wait for the query to be sent to a remote database, then wait for the result to get returned to the server, and wait for the server to build an HTML page.

Then more waiting for the page to load in the browser, and another for the window to be refreshed before the user could see their search results.

“If the result set did not match user expectations, the entire process had to be repeated, recursively, until the results satisfied the user,” MasterObjects wrote in the lawsuit.

However, in 2000 a young Mark Smit, then founder of MasterObjects, decided to combat the problem with a search field which would immediately submit a search query as soon as the user begins typing characters in the query field. Like Google Instant

It used asynchronous communications technology, which means that as the user typed more characters, the results in the drop-down box would change and not be dependent on hitting a “search” or “submit button.”

Pleased with the new idea MasterObjects claims that it filed its first patent application in August 2001, which it called “System and Method for Asynchronous Client Server Session Communication.”

In 2004 it went on to file a second patent application in relation to this model, which it labelled “System and Method for Utilising Asynchronous Client Server Communications Objects,” or US Patent number 7,752,326.

However in 2006, it claims that Microsoft began to offer its own customers a new way to search, introducing a feature described as “Suggestions”, which suggests to the user possible search queries as the user types by using asynchronous communications technology.

According to MasterObjects, prior to this, Microsoft users had to go through the whole typing in, clicking search and waiting rigmarole.

It claims the new technology that the company had begun using was almost identical to the method it had patented.

Therefore, in May 2008, the company claims it tried to tell Microsoft about its patents surrounding search.  MasterObjects alleges that Microsoft manufactured, used and sold the infringing products and services despite this.

According to Florian Mueller of FOSSpatents, MasterObjects has already filed a suit against Google in March.

This particular suit against Microsoft looks at the Bing mobile app, which allegedly contains elements of the patent.

Mueller says it’s rather different from the patent trolling currently hitting little app developers, because “the app is a secondary target and the defendant has everything in place to deal with patent litigation.”