Northeastern University apparently holds a patent on techniques for parallel data processing, useful in dividing search requests between multiple computers. It exclusively licensed the 1997 patent to a Waltham-based start-up, Jarg Corporation. Lawyers who had seen a presentation on Google’s data search processes tipped off Jarg executives to the possibility of infringement.
There are several factors that should make us initially skeptical about the validity of this claim.
Jarg searched for over two years seeking counsel who would take the case on a contingency basis. One would assume that Northeastern’s IP licensing office has staff counsel, or that they would have secured representation immediately, if they had identified what appeared to be a strong claim.
Also of concern is that the case is filed in US District Court for Eastern Texas in Marshall. This is the venue a Price Waterhouse Coopers study ranked as the second most favorable venue for plaintiffs in patent cases, and it has become a magnet for nuisance IP cases. Boston Globe coverage says that the court rules for plaintiffs in 78% of patent cases.
The case seems to rest on external speculation that Google’s processes duplicate those in the plaintiffs’ 1997 patent. The case will hinge on the discovery process, which might compel Google to settle simply to avoid revealing its secrets to potential competitors.
Case details are at: Northeastern University and Jarg Corp v. Google