BrightEdge Uses SEO Patents As “Sword,” Sues Searchmetrics

LegalOh no they didn’t: BrightEdge has sued rival Searchmetrics using multiple SEO patents, which were granted last year. The concern being expressed by some today is that this could be the beginning of a wave of litigation as BrightEdge seeks to capitalize on its newly granted IP or goes after competitors that it perceives to be infringing.

The patents in question broadly pertain to various automated SEO software tools:

  • 8,577,863: “Correlating web page visits and conversions with external references” Granted 11/5/2013
  • 8,478,700: “Opportunity identification and forecasting for search engine optimization” Granted 7/2/2013
  • 8,478,746: “Operationalizing search engine optimization” Granted 7/2/2013
  • 8,135,706: “Operationalizing search engine optimization” Granted 3/13/2012

Reading the complaint (embedded below) doesn’t clarify much about the specific factual allegations of infringement other than plaintiff’s contention that infringement is happening and ongoing. The complaint asks for standard IP-related damages (i.e., monetary damages, injunctions, etc.).

It goes without saying there are lots of SEO-related software tools in the market. Doing simple keyword searches in the USPTO database or in Google Patent Search reveals thousands of documents that discuss or in some way implicate search optimization. Google itself has filed and been granted many patents on SEO-related software and inventions.

Bill Slawski has written extensively about SEO patents and only scratched the surface.

As a basic legal matter, the existence of a patent does not mean there will be a finding of liability by a judge or jury. Patent litigation is complex and can be confusing and messy. Patents can also re-examined by the US PTO upon request with the submission or citation of alleged “prior art” (earlier, related patents).

Regardless, this will be a case to watch. We’ve asked both companies for a comment and will update if we hear back.

Postscript: We have a statement now from Searchmetrics founder and chief technology officer Marcus Tober who emailed:

I appreciate that BrightEdge understood the value of Searchmetrics SEO platform and that they see us now as a serious competitor. That’s great. I’m looking forward that much more of their customers are switching to us because we have inventions, better data and we deliver to our customers what we promise. I’m absolutely not afraid of a lawsuit because as I see it we are not infringing any patent, especially not patents that were filed after we had these features already.

Postscript 2: We now have a statement from BrightEdge CEO and founder Jim Yu:

BrightEdge filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Searchmetrics in federal court in California yesterday.  The complaint alleges that Searchmetrics’s products infringe one or more claims of U.S. Patent Numbers 8,577,863, 8,478,700, 8,478,746, and 8,135,706.  A copy of the complaint will be posted on BrightEdge’s website later today.

As company policy, we take a “no comment” approach to all inquiries regarding litigation, including this lawsuit.

You can also refer to our website and content found at: http://www.brightedge.com/patents, which includes the following:

“BrightEdge Technologies, Inc., the leader in enterprise SEO, believes that investing in R&D is critical to delivering the advanced technology that sophisticated customers and marketing professionals increasingly need to keep on top of the dynamic world of digital marketing. The Company has spent millions of dollars on research and development, and our growing patent portfolio largely reflects fundamental innovations important to our industry. During the course of our history – since the earliest days when our founders worked relentlessly around the clock late into the night over months and months to invent their first new solutions and systems to tackle the needs of large enterprises – we have invested heavily to innovate and to deliver solutions that add significant value to customers.”

The case is below: