Yahoo! owns several patents covering Google’s new Instant search engine, according to Shashi Seth, Yahoo!’s senior vice president of search and a former search product leader at Google.
In 2005, Yahoo! rolled out a service remarkably similar to Google Instant at a site called AlltheWeb, a small search engine it had purchased a few years before. Like Google Instant, it tried to predict what you were looking for and served up results pages as you typed. That same year, the company introduced another similar service — if less similar — dubbed Yahoo! Instant Search, which launched “speech bubbles” of results just below the search box as you typed.
Speaking with The Register last Thursday morning at Yahoo!’s Sunnyvale headquarters, Seth reiterated that Yahoo! had introduced a Google Instant–like service five years before its rival, and he said that Yahoo! owns “about five…broad” patents that cover Google’s technology.
Ok, I am not a lawyer and I readily admit that I don’t understand how some things work but if this is actually the case wouldn’t Yahoo be a little upset and possibly take action against Google?
The interview with Seth, who was at one time the head of monetization at Google’s YouTube (whatever that means), goes into some other areas as well. He takes shots at Google’s version of these patents and says that Google opted for the busiest option of this new service simply to generate more revenue and not to enhance the search experience (Google looking for more revenue? Who woulda thunk?)
As for Yahoo’s ‘official’ response?
Multiple Yahoo! spokespeople declined to say one way or another whether the company plans to exert its patents for “instant search.” And the company declined to point to the specific patents Seth alluded to.
“Yahoo! continuously innovates to better help people access the information they want, when they want it, delivered in a manner that makes sense for each user,” reads the official statement from the company. “We routinely take appropriate measures to protect that innovation – whether by patent, copyright or trade secret. Yahoo! does not comment on the specific details about how we protect our innovation for a particular product or innovation.
Whether this becomes a legal tussle remains to be seen but you would hope that if a Yahoo employee would actually make these kinds of accusations he would be pretty confident that the situation is genuine, right? Well, this is the Internet industry after all and maybe the whole “truth thing” will eventually be known but for now let’s assume something deviant and underhanded is afoot. Otherwise, what would there be to talk about?