A patent on domain name redirection technology, acquired by a subsidiary patent enforcer Acacia Research Corporation in August, is showing up in federal court. The patent is being used in six lawsuits filed last week by DN Lookup Technologies against Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, OpenDNS, Cox Communications and Charter Communications.
DN Lookup has the same Newport Beach zip code as Acacia, which acknowledged [PDF] acquiring a patent in this area back in August.
The lead inventor on the patent told The Patent Examiner he and his two co-inventors never discussed enforcing their patent, which was issued in 2001 and covers technology behind a suggestion service for web addresses. When an Internet user misspells a web address in their URL search bar, rather than get a 404 Error message the user is redirected to a list of links to similarly spelled websites. Comcast has a similar service called Domain Name Helper Service.
“We thought it was a pretty good idea that might be helpful in some situations, not ‘This is our next billion dollars,'” said Chris Risley, the lead inventor who is now CEO of Digital Reef Inc, a company that looks at contextual relationships between documents on the web.
Risley says he waived his rights to the patent to his two co-inventors in 2006 to avoid a conflict of interest when he took a new job dealing with web domains. “Perhaps they cut a deal with this firm [Acacia] who is well known to be in the patent trolling business,” Risley said, “but I don’t know.”
Risley’s co-inventors are Rick Lamb and Eduard Guzovsky, a pair he described as software developers he met in the Boston area in the 1990s. The year after Risley waived his rights, in 2007, Lamb and Guzovsky transferred the patent to Iscatel Inc, a domain name system company in Massachusetts, which then transferred the patent to Acacia in July of this year, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.
Acacia and its subsidiaries are known for partnering with inventors and patent holders in order to license patents to corporations, and have been involved in hundreds of patent lawsuits.
Lamb and Guzovsky did not respond to emails for this story. One attorney for the plaintiff declined to comment; other attorneys for the plaintiff did not respond to calls or emails.
The patent, No. 6,332,158, can be viewed here.
Read the full complaints [PDFs] for the lawsuits mentioned above: