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Kiwi Patent Foresight Threatens Yahoo! Shopping

A patent which threatens to derail the booming Yahoo! online shopping service was originally drafted in New Zealand by patent attorneys Baldwin Shelston Waters two years ago.

It was prepared on behalf of a local client and filed in the United States long before 'e-commerce' became a familiar expression.

The patent, drafted in BSW's Christchurch office covered technology developed by Juliette Harrington, relating to the 'universal shopping basket' concept. This allows online shoppers to compare prices for goods and services sold over the internet by selecting products from multiple sites but checking out at only one location.

The US patent was issued on April 20, this year and Juliette Harrington later appointed St Louis law firm SBH Inc to market and license the patent.

On November 10, SBH Inc filed a lawsuit accusing Yahoo! of infringing the patent with its online shopping technology. The suit seeks damages, an injunction to stop Yahoo! using the technology and reimbursement of costs.

Yahoo! – which reportedly recorded $US100million of purchases on its shopping service last month – has refused to admit the infringement.

Baldwin Shelston Waters' computer law expert Clive Elliott says that when the firm drafted the patent in 1997 it had to work closely with the applicant to attempt to second-guess where e-commerce would go as well as draw on its knowledge of the internet, networks and the web.

"The specification was only eight pages and written simply and clearly which has contributed to its interpretation in determining infringement," he adds.

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The patent has been under review for considerable time but its validity has been substantiated by thorough prior art searches.

The style of the original document was focused on US patent drafting practice and examination and has been reviewed extremely favourably by US counsel involved, says Mr Elliott.

"I think it reflects knowledge and foresight in recognising so early in the piece just how significant the technology – and its protection – was to become.

"It will also become a benchmark for future litigation on e-commerce practice.

"We agree with our colleagues at SBH Inc, that without protection, research and development investments made by small enterprises can be simply violated."

The lawsuit remains unsettled at this time.

end

For further information contact:

Clive Elliott, Baldwin Shelston Waters, Auckland office: Ph 373 3137 or John Terry, Baldwin Shelston Waters, Wellington office: Ph 04 472 1094

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