Impact Engine, a small California-based tech company, has filed a lawsuit against Google accusing the search giant of “willful patent infringement”. The filing states that several of Google’s digital advertising platforms including Google Ads and AdSense infringe on six patents relating to ‘programmatic creative’ held by the tech company.
Impact Engine alleges that Google initiated discussions around a partnership between 2005 and 2007, expressing interest in integrating Impact Engine’s dynamic creative tech into its own platforms. These discussions reportedly led to Impact Engine developing a working prototype to run on Google’s platforms, sharing source code and other intellectual property with Google in the process.
The ad tech company claims that Google then called off the partnership, and used the information it had gotten from Impact Engine to build its own products instead. The complaint says that Google’s Display Ad Builder product for example is “almost entirely” based on the ideas and intellectual property which Google gained access to through the discussions.
“As a result of Google’s brazen and willful patent infringement, Impact Engine has been forced to compete against our own technology,” said Neil Greer, Impact Engine’s CEO and co-founder. “We are determined to enforce our intellectual property rights and to protect our innovations, for Impact Engine’s own sake and for the sake of other young companies who might be victimised by behemoths such as Google.”
Google has not yet publicly responded to the claims. The company is no stranger to lawsuits, though most of the copyright claims it faces relate to content hosted on its media platforms like YouTube. But it has been accused of tech-related copyright infringement before – the company is embroiled in an ongoing legal battle with Oracle over use of the Java platform for its Android operating system.
That case has lasted over nine year so far, so it may be a while before we get a resolution to this new case. And Impact Engine doesn’t have the same resources available to Oracle to sustain such a lengthy case. Plus, with programmatic creative and dynamic creative optimisation in particular now so widespread, the company may have a tough time proving that Google stole its idea, if the claim is indeed true. Nonetheless it will be interesting to watch how the case unfolds.