Google's innovative services raise challenging legal questions that demand creative and practical answers. We work at the crossroads of new technologies and existing laws to provide those answers, helping Google build innovative and important products for our users around the world.
—Recruiting advertisement for lawyers to work at Google
"We joust at the crossroads..." might be a more appropriate wording of this Google advertisement for lawyers. From patent, copyright, and trademark infringement to click fraud to wrongful dismissal, Google spends a lot of time in court. While it is true that Google makes a large target, it also is true, as the company itself notes, that it is operating in a field littered with uncertainties begging to be resolved in the courts of law. Some of the lawsuits address key issues that could define both Google and the Internet of the future.
In terms of Google's viability as a company, the most important of all the lawsuits pitted Google against its business partner, Yahoo!. It started in May 1999, when GoTo.com filed a patent application called "System and method for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine." The request was granted in July 2001, as U.S. patent 6269361. A related patent also was awarded in Australia. It seems the GoTo.com patent became the format for Google's AdWords.
Just a year later, Overture—prior to its acquisition by Yahoo!—initiated copyright infringement ...