Airbnb Sued for Patent Infringement by IBM

IBM claimed that short-term rental giant Airbnb took innovations made by IBM to run its e-commerce business, particularly innovations used by IBM in Prodigy, one of the first e-commerce services available before the advent of the World Wide Web. IBM said in their complaint they have tried to negotiate a license with Airbnb since May of 2014, but it has chosen to keep infringing IBM’s patents without discussing an agreement. “Enough is enough,” the complaint stated. IBM is represented in the case by Shaw Keller.

The patents involved in the case are United States Patent Nos. 7,072,849 (the ‘849 patent), 6,778,193 (the ‘193 patent), 7,631,346 (the ‘346 patent), and 6,966,038 (the ‘038 patent). The ‘849 patent was used in IBM’s development of Prodigy, a precursor to the World Wide Web, and involved taking advantage of the computing power of a user’s PC to increase response speed. The ‘193 patent involved a method to improve search results based on user context. The ‘346 patent involved improvements to single-sign-on technology for first-time users. The ‘038 patent improved navigation by using bookmarks.

“Rather than build its business on its own technologies, Airbnb has appropriated the inventions of the Patents-In-Suit,” the complaint claims. They allege Airbnb’s websites and apps use technology claimed by the patents including the way its websites, apps, and advertising are structured. They cite the way Airbnb uses bookmarks, login features, and advertising as uses of their patented technology.

An Airbnb spokesman said in a statement, “we believe this case does not have any merit and look forward to an outcome which vindicates this position.” Airbnb has not yet filed anything in the case.

IBM says it wants other companies to use their technological advances, but with an agreement and a license to use their patents. “IBM’s commitment to developing these types of advanced computing technologies has helped to usher in the information age,” they claim. IBM demands a jury trial, seeks an injunction against further infringements of the patents, and asks for an award of damages for the infringement over the last six years.