Pet Food Retailer Files Patent Action Against IBM

On Monday, Chewy, Inc., an online retailer for pet products, filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York against International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) asking the court for a declaratory judgment of noninfringement for the patents-in-suit.

Chewy stated that “while IBM has obtained thousands of patents over the past 20 years, it is widely accepted that IBM does not itself make or sell any products or services covered by the vast majority of those patents.” However, Chewy claimed that “as part of its licensing campaign, IBM has accused numerous well-known web-based companies of infringing very early Internet patents and demanded large sums in royalty payments to avoid costly litigation … Many of those companies accused of infringement refused to take licenses and were ultimately sued by IBM.” 

Following this purported pattern, IBM informed Chewy in July 2020 about its purported infringement. Allegedly, the plaintiff’s operation of infringed the patents-in-suit. However, Chewy argued that it does not infringe any claims in the asserted patents and declined to discuss “a ‘business resolution,” with IBM. 

The patents-in-suit included U. S. Patent Nos. 7,072,849 (the ’849 patent); 9,569,414 (the ’414 patent); 7,076,443 (the ’443 patent); and 6,704,034 (the ’034 patent); entitled respectively, “Method for Presenting Advertising in an Interactive Service”; “Method, Framework, And Program Product For Formatting And Serving Web Content”; “System And Technique For Automatically Associating Related Advertisements To Individual Search Results Items Of A Search Result Set”; “Method And Apparatus For Providing Accessibility Through A Context Sensitive Magnifying Glass.”

Chewy argued that its website cannot infringe, for example, claim 1 of the ’849 patent because “the website does not pre-fetch advertising objects for future use,” while the claim in the patent requires “pre-fetching advertising objects and storing at a store established at the reception system in anticipation of display concurrently with the applications.” 

Chewy claimed that it does not infringe the ’414 patent because its website “utilizes JavaScript objects and JavaScript functions that are fetched via separate requests,” meanwhile the patented claim states “the step of requesting a set of JavaScript objects and a set of JavaScript requests in a single HTTP request.” Moreover, Chewy stated that it does not infringe the ’443 patent because its website “does not associate any advertisements based on the words in the selected search result item” as described in the patent. 

Lastly, Chewy asserted that it does not infringe the ’034 patent because the patented claim states the step of “‘magnifying presentation of the object based on the object type of the object’ and the images on Chewy’s website are magnified based on a data-zoom-id=’Zoomer’ attribute and not because they are images.”  

Chewy averred that it does not infringe IBM’s asserted patents, however, IBM sent a letter to Chewy countering its claims, and requested a meeting with Chewy. The parties continued to go back and forth arguing their positions about the purported infringement and a desire or lack thereof for the parties to meet before Chewy sought declaratory judgment from the court.

Chewy claimed that IBM had asserted the patents against other companies like “Amazon, Priceline, Expedia, Zillow, Airbnb, and Groupon.” Consequently, Chewy proffered that it believes IBM will sue it for the alleged infringement of the patents-in-suit, which Chewy argued it does not infringe. 

Chewy has sought declaratory judgment of non-infringement of the patents-in-suit, an award for costs and fees, and other relief. Chewy is represented by Greenberg Traurig, LLP.