2011 is rapidly becoming the year that the patent plaintiffs turned their attention to retailers. As previously reported, GeoTag, Inc., recently brought a patent infringement lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas against more than three hundred retailers alleging that store locator functions on the retailers’ websites infringed its patent. Now, another frequent patent plaintiff, SFA Systems, LLC (“SFA”) has filed a patent infringement suit in the Eastern District of Texas against 27 retailers with websites. The lawsuit is captioned SFA Systems, LLC v. Amazon.com, Inc. At issue is U.S. Patent No. 6,067,525 (the “‘525 Patent”), issued on May 25, 2000 and entitled “Integrated Computerized Sales Force Automation System.” The ‘525 Patent purports to claim methods for facilitating processes relating to the sale of products and services online, including using such systems for personalizing the online experience of users, such as by making personalized recommendations, engaging in personalized marketing, providing personalized customer care, and helping online customers find compatible products. This is the third lawsuit brought asserting the ‘525 Patent and the second directed at retailers.

As we have previously advised retailers in considering how to respond to patent infringement lawsuits directed at a specific website functionality, the starting point is to determine whether the functionality at issue was provided by a third party. Many such third-party licenses will include indemnification in the event of a claim of intellectual property infringement. Retailers that have been named as defendants in this new lawsuit should act promptly to determine whether they have any indemnification rights and, if so, to assert them as soon as possible.

If you wish to obtain a copy of this lawsuit or the ‘525 Patent, please contact me at tross@crowell.com.