Lawyer sets out defence plan to counter inventor's claim

A patent lawyer is urging brokers to pull together to fight an inventor who claims to own an obscure patent on internet price comparison software.

The software searches for the best product prices on web-based systems similar to those used by brokers.

Weightman Vizards patent lawyer James Powell said brokers must consider his four-point plan (see box) before paying up.

"Time is currently on the side of brokers as there are several key areas they can cover before running the risk of drowning in the wave of litigation," said Powell.

But Roderick Lawrie, owner of InCom Licensing who claims to have a 20-year monopoly on the software, said he would be ruthless if brokers did not pay.

"It has taken me seven years to get to this stage, I am not going to give up.

"Those who do not pay will be taken to court, will have their patents backdated and will be refused the right to trade online in the future."

He has sent out more than 300 letters demanding that brokers pay £100 per computer terminal, that software developers pay £50 per subscriber and that online brokers pay 0.1% of their annual turnover.

"I have already earned £16,000 in five days from small brokers and plan to increase that up to £2m by the end of May 2003," he said.

Lawrie, who was granted the patent in 1997, plans to target more than 40,000 companies trading in the UK.

Among those he plannned to target were travel agents, who he claimed were in breach of his patent.

The four-point plan to defend the patent claim

  • Get advice on the general use of 'spidering' and whether it pre-dates the application being granted.
  • Investigate the requirement for 'inputting' set out in the claims of the InCom patent. In particular, what do we consider the Patent Court's definition of 'inputing' would be in this context?
  • Investigate the similarities between a central server station and a central computer (US case BT v Prodigy Communications)
  • Is the patent actually a business method patent, because such patents are not recognised in the UK or at the European Patent Office.