I am sure many of you are already aware of this. A patent squatter (MasterObjects) filed lawsuits against Amazon, Google (in 2011), Yahoo, Microsoft, eBay, and probably others alleging patent infringement over "instant search" functionality. When you go to a search engine like Yahoo or Google and start typing in search terms, search suggestions or results are displayed as you type. Instead of executing a database query when a term is finished and someone hits the enter key, queries are executed and results are returned as the user types.

While MasterObjects did not invent web browsers, Javascript, AJAX, databases, or database queries, they and their lawyers are trying to lay claim to this obvious use of existing technology in order to squeeze money from any source they can find. Not only are search engines using this, but some forum scripts use it and so do many webmasters big and small.

If the court finds in favor of MasterObjects, everyone using it is going to be on the hook for royalties or damages. While this is an obvious use of existing technology and the patent should be invalidated, I do not have much faith in the American court system to arrive at the proper decision. Lawyers are greedy pigs, judges are idiots, and juries are often stocked with people who have no clue about technology or the law.

Has this lawsuit discouraged anyone from incorporating AJAX database queries into their websites? I am working on a personal site now and would like to do this but I don't want to risk some pig patent troll demanding money for something for which no patent should have ever been granted. The big companies sued so far will end up spending millions of dollars defending themselves against this frivolous lawsuit. I don't know what chance a small webmaster would have. I'm trying to decide which way to go. It could be years before a decision in this case is reached.