Courtesy of Eric Goldman, here’s a cute little patent case with a Google Books angle, Celorio v. Google. Celorio holds a U.S. patent on an “Electronic bookstore vending machine.” In his view, his patent describes a print-on-demand Espresso Book Machine to a T. So he sued Espresso’s maker, On Demand Books, and also Google. As the court explains, Celorio alleges that Google
- Directly infringes “out of his premises in California” by installing one or more Espresso Book Machines in its offices, where a user can request a book be downloaded and printed on demand.
- Commits contributory infringement because it offers to sell and sells electronic books, which are component of a patented device and apparatus.
- Commits contributory infringement by transferring its files to Espresso Book Machines, knowing the files will be transformed into a physical book using the ‘890 Patent without permission.
- Induces infringement “by promoting and encouraging the purchase of electronic books to [be] printed on demand” by Espresso Book Machines.
- Induces infringement by virtue of Google Books’ ability to provide searches of indexed book content.
The case doesn’t get at all into the facts of what Google does or whether Celorio’s patent really does cover any of these activities. Instead, it’s an early-stage dispute over how specifically Celorio needs to explain his theories of infringement, and the court’s conclusion is that he’s explained them well enough for the case to proceed. The takeaway is that not even the public domain books in Google Books are completely clear of legal challenges.