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Ask Jeeves Faces Patent Infringement Suit

Two Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists filed suit this week against natural-language search engine Ask Jeeves Inc., alleging the company infringed on their patents.

Patrick Winston and Boris Katz, both experts in the fields of artificial intelligence and natural language computer programming, were issued patents in 1994 and 1995 for methods that facilitate the retrieval of computer text and database material, including the use of natural language searching.

Filed Thursday in Massachusetts federal court, the lawsuit alleges that Ask Jeeves (ASKJ) infringed on the scientists' patents when it created its natural-language search engine. They are seeking an injunction barring the Ask Jeeves' search utility from being used on any of its sites, as well as undisclosed monetary damages.

The lawsuit states that Ask Jeeves has been aware of the alleged patent infringement since February, but has not made any attempts to change its technology.

When contacted by InternetNews, an Ask Jeeves spokeswoman said the company is aware that the lawsuit was filed, but officials had not yet been served. She did say that if the complaint is served, "the company will aggressively defend the suit."