On June 7–8, 2013, patent-licensing entity Smart Search Concepts LLC filed nine similar patent-infringement lawsuits targeting fashion retailers Gap, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom, among other defendants. According to the complaints, the fashion retailers infringe some or all of three patents directed to “on-the-fly” website searches. The accused websites allegedly infringe when their search tools combine keywords with menus to help users narrow product selections.
According to press releases, Smart Search’s patents claim an invention that conducts dataset searches using keywords along with a user’s selections from a series of dropdown menus to winnow down product options based on user input. For example, when a user is searching for a Brand Y shirt in size 16.5/35, he can type in “Brand Y” and then select sizes based on menus created “on-the-fly” that reflect current inventory. Once all selections are made, the user can filter out other products and view only the Brand Y shirts in size 16.5/35 that are available.