IBM was once the powerhouse to end all powerhouses in the tech world. They've since spread their ventures out and, though they're doing well, have become relatively obscure. Newer tech firms, apps and OEMs have since snatched up the spotlight, sharing it amongst themselves as their niches dictate. One of these spotlight-sharing players happens to be deal-hunting app and website Groupon. As fate would have it, one of the things that IBM is still doing in this day and age is helping businesses to solicit customers via localized advertising, an activity which Groupon claims IBM is infringing one of their patents on. Specifically, IBM's technology to help businesses solicit customers that are nearby via the location given by those customers' devices is alleged by Groupon to violate a patent they filed in 2010.
The IBM technology that has attracted Groupon's attention is known as WebSphere. The platform allows businesses to detect nearby potential customers via GPS and send them direct messages. Customers are generally targeted based on their usage of social media. Groupon has brought the case to a federal court in Chicago, where they are headquartered. Naturally, the two companies' spokespeople had a few choice words for one another. Bill Roberts of Groupon accused IBM of being a "dial-up era dinosaur" and trying to buck that status through reprehensible means. IBM, meanwhile, fired back that Groupon's case was "totally without merit".
While all of the vitriol may seem a bit excessive, it is important to note, for context's sake, that this is not the first court run-in that IBM and Groupon have had. Two months before Groupon's current suit was brought up, IBM was actually the one doing the suing, saying that Groupon had violated four of their patents, some of which sprung from as far back as 1980. While IBM expressed that they were "disappointed" at Groupon's efforts to divert attention from the suits they were facing, Groupon's lawsuit boldly and publicly called IBM out, saying, "IBM, a relic of once-great 20th Century technology firms, has now resorted to usurping the intellectual property of companies born this millennium,". With the court battle in full swing and both sides having federal cases against one another, only time will tell what patents will and won't hold water and which company will ultimately come out on top.