Roger Hardy, who in February sold web-only eyewear company Coastal Contacts for $385.7 million, will consolidate OnlineShoes.com and ShoeMe.ca.
The two companies clash over programs that protect online purchases.
BuySafe Inc., a company that provides online retailers with a buyer-assurance program, has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court in Delaware charging Google Inc. with patent infringement in the development of Google’s Trusted Store program. The complaint says that Google used information gained from buySafe—including aborted joint venture discussions with buySafe between 2006 and 2008, and discussions between buySafe and a former buySafe customer subsequently hired by Google to run its Trusted Store program—to develop the Google Trusted Store program.
BuySafe provides retailers with an assurance program that lets them display a Trusted Seal on their e-commerce sites. The Trusted Seal program guarantees any purchases made on such sites; buySafe also provides online shoppers with identity theft protection and a same-store low-price guarantee. The company says it received its patent—which it refers to as the Safe Transaction Guarantee, or patent No. 7,644,019—on Jan. 5, 2010.
The complaint charges that the former buySafe customer hired by Google became product manager for the new Google Trusted Stores program. The complaint doesn’t name the product manager, a position now held by Tom Fallows.
Google did not immediately return a request for comment. A spokesman for BuySafe says it has a policy of not commenting on ongoing litigation that the company is involved in.
The Trusted Store program, which Google is apparently still testing, lets participating online retailers include a Google endorsement on their e-commerce pages, including ratings for shipping reliability and level of service. Google also offers to help online shoppers on sites participating in the program to resolve any purchasing problems; use of the service can affect a retailer’s service rating. Among retailers that have tested the program is BeachAudio.com.
BuySafe contends in the complaint that Google is demanding its participating retailers to use its assurance program exclusively, and that Google is telling retailers that participation in the Trusted Store program will improve their rankings in Google search results. “Indeed, that advantage is so significant that few, if any, online merchants will have any choice but to use Google’s Trusted Store program,” buySafe says in the complaint.
BuySafe further contends in the complaint that Google “appears to have timed the roll-out of its Trusted Stores program so as to impede buySafe’s effort to raise additional capital, which buySafe needs in order to expand its business.”
BuySafe adds in the complaint: “Google’s acts and practices have a dangerous probability of driving buySafe from the market.”