The case has been closely watched by U.S. webmasters – both adult and mainstream – because more companies are compiling their own private search engines.
Nautical Solutions Marketing Inc. of St. Petersburg, Fla., runs a website called YachtBroker.com which uses a software program to harvest yacht sale information from other websites, including one owned by Boats.com of Lake Forest, Ill., and then compiles it for its subscribers.
U.S. District Court Judge Steven D. Merryday ruled that Nautical's practice of collecting yacht listings, photos and product descriptions from various websites represented lawful use of facts that weren't protected by copyright law.
Merryday also said the rights to the photos and descriptions listed on Boats.com's YachtWorld.com were held by individual yacht brokers, not Boats.com itself.
Furthermore, Merryday said, Nautical did not infringe on any Boats.com copyrights related to the design of YachtWorld.com or the manner in which the website compiled and presented information.
Search engines such as Google and Yahoo use robotic software to capture information in ways similar to the activities of YachtWorld.com, which collected data but not the look or feel of websites.
The decision comes after a federal jury in Tampa found in favor of Nautical in a defamation lawsuit against Boats.com, awarding Nautical $300,000 in damages last December, including $50,000 in punitive damages.
The allegations of trespass and illegal activity caused Nautical Solutions' business to plummet, said Steve Schwarz, the company's president of sales.
Separately on Friday, a second hearing over Acacia Technology Group's legal battle asserting claims that it owns patents relating to streaming media continues in Santa Ana., Calif.
The Markman hearing, in which a judge hears evidence and definitions before determining asserted patent claims as law matters, is being heard by U.S. District Court Judge James Ware.