The local search space is becoming a patent battleground. in the third local search patent to surface in the last month, Local.com today announced that it's been awarded a patent for "indexing and retrieving web-related information by geographical location."
Last month, Jingle Networks won a patent for elements of its 1-800-FREE-411 service, which serves targeted voice ads from related businesses and competitors when a user looks up a local business on its service.
Earlier this month, London-based Geomas sued Verizon and its Idearc spin-off, claiming that Idearc's Superpages.com infringes on a patent it owns for location-based search.
It's not likely that all of these seemingly overlapping patents, and other emerging patents, can all be enforced. The local search space is certainly overcrowded with start-ups, so a little bit of patent-enforcement might help with consolidation in the market. On the other hand, it can also stifle the growth of the industry, if the major players get involved in an all-out patent war. It would be best for the industry if these issues could get sorted out swiftly and decisively, but that's rarely the case in situations like these.