In a case of what appears to be yet another company desperate for attention lashing out at common technology, Polaris IP has brought a lawsuit against several big-name companies. Amazon, Yahoo, Google, AOL, IAC and Borders have all come under attack for automated e-mail systems, which Polaris IP claims violates their patents:

The lawsuit charges the companies with implementing systems that "comprise interpreting electronic messages with rule base and case base knowledge engines" as described in the patent held by the plaintiff, "Automatic message interpretation and routing system."
Polaris is seeking no less an injunction against the companies, which if granted would cause serious issues with these companies since automated e-mail of this type is crucial for their businesses to operate. This is particularly true for companies that are exclusively online, like Google, AOL, Yahoo and Amazon.

I give this lawsuit about a zero percent chance of going anywhere. The patent describes a process in which an e-mail is fed through a rule system, given a general or specific topic, and then a reply fired off to the e-mail based on what rules it fell under. Many, many systems use such tactics and without them, online support would be vastly more difficult and cumbersome. This is definitely an "obvious" technology, not something obscure or rarely seen.