Friday, April 19, 2024

Paul Allen Refiles Massive Patent Suit Against Tech Heavies

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A company owned by Paul Allen, the billionaire investor and Microsoft cofounder, has reintroduced a patent-infringement lawsuit against some of the nation’s biggest Internet companies, including Google and Apple.

The renewed filing, which names Allen’s Interval Licensing as the plaintiff, comes in response to a federal judge’s decision earlier this month to dismiss the original complaint, saying that the charges described were too vague.

Judge Marsha Pechman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington had set Dec. 28 as a deadline for refiling the suit.

At issue are a set of patents dating back to the 1990s relating to browsing, Web content and ecommerce technologies, awarded originally to Allen’s old company, Interval Research.

One of the patents describes a technology for displaying contextually relevant content on a Web page, and the suit details allegations of infringement such as the related item recommendations that Apple serves up in its iTunes music store and eBay offers on its marketplace. Similarly, Facebook is alleged to infringe by pointing users to related content on people’s profiles across the social network.

In the case of Google and Yahoo, Interval is alleging infringement of the related-content patent across an array of services, including the companies’ spam filters, contextual advertising and news and video websites. The lawsuit enumerates examples of each defendant’s online properties employing contextual technologies that Interval claims are protected by its patent.

The 11 defendants named in the suit are: AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo and YouTube.

Interval is asserting two other patents that relate to technology for alerting users to information “in an unobtrusive manner that does not distract the user from his primary interaction with an apparatus such as, for example, a computer or television.”

Interval is arguing that AOL’s buddy alerts in its instant messaging client, for instance, infringe on those patents. The complaint makes a similar claim about the Apple Dashboard and its complementary widgets, several of Google’s products, including Talk and Voice, and Yahoo’s Messenger, Connected TV and Widgets services.

The final patent Interval is asserting in its lawsuit relates to an alert and recommendation technology that the firm claims has been the subject of infringement by the ecommerce, content or social platforms of each of the defendants. In that section of the complaint, Interval alleges infringement in products such as Facebook’s News Feed, Google’s Reader RSS feed and the recommendation services of the three office supply-firms’ websites.

In response to the judge’s request for a more specific enumeration of the allegations, Interval’s attorneys supplemented the 35-page complaint with 40 exhibits containing screen shots of sections of the defendants’ websites that they claim infringe on the patents at issue.

Interval Licensing is represented in the case by the law firms Susman Godfrey and Heim Payne & Chorush.

Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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