Microsoft co-founder sues 11 companies for patent infringement

Patent infringement

Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, has joined in with the wave of litigation sweeping the US IT scene, filing patent-infringement suits against Apple, Google, eBay, Facebook, and seven other companies.

The patents cover the discovery of related audiovisual material in a file system or the internet for presentation on a screen and an alerting system for an operator that such information is available.

Basically, Allen is trying to claim features such as software which automates recommendations for similar articles of interest and pop-up stock quote alerts are covered by his patents.

The claim is being treated with some incredulity by legal experts. The main argument is the patents have been allowed to lie dormant for some time. They were filed by Allen's Interval Licensing research company in the late 1990s and granted before 2005. The delay in filing the complaint could limit any damages that may be awarded.

He is not only claiming damages though, but also asking for the defendant companies to discontinue any violations if the case succeeds. However, many of the companies have been using the disputed services for several years and this could strengthen their case against the request for them to desist.

The usual defence against a patent dispute is to counterclaim. Allen is probably secure because his company was wound up in 2000. There is a possibility the defendants will turn on Microsoft, his former company for which he is still a director. The MSNBC news service could also be a target.

Litigation has been seen as an effective way to make money from patents and this year has seen a disturbing number of suits being activated. It is a particularly American problem because other regions, such as Europe, would not grant patents for such tenuous inventions.

Other defendants mentioned in the suit are AOL, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo and YouTube.