Microsoft Sued Over Live Tiles
October 31, 2012

Microsoft Sued Over Windows 8 Live Tiles

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Microsoft announced their latest smartphone operating system, Windows Phone 8, on Monday. While there are a few new features, including Kid´s Zone and the ability for all developers to write Live Tile functionality in their apps, the interface is the same as its introduction. The Start screen is filled with what Microsoft calls Live Tiles, providing users a quick and easy way to glance at their phone, get the information they need, and move on with their lives.

Yesterday, a Portland, Maine company filed a lawsuit against Microsoft, saying Windows Phone 8 and several other new Microsoft products infringe on a patent they´ve held since 2004.

The problem is those handy Live Tiles. SurfCast, the complainant, claims one of the four patents they hold covers a “System and method for simultaneous display of multiple information sources.”

According to the most recent description of the ℠403 patent in question, it covers a GUI that places a variety of information on a grid of tiles. The trick to these tiles, of course, is they can refresh themselves without the user having to do so manually.

Microsoft filed for a very similar patent, the ℠632 patent, in 2006 and was awarded rights to this patent in 2011. They weren't awarded the patent straight away, as the U.S. Patent Office rejected their original attempt in 2009. SurfCast is hoping this rejection will be just what they need to emerge victorious in this lawsuit.

"During prosecution of the application that issued as the ´632 patent, the Patent Examiner cited the ´403 patent as relevant prior art as part of a Non-Final Rejection dated April 21, 2009," reads SurfCast´s lawsuit.

"Accordingly, Microsoft had knowledge of the ´403 patent at least as early as April 21, 2009."

Microsoft´s patent does make mention of other similar patents, including the ℠403 patent. In the end, the Patent and Trademark office found Microsoft´s ℠632 patent to be unique enough from SurfCast´s ℠403 patent to grant them the right to the technology.

According to SurfCast´s claims, Microsoft´s Windows Phone 8, Windows Phone 7, Windows RT and all other versions of Windows 8 violate their patent. Furthermore, the lawsuit claims Microsoft is making patent violators out of every app developer who takes advantage of the ability to turn their apps into Live Tiles.

SurfCast is claiming Microsoft´s infringement has caused them “harm and injury,” and is therefore looking for the Redmond company to “account and pay to SurfCast all damages caused to SurfCast.”

There´s just one sticking point in the entire case: As Ars Technica points out, SurfCast has yet to make anything or announce plans to make anything which would use this technology. SurfCast´s own website claims they developed the “concept of Tiles” in the 1990s, though they´ve yet to do anything with this patent. Ars Technica also points out SurfCast didn´t start using the word “Tiles” until 2011, after Microsoft had already begun to implement this UI in their smartphones.

SurfCast, it appears, is a patent troll, or a non-practicing entity.

Microsoft doesn´t seem worried about this lawsuit either, saying in a statement: “We are confident we will prove to the court that these claims are without merit and that Microsoft has created a unique user experience.”