December 29, 2010

Interval Filing Patent Lawsuit Against Major Companies

Microsoft Corp co-founder Paul Allen relaunched a wide-ranging patent infringement lawsuit against Apple Inc., Google Inc., Facebook and others with specific allegations that the companies are illegally using technology that his company developed and owns.

Interval Licensing LLC, which is a small research founded by Allen, originally filed a broad patent suit in federal court in Seattle in August.  However, Judge Marsha Pechman dismissed it on the grounds that it did not specify any actual products or devices. 

Allen claims Interval was central to research and development of technology in the Internet arena in the 1990s, grabbing over 300 patents and providing research assistance to Google.

Allen's firm claims in the suit that four of Interval's patents have been infringed by a number of successful companies.

The first patent concerns the generation of data related to information being browsed.  Interval said that Google allegedly uses this technology to match advertisements from third parties to content being displayed, while AOL's sites use it to suggest items related to news stories.

Interval also claims that Apple's iTunes service uses the technology to suggest music based on a user's searches and that eBay Inc., Facebook, Netflix, Yahoo Inc. and Office Depot's sites have also infringed on patents that direct users to related content.

The second and third patents concern relaying information on a computer screen in a peripheral, unobtrusive manner, like instant messaging provided by AOL.

The fourth patent concerns alerting Web browsers to new items of interest based on activity of other users.  The company said that AOL allegedly uses this technology on its shopping sites, while Apple's iTunes uses it to recommend music.

Interval said that eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, Staples Inc., Yahoo and Google's YouTube all have infringed its patent in the way they suggest content to users.

Allen's company has asked the court for damages and a ban on products that use the disputed patents.