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Paul Allen Files Patent Suit Against Apple, Google, Yahoo, Others 219

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-for-the-gusto dept.
mewshi_nya writes "A firm run by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen filed suit alleging 11 technology companies are violating patents developed at a Silicon Valley lab that Allen financed more than a decade ago. Named in the lawsuit: Apple, Google, AOL, eBay, Facebook, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo and Google's YouTube subsidiary. The suit doesn't name Microsoft, Amazon.com or other tech companies in Seattle where Allen is based, and it doesn't estimate a damage amount. The suit lists violations of four patents (PDF) for technology that appear to be key components of the operations of the companies — and that of e-commerce and Internet search companies in general."
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Paul Allen Files Patent Suit Against Apple, Google, Yahoo, Others

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  • Why now? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    For what reason has he waited all of this time to file said suit? It's not like the timing is great.... economy is still down, if he had waited a bit longer, perhaps the companies would have more money?

    • by vux984 (928602)

      For what reason has he waited all of this time to file said suit? It's not like the timing is great.... economy is still down, if he had waited a bit longer, perhaps the companies would have more money?

      Patents are over a decade old... maybe he wanted to try and get his gold before they expired.

      • Re:Why now? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:16PM (#33397990) Journal

        No no no, he financed the development of this a little over a decade ago. He filed for these about a decade ago and they were only actually issued about 5 years ago - Now, why he waited 5 years to sue is beyond me, but that seems to be the growing trend nowadays. Wait until the most profitable organizations are using it and then sue them for infringement and make a bit of profit.

        Is he trolling? Well, kind of, yes. But its not like he bought up these patents and are now suing anyone he wants, he actually did have invested interest in these and they were actually developed. He's playing favourites of course, he co-founded Microsoft.

        I don't think he is trolling anymore than he is just 'playing the game'. I mean how many times have Nokia and Apple gone toe to toe with infringement?

        • Re:Why now? (Score:4, Funny)

          by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:30PM (#33398146)

          Mr. Allen, a pioneer of computer software, didn't develop any of the technology himself but owns the patents.

          So, he didn't buy them ... and didn't develop them ... so does that make him a bankrolling patent troll?

          • Better that the patent trolls fight amongst themselves than smaller startups though, right?

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by initdeep (1073290)

            no more so than El Jobso is....

            after all, His Steveness' name is on just about every patent that Apple files, yet he has very little if anything to do with the actual development of them.

            So when Apple file suit against Nokia, it's actually His Steveness that's filing in most cases since he is the patent holder and Apple is merely the Licensee.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              El Jobso

              His Steveness

              Thanks for making your trolling so obvious you do Slashdot a service by making it so easy to ignore anything you have to say so we can spend time on more serious posts.

        • Re:Why now? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:34PM (#33398766) Journal
          Having licensed a few of my own patents to big companies, it's very likely he's been in negotiations for 3-4 years and they finally broke down. It's not at all uncommon to take 2-3 years to negotiate a license agreement, and that usually only starts after the patent is actually issued AND the potential licensee has had 6-12 months to read and fully comprehend the issued patent.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by saleenS281 (859657)
          You're assuming that Microsoft doesn't already have a licensing agreement. Do you have proof of this accusation?
      • Re:Why now? (Score:5, Informative)

        by tomhudson (43916) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:10PM (#33398588) Journal

        The 507 patent ()2001) falls to prior art - RoboBoard, bbs that downloaded graphic primitives and let you navigate through a virtual world (never mind just audio-visual data). Also the Space Quest and Kings Quest games, etc.

        The 602 and 314 patents "Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device." is preceded by, among other things, those annoying tickertape displays that have been around for decades, wall clocks for anyone sitting in front of a computer at 4:55 PM, etc.

        The 682 patent "Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest." (2004) is anticipated by the flag on your mailbox that lets you know you have mail, your doorbell, TV Guide magazine, the front page of any newspaper sitting at the news stand, etc. And of course, "You have mail".

        Maybe this will the the one that finally puts the end to stupid software patents.

    • Re:Why now? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Locke2005 (849178) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:17PM (#33398002)
      He's not trying to get damages out of them; he's trying to get them to settle by buying "licenses" to make the problem go away. Plus, he's suing companies that HAVE money, while they still do have some assets. If I was trying to get money out of AOL, I'd be in a big hurry too!
    • Paul cant make any money off his old stock anymore
    • by erroneus (253617)

      I think it is more telling that suits were only filed against non-Seattle companies. Seems like they are interested in avoiding a motion of change of venue. If both the plaintiff and defendant are in the same area, a local court should be used. I guess I really ought to read the article for more details but it is pretty telling that he doesn't sue his neighbors... I guess I will see which venue was selected.

  • Is it just me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by magsol (1406749) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:11PM (#33397912) Homepage Journal
    ...or do the patent lawsuits that show up on /. seem frivolous to the point of absurdity?

    If so, is that sample bias? Or are all patent lawsuits intrinsically ridiculous?
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      It's a fine example of what's wrong with patenting lines of code, vs a product. Welcome to screwed up city. Population: Everyone.

    • by God'sDuck (837829) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:17PM (#33398012)

      ...or do the patent lawsuits that show up on /. seem frivolous to the point of absurdity?
      If so, is that sample bias? Or are all patent lawsuits intrinsically ridiculous?

      More like: nine times out of ten, when it's not frivolous, it's not news because it's settled by negotiation behind closed doors. Companies have to want to make a public stand against a patent to choose to let it go to court, which means most cases involve a troll at one end or another. The tenth case is just the one where negotiations fell through. And you can tell those because they're inevitably answered by countersuits where the defendant returns fire against the plaintiff until somebody settles.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      The lawsuits mentioned on slashdot sound more frivolous because you're only hearing half of the story. This of course doesn't explain the SCO Group case, for which the only rational response must be "WTF?!?", even if (especially if) both sides arguments are carefully examined.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        What side of the story is the patent on? In my eyes they are almost always on the obvious side.

        Yeah yeah, I know hindsight ... fuck that, either we let experts judge obviousness without lawyer written "tests" which just redefine the word or we should just rubber stamp everything and stop pretending to give a shit about obviousness.

    • The lawsuits which aren't frivolous are boring enough that they don't get news stories, or even blogs, written about them.

  • Trial by fire (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fuseboy (414663) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:12PM (#33397940) Homepage

    I think this is a great idea. I hope he wins, and internet search and ecommerce are shut down en masse by injunction. Whee! Then we could have a nice look at this business of patents and how we feel about them.

    I wonder, is there such a thing as an inverse class action - by which I mean, could a whole raft of internet companies join the defending side as a show of solidarity, claiming that if the current defendants are violating, then they are too?

    • Re:Trial by fire (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheEyes (1686556) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:29PM (#33398136)

      Ah, but did you notice that Paul Allen did not sue Microsoft? Yup, he went down the list of the top search engines--number 1, 3, 4, 5, etc--but "somehow" forgot about Bing, the number 2 engine.

      No, allowing this lawsuit to succeed will play right into his hands. It's SCO all over again: Microsoft can't compete in the free market, so they trot out another sleeper cell patent troll with its portfolio of submarine patents to try to sink their competition in the courts. And they'll keep doing it, as long as they have the money and software patents continue to be as stupid as they are.

  • And here I thought (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sconeu (64226) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:12PM (#33397944) Homepage Journal

    That Allen was the non-evil guy from MS. Guess I was wrong.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      He is the proverbial "lesser of two weasels".
    • by zulux (112259)

      Search Google for "Paul Allen harassment"

      I'm counting about four victims.

    • by EvilIdler (21087)

      He was always the quiet guy in the background. Perhaps he's the REAL mastermind behind all of Microsoft's evil schemes ;)

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      Picard was the good guy until got assimilated by the Borg. And Microsoft is even worse than the Borg, there is no easy way out, even if you quit the evilness remains.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ejasons (205408)

      He owns Ticketmaster; doesn't get much more evil than that...

  • Really? (Score:4, Funny)

    by xrayspx (13127) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:12PM (#33397946) Homepage
    Does he really need another ivory backscratcher that badly?
  • So Paul is running out of money, huh?

    A snippet from the suit [wsj.com]:

    Defendant Apple has infringed and continues to infringe one or more claims of the ’507 patent [Patent No. 6,263,507]. Apple is liable for infringing the ’507 patent under 35 U.S.C. 271 by making and using websites, hardware, and software to categorize, compare, and display segments of a body of information as claimed in the patent.

    I haven't tried to follow all of the claims in that patent, but I did skim the first page. Based on wha

    • Yeah.

      All of those companies certainly are violating Allen's patents. The problem is, those patents (completely irrespective of how you feel about software patents in general) should never have been granted -- there's just far too much prior art for each of the four.

  • by Random BedHead Ed (602081) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:13PM (#33397962) Homepage Journal

    He's sued AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo and YouTube (so Google ... again!). For some strange reason he did not sue Microsoft. Here are the two primary super-genius patents representing ideas no one else could have come up with:

    • 6,263,507, "Browser for Use in Navigating a Body of Information, With Particular Application to Browsing Information Represented By Audiovisual Data"
    • 6,757,682, "Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest"

    Having alerted you users all to these items of interest, I will now proceed to pay Paul Allen.

    • by God'sDuck (837829) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:23PM (#33398074)

      • 6,263,507, "Browser for Use in Navigating a Body of Information, With Particular Application to Browsing Information Represented By Audiovisual Data"
      • 6,757,682, "Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest"

      Having alerted you users all to these items of interest, I will now proceed to pay Paul Allen.

      Gasp! And you used my browser to do it, you patent-cheating fiend!

    • by straponego (521991) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:24PM (#33398076)
      And yet Microsoft goes to great lengths to convince people that, this time, we can trust them not to sue (see the story on .NET/Android). They learned to protect their image better in the 90s; now they use proxies like Allen's company and SCO to attack their enemies. And if some company is dumb enough to take them at their word, they can always pull out the knives once their patents are used in successful products.
    • Suing Microsoft would be suing himself. His company could do it but it might not make much sense financially.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by JImbob0i0 (1202835)

        Microsoft could have settled with him and then he could have used that as an example to go after others... ;)

  • Patented inventions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by roothog (635998) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:14PM (#33397970)

    I read these patents as:
    * Patenting text summarization.
    * Patenting rating systems.

    The idea that either of those is a patentable invention is absurd. Specific algorithms to do either one, sure, but you can't patent general concepts.

    • Specific algorithms to do either one, sure, but you can't patent general concepts.

      Actually patenting algorithms is also absurd, although allowed under our bizarre patent system.

    • by melikamp (631205)

      Specific algorithms to do either one, sure, but you can't patent general concepts.

      Algorithms are mathematical objects. They are what you and almost anyone else would call "general concepts", and patenting or copyrighting them is not really that different from patenting or copyrighting integers.

  • What gives him the idea he can take on a dozen major tech companies out of the Valley?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by God'sDuck (837829)

      What gives him the idea he can take on a dozen major tech companies out of the Valley?

      That would be patent 5714015... [freepatentsonline.com]

    • by mckinnsb (984522)
      What gives him the idea that all of the lawyers for all of those companies would even *fit into a single courtroom?* They would need to take it to the local auditorium.
    • by hondo77 (324058)
      Somebody (certainly not him) needs to pay for his bad investments!
  • Patents In question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by N_Piper (940061) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:19PM (#33398030)
    TL;DR summing up
    But the first patent '507 seems to be for "browsing audiovisual data" or a web browser
    Patent '652 and '314 are patents for "Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device" or Advertisments.
    Patent '682 is for "Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest." or Targeted Advertisements.
    Yea you legally filed patents
    No you can't patent advertising or web browsing
    Sorry your claim is BS go back to your bridge you troll.
    • by bpkiwi (1190575) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:23PM (#33398712)
      It's even worse, you should have a look at the patents themselves, such as the '507 patent...
      We claim:
      1. A system for acquiring and reviewing a body of information, wherein the body of information includes a plurality of segments, each segment representing a defined set of information in the body of information, the system comprising:

      means for acquiring data representing the body of information;

      means for storing the acquired data;

      first display means for generating a display of a first segment of the body of information from data that is part of the stored data; means for comparing data representing a segment of the body of information to data representing a different segment of the body of information to determine whether, according to one or more predetermined criteria, the compared segments are related; and

      second display means for generating a display of a portion of, or a representation of, a second segment of the body of information from data that is part of the stored data, wherein the second display means displays the portion or representation of the second segment in response to the display by the first display means of a first segment to which the second segment is related.

      So .... they appear to claim they invented diff in 1996. All other claims are based from this claim. Unfortunatly for them diff was invented in the early 1970s.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Patent '652 and '314 are patents for "Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device" or Advertisments.

      Patent '682 is for "Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest." or Targeted Advertisements.

      Sorry, but you're wrong - it's not about ads. With those three patents, he basically patented Clippy.

  • by realmolo (574068) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:19PM (#33398034)

    If Obama and Congress want to stimulate the US (and, really, the whole world) economy, the BEST thing they could do would be to invalidate all copyrights and patents that are more than 10 years old, and abolish ALL "business practice" patents, and ALL software patents.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      In the United States, the federal government is prohibited from passing ex post facto laws by clause 3 of Article I, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution. Some would argue that prematurely terminating existing copyrights and patents violates that provision. However, but the same token, extending currently copyrights should also be seen as a violation of that provision. To be logical, the laws that were in place at the time the intellectual property protection was initially filed for should apply for the entir
      • not sure if lawyers would be able to successfully argue that or not, but the intent of that provision was that you couldn't criminalize something and then try someone for committing the crime prior to it being a law. invalidating patent/copyright protections would not be making them criminal nor trying to prosecute a person or corporation for claiming a patent/copyright.
      • by Americano (920576)

        Ex post facto has to do with criminalizing something, and then going after someone for something they did *before* the act was criminalized. The following would be a violation of that, to illustrate:

        1) Paul Allen granted Patent # 500 for Method and apparatus for drawing Mr. Poopypants in your browser window in year 1, a browser-based friend similar to MS Office's Clippy.
        2) Patent expires after 20 years.
        3) Google implements a browser which draws Mr. Poopypants in your browser window in year 25.
        4) US Gov

    • by hoggoth (414195) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:39PM (#33398248) Journal

      Obama and Congress will do what their bosses tell them to do.
      Their bosses are the ones who WROTE the current patent laws. Congress doesn't write laws. Corporate ghost writers write laws and Congress signs them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Dolda2000 (759023)

        Congress doesn't write laws. Corporate ghost writers write laws and Congress signs them.

        I guess that's what you get for not paying attention to congressional elections instead of the, in reality, completely inconsequential presidential election which instead has become the only election anyone seems to care about in the US these days. The entire reason why your founding fathers designed the electoral college system is because there's really no need to elect the president popularly -- he is merely the chief of the executive branch, whose task it is to carry out what Congress decides. You're not

    • by Twinbee (767046)

      How about complicated software/algorithm patents which required tons of talent, time, money, energy, creativity and insight?

      Going to the other extreme doesn't make it okay.

  • Thank You Mr. Luthor!
  • Microsoft (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dog-Cow (21281)

    I think software patents are pure, unadulterated crap, but I think the most likely reason that MS is not named in the suits is because MS licensed them already. For a penny.

  • If the USPTO continues to grant idiotic patents like these, very soon every company will start patenting everything all the time.

    If they thought they have a backlog now, they have exciting times ahead.

  • Geez (Score:3, Insightful)

    by carrier lost (222597) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:44PM (#33398294) Homepage

    Times must be tough if Paul Allen is running out of money too.

  • Fantastic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jvkjvk (102057) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:11PM (#33398598)

    Eventually, either the economic conditions in the US will become so risky that it drives businesses elsewhere or there will be some sanity introduced.

    Who want's to bet that the "sanity" further consolidated power and becomes worse that the current situation?

    Regards.

  • Violate one of his patents by using your browsers to highlight some disguised goat.cx links, Rick Astley videos and annoying sites with a million pop up windows with background music and send them to Paul Allen and his lawyers.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Friday August 27, 2010 @07:04PM (#33399012) Homepage Journal
    Assuming Allen's not a patent troll and is actually making things, this usually ends with the companies being sued pulling out their patent portfolios and filing counter suits. Once mutually assured destruction is evident, both sides quietly settle and go their different ways.

    If one side can not assure the destruction of the other, they either settle for a lot more or go to court, where they're referred to as "The Mommy."

  • Prior art? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joeyblades (785896) on Friday August 27, 2010 @09:27PM (#33399992)

    Well, none of these are actual inventions, so I'm not sure why patents were issued, but even beyond that, if you were to allow the patenting of "ideas", Interval Research Corporation didn't originate these ideas...

    Interval Research Corporation was founded in 1992. NCSA's Mosaic browser was invented in 1992 with the first public release in 1993. Most modern browsers owe their foundations to NCSA not Interval Research Corporation. NCSA also had the first web sites to host bodies of audiovisual information as well. So this claim seems to be unfounded.

    The second and third claims are even more ludicrous. There have been "attention managers" that display alerts on video displays for as long as there have been video displays. I was programming them before Al Gore invented the internet and I was programming them on the internet before Interval Research Corporation was a gleam in Allen's eye...

    Nothing to say about the 4th patent...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 28, 2010 @01:21AM (#33401104)

    This is amusing. Here's some history on the company. Interval Research was an R&D outfit that Paul Allen founded back in the 1990's. You've never heard of it, because they were incredibly secretive. So hush-hush that when they went belly-up no one outside of the company knew about it. Literally. It took months before the Press finally got wind of it.

    The place was a great place to be if you were doing research. Literally "let a thousand roses bloom". Unfortunately, they were horribly mismanaged. Allen blew hundreds of millions of dollars, mostly over budget, before he finally realized that he wasn't getting anything out it. They wanted to be the next version of SRI. Unfortunately, that didn't turn out.

    Top management was, at best, incompetent. At worse, downright crooks. They hired some people on certain terms, and then shortly afterwards said "Opps - we really meant to hire you at a lower level". Truly a boneheaded move. Fortunately it didn't happen to me, but the look on people's faces when they found out was unforgettable.

    Interval did some really amazing stuff; years ahead of its time. But they could never get the products out to market (though they tried), mostly due to amazing incompetence on the part of the lead engineers. You know the type. Big egos and no talent. Perhaps there was an exception to that rule, but I don't recall it.

    I'm not surprised that Paul Allen has turned into a Patent Troll; it will be the only way he can get his money back. The only thing surprising is that it took him so long. But he never impressed me as being the sharpest knife in the drawer. As for other history, they had a number of big names there, from many fields. In tech, you may have heard of Lee Felsenstein if you're familiar with history. Their office was in the Research area of Palo Alto. Near Stanford, down the street from the Wall Street Journal, between Page Mill and Hillview

    Despite that unfortunate ending, I still look back fondly on Interval. They paid well, too. I made lots of money off of Paul Allen. Thanks, Paul!

  • What a waste (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EjectButton (618561) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @06:10AM (#33401962)
    The guy is 57 and has $13.5 billion dollars according to Wikipedia.

    So he has more money than he could reasonably spend and has 20 years tops before his body really starts to fail him. Actually probably much less than that since it was announced in 2009 that he has been diagnosed with cancer again.
    He could do literally anything with his remaining time and resources and he has decided to spend it acting as a parasite, exploiting weak spots and loopholes in the law to do damage to society in the hopes of getting an extra billion before he drops dead. I guess his dick stopped working so this is the only way he can continue to fuck people.

    I wonder if it's the personality type that is more likely to become a billionaire, or if it's the act of spending a big chunk of your life accumulating wealth that causes these people to turn into mindless, selfish, pointless money collecting machines.
  • Bilski (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drew30319 (828970) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @09:12AM (#33402552) Homepage Journal
    Well... maybe this could be the result that Bilski [fsf.org] should have been and SCOTUS will hold that software [swpat.org] is not patentable subject matter [wikipedia.org].

    (fingers crossed)

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