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Paul Allen Amends Lawsuit Against Facebook, Apple 129

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the gunning-for-the-top dept.
itwbennett writes "A Federal judge dismissed Paul Allen's initial patent infringement lawsuit against Apple, Facebook, Google and others earlier this month because it was too vague and gave Allen until Dec. 28 to file an amendment providing more details of his claims. His lawyers responded with a 35-page document filed late Tuesday. The amendment details features of the defendants' websites that are alleged to infringe on the patents and also includes a last-minute amendment that targets Google's Android mobile operating system in a move that could spell trouble for phone manufacturers and app developers."
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Paul Allen Amends Lawsuit Against Facebook, Apple

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @10:45AM (#34698970)

    I doubt Android users are trembling. 1) the thing has already been dismissed once, we'll see if the "new detail" is enough, and 2) it already has Oracle coming after it in its mad dash to monetize Java.

    • If only google implemented Java instead of some incompatible clone, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        They would still be getting sued. Oracle has patents on java on mobile devices.

        • Yes but they inherited a patent covenant with anyone who fully implements the Java spec.

          That said, they could probably try to find some technicality to say Google broke it. Hell, it was probably designed with that built in.

          • by kimvette (919543)

            Wouldn't estoppel (if that is the correct term) apply? Isn't Java available under the GPL, and aren't others allowed to modify and redistribute GPL code as much as they see fit?

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            That would then still apply. Dalvik code would have to be GPL, but I thought it was already. Since you can reuse GPL code all you like for anything else GPL.

            Yet, they are still suing.

          • by vux984 (928602)

            Yes but they inherited a patent covenant with anyone who fully implements the Java spec.

            Did google *fully* implement the java spec?

      • by Rysc (136391) *

        If Google had used Java it would have had to use the crippled "Java Mobile Edition" and not the full suite. It is precisely because Google used the full suite as the basis for their language, and not the mobile subset, that Oracle has any problem with them at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @10:49AM (#34699050)

    If, as TFA indicates, the same patent can be violated by iTunes and a spam filter, then it seems pretty likely that the patent is trying to assert a claim over an *idea* and not a specific invention. Can you imagine the impact if Henry Ford had been able to patent "thing with wheels on it and a motor"?

    • by IrquiM (471313)

      Can you imagine the impact if Henry Ford had been able to patent "thing with wheels on it and a motor"?

      Nope - Prior art! This might be news to Americans, but Henry Ford didn't invent the car.

      • Can you imagine the impact if Henry Ford had been able to patent "thing with wheels on it and a motor"?

        Nope - Prior art! This might be news to Americans, but Henry Ford didn't invent the car.

        Or, indeed, the train.

    • by finarfinjge (612748) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:38AM (#34699668)
      Henry Ford refused to pay George Seldon royalties for his patent for a "Road Engine". Up to that time, every car manufacturer in the United States paid Seldon a royalty. Seldon would today be called a patent troll. The only reason Ford won in court was the vehicle patented by Seldon did not function when finally built according to the idea that Seldon had patented. Had Seldon patented a "Thing with wheels on it and an engine" Ford probably would have lost.

      Cheers

      JE
      • by Sun (104778)

        I would like to think that had Seldon tried to patent a "Thing with wheels on it and an engine" back in the early 1900's/late 1890's, he would have been laughed out of the patent office. It is my impression (that might be wrong) that the patent examiner's output is deteriorating over time (which means that it is improving when going back in time).

        Shachar

      • Henry Ford refused to pay George Seldon royalties for his patent for a "Road Engine". Up to that time, every car manufacturer in the United States paid Seldon a royalty. Seldon would today be called a patent troll. The only reason Ford won in court was the vehicle patented by Seldon did not function when finally built according to the idea that Seldon had patented. Cheers JE

        Nitpick! Straight from guess where:

        The legal fight lasted eight years, ... and ended in a victory for Selden. In his decision, the judge wrote that the patent covered any automobile propelled by an engine powered by gasoline vapor. Posting a bond of $350,000, Ford appealed, and on January 10, 1911 won his case based on an argument that the engine used in automobiles was not based on George Brayton's engine, the Brayton engine which Selden had improved, but on the Otto engine.

        IOW his car did work, but people actually used a better engine by then. Funnily enough, that was one year before the patent would have expired anyway.

    • Can you imagine the impact if Henry Ford had been able to patent "thing with wheels on it and a motor"?

      That right there explains why 'on the internet' is patentable. It doesn't broaden patents, it narrows them.

    • More early patent trolling [centennialofflight.gov]. A form of eminent domain is needed as long as people keep trying to claim that we're dealing with real property here. And the states should have a right to tax it as such as long as it can be held privately with restricted access.

    • As long as it doesn't move, no problem, I have the patent on "mechanical thingies that move" - and I'm not afraid to sue to protect my IP.
    • by Dabido (802599)

      Can you imagine the impact if Henry Ford had been able to patent "thing with wheels on it and a motor"?

      Yeah, a lawsuit for prior art by people who invented the car. Ford just stuck it all on a production line, he didn't invent the thing. Now, if he had of patented a "production line of any sort for things with wheels on it and a motor" he might have killed off GM, Toyota, Nissan, etc etc before they could start up ... or got lots of money from them emulating him, or got sued for monopolistic practises if it became impossible for people to compete.

  • Groklaw (Score:5, Informative)

    by DCFusor (1763438) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @10:52AM (#34699088) Homepage
    Has been covering this one. Allen's Interval has patented things that absolutely everyone has been using for decades, if not longer, and this may just help with the fight against software patents generally, as virtually no one is untouched -- he's only sued less the half the relevant world so far -- big media is a possible target for some of his claims as well. GoodLuckWithThat, they are even feared by lawmakers. Let's hope they go all out so this stupid mess can be ended. Here's the groklaw current link. [groklaw.net]
    • by MikeURL (890801)
      So you think this is a determined effort to actually bring down the patent system by trolling it to death?

      I hope so because the thought of Paul Allen seriously suing for a patent on web surfing makes me want to cry.
      • Sadly, that's not the case. Allen's company Interval Licensing exists for the sole purpose of "inventing" stuff, i.e. getting a bunch of people together (there's one very famous SF writer doing part-time work for this firm, I forgot his name though) to brainstorm up this "one step beyond the immediately obvious" crap, patent it, then licence and/or sue. And the company knows that despite the fact that some of this stuff shouldn't be patentable even under the broken patent system, they know that they can s
      • by DCFusor (1763438)
        No, I don't think it's on purpose (though one could hope) -- but I think that may be the result of this if they push it hard enough. At some point it becomes a kind of national issue, when a troll comes out of the woodwork and basically says "all your work for the last couple decades is mine".

        At some point the powers that be can't let it happen even if technically/legally it's true in some odd way. Think of the implied surprise wealth transfer by legal force this implies if taken to the limit -- bigger th

        • by ArhcAngel (247594)

          To make a non car analogy to what you are saying. It's like Paul Allen is Worf trying to clear his father's name and the Court, who is like the Klingon High Council, convinces him to accept his father's guilt because the criminal's (Google, MS, Apple, Facebook, et al), who are like Duras, family has become so powerful that exposing his crimes now would cause great political upheaval in the empire.

          Yeah, I can kinda see that except Worf in this case is evil.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        I hope so because the thought of Paul Allen seriously suing for a patent on web surfing makes me want to cry.

        He's an investor. Why would you expect him to have scruples? Because he started a charity? Because he co-founded Microsoft? Because he bought sports teams?

    • I'm surprised that Paul Allen had the balls to sue AOL over this. After all AOL, Prodigy, and Compuserve were giving people hyperlinked images and sound before the world wide web was a household name and definitely before Gore cosponsored a bill that gave consumer access to the internet in '92 with the Information and Infrastructure Act.
    • Re:Groklaw (Score:5, Informative)

      by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:57AM (#34699950)
      List of parties being sued:
      • AOL
      • Apple
      • eBay
      • Facebook
      • Google
      • Netflix
      • Office Depot
      • OfficeMax
      • Staples
      • Yahoo
      • YouTube

      He's not suing the entire world but he's suing some pretty big players. Players that have the money and wherewithall to see this to the bitter end.

      The details of the suit:

      • 507: Categorize and correlate information before segmenting and presenting it to a user. Basically any display like Yahoo! News that separates out categories. All parties sued.
      • 652: Present information to the user in a non-distracting way from the user's primary interaction. AOL Message pop-ups from the taskbar, Apple widgets, Google gadgets, Yahoo gadgets.
      • 314: Present information to the user in a non-distracting way from the user's primary interaction. Similar to 652 but a tad more interactive. Covers all IM and talk clients.
      • 682: Indicating to the user that a particular online content is of interest. Covers the "other items that might interest you" feature of many, many websites.

      Looking at this patents, all of them are very generic ideas and not anything that should be patentable.

      • Perhaps the Nazgul will do us a favor and sweep down upon this company, rending it to pieces and providing warning through the broken skulls to anyone foolish enough to do such a thing again.

        Oh, and if they fail there's always Apple's lawyers too.
      • The one thing that makes me sad about this list is that SCO isn't somehow included.
      • 652 Patent

        Then Amazon should be on the list. '...other people who purchased yyy also bought xxx'.
        I wonder why they aren't on the list?
        Perhaps Mr Allen is a shareholder in Amazon inc?

      • I have a pocket watch hanging beside my monitor to "present information to the user in a non-distracting way from the user's primary interaction." Once Allen has finished with the biggies, he'll eventually work his way down to me. I've been doing that since 1992 or so. Bring it!
      • Re:Groklaw (Score:4, Interesting)

        by smallfries (601545) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @02:12PM (#34701962) Homepage

        652 in particular seems like a weird one. The patent was filed in '96 and Windows gained the taskbar in '95 with widgets that display notifications. It's not even as if the windows taskbar was the first to do this, but it is a mainstream application that meets the specific claims that are being cited a year before the patent was filed.

      • by wytcld (179112)

        Here's a toast to Mr. Allen's health, which may depend on there being no significant Russian or Sicilian investors in any of the following firms:

        * AOL
        * Apple
        * eBay
        * Facebook
        * Google
        * Netflix
        * Office Depot
        * OfficeMax
        * Staples

      • Uh Oh. My local supermarket is going to be upset when they realize they have violated this patent. Right there in the cereal aisle: Grouping healthy cereals together, kids cereals together, etc.
      • by darealpat (826858)

        Maybe I'm a little slow,,,but could anyone tell me how come Microsoft isn't being sued/has not violated any of those patents?

    • It seems to me, in a country where law is based on precedent and more money buying better lawyers, a winning strategy would be to sue the least wealthy of the offenders, who don't have the financial resources to defend themselves, and then sue bigger and bigger offenders, using your now established precedent to help win.
  • A patent on shaving one's head?
  • by kaptink (699820) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @10:59AM (#34699178) Homepage

    There are two types of patenters. The first patents invetions he or she built or designed to stop others from copying it. The second patents vague ideas that do not tie to any invention or product with the goal of suing anyone who might possibly be seen as infringing. Otherwise known as a Patent Troll.

    This guy appears to be the latter. Given he is a Microsofty doesnt help him either.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Err, those are the same thing. If I get a patent on an idea, which is what software patents are, then I can sue anyone infringing. Copying and infringing are the same thing.

      The problem is that we are using 17th century solutions (patents) for modern problems. Its laughable that we even take these things seriously. Sadly, its 100% legal to patent "one click shopping" and other concepts. Software patents are too vague by their nature. Patents are old fashioned and make no sense in a modern economy. Perhaps

      • by Rysc (136391) *

        Err, those are the same thing

        No, they're not.

        If I make something and then get a patent on some or all of it, that's legitimate. If I don't make anything but one day say "You know what would be cool? Buying things on the internet but, like, you don't have to fill out a whole form, you only have to click once!" and then patenting it, then later suing online merchants who actually do this.

        Overly broad patents based on real products are also problematic, too, of course.

  • And another example of how terribly broken the US patent system is. Maybe this time things will change. Until then I support every patent troll out there.
  • He clearly wants to loose.

    • by shking (125052)
      ...to loose the hounds upon the peasants? ...Toulouse-Lautrec?

      I suspect that your spelling is a touch loose [reference.com]. I think you meant "lose [reference.com]".

      • ...to loose the hounds upon the peasants? ...Toulouse-Lautrec?
        I suspect that your spelling is a touch loose [reference.com]. I think you meant "lose [reference.com]".

        I think he _meant_ loose. From my dictionary:
        "Loose" verb [ trans. ]
        set free; release : the hounds have been loosed.
        untie; unfasten : the ropes were loosed.
        relax (one's grip) : he loosed his grip suddenly.

        • by shking (125052)
          The original text was "He clearly wants to loose." I think that "injustus" has trouble spelling, but is also fascinated by a certain dead French midget and artist (aka. Toulouse-Lautrec)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:12AM (#34699330)

    is to cancel all accounts from Paul Allen's family and anyone working at his company, and send them an email saying that they are not allowed to have a new account until this patent case is solved.
    I'm pretty sure that if this guy has a daughter, and she cannot have a Facebook account, Mark Zuckerberg will be able to hear the screams from his own house.

    • by TechNit (448230)

      is to cancel all accounts from Paul Allen's family and anyone working at his company, and send them an email saying that they are not allowed to have a new account until this patent case is solved. I'm pretty sure that if this guy has a daughter, and she cannot have a Facebook account, Mark Zuckerberg will be able to hear the screams from his own house.

      Well now, that is a DAMN GOOD IDEA!!! The wailing will be relentless!! Bummer is - PA has never married....... For this to work PA himself needs to feel the pain.

  • is the Wild West.

    It's not the Wild West until you can take people like Paul Allen and shoot 'em, like in a Sergio Leone movie.

    --
    BMO

  • From TFA:

    The relevant patent is US Patent No. 6,034,652 on an "attention manager for occupying the peripheral attention of a person in the vicinity of a display device".

    I pretty sure you could apply this definition to TVs, Dashboards (Cars, Planes, etc), Phones, Planes, Toasters, Tickers (Banks, ESPN, Weather Channel, Ads), Operating Systems (Windows Sidebar), Signs (Street, Construction, Hwy Advisory), and on and on.

    So good luck with that. I'm still waiting for someone to patent storing data in a binary f

    • by sammyF70 (1154563)
      Why the narrow definition? I already own the patent on "storing, manipulating and using data in any form whatsoever", My lawyer is just checking whether I can file a posthumous lawsuit against Gutenberg.
  • wait..."peripheral attention"?

    didn't both AOL and ICQ back in the late 90's use those annoying flashing taskbar icons when there was a new unread message?

    • by timelorde (7880)

      The AOL Instant Messenger software infringes by displaying information including, e.g., email

      The NextStep system on my desk has been doing this since at least 1991, which is before Interval Research was even founded. The Mail app icon changes whenever there's new mail available, in "an unobtrusive manner that does not distract the user from his primary interaction".

      Oh, wait, I've got it configured so that it also plays a barking dog sound when the mail arrives - not quite unobtrusive.

      I bet that's probably patented as well...

  • by viralMeme (1461143) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:33AM (#34699610)
    Corrected headline .. :)
  • Really, the defendants are guilty of "comparing related information" using a computer system. If data is not related then exactly what is the point of comparing it? If the patent was about how to compare Apples to Oranges then perhaps there might be something to it, but this patent fails all reasonable tests for validity. Mr Allen better be ready to pay all court costs for all the defendants legal fees, and there will be many.
  • by Dgawld (1251898)
    And, uh- PAUL ALLEN. I killed Paul Allen with an axe. In the face. His body is dissolving in a bathtub in Hell's Kitchen.
  • Of the two founders of MS he was FAR less of a jerk than Gates. What's up with him lately? All of a sudden I'm getting wave after wave of Evil (TM) vibes?

    • They cant win by competing because Microsoft is a giant slow moving behemoth They already lost an anti-trust case in the past Patent trolling is their last desperate hope before they go extinct
    • by Nadaka (224565)

      Since Bill has slowed his evil down to a trickle Paul sees the opportunity to catch up.

    • by gtall (79522)

      The fish always rots from head on down. Gates and Allen set by example the odious behavior that MS prizes. Allen was no less a jerk than Gates, just presented a more polished persona to the press.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Allen [wikipedia.org]
    "Paul Gardner Allen (born January 21, 1953) is an American investor and philanthropist who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates and is one of the wealthiest people in the world with a personal wealth of US$12.7 billion as of 2010."

    Reminds me of this song:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRtd8ArvH_s [youtube.com]
  • .. since he actually invented the internet. (The lawsuit involves 300 patents Allen claims were pivotal to the development of the internet).
  • Paul Allen has gone from being moderately useful to technology (a single unified Windows platform) to becoming an absolute pariah to the average user. If he just went away now quietly 99% of the world wouldn't miss him for a moment.
  • A man of his stature reduced to a simple patent troll. What on earth is he thinking?
  • by kentsin (225902)

    I think he will continue to try to destroy the system.

    Change it before he done!

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