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

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

    by magsol ( 1406749 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:11PM (#33397912) 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?
  • 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: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?

  • 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 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.
  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:28PM (#33398124)
    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 entire lifetime of that protection. All we can really do is to prevent douchebags from doing this in the future, and then wait 20 years for existing obvious patents to age out.
  • 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.

  • by Duradin ( 1261418 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:40PM (#33398262)

    Hey now, that's defamatory speech. Against weasels.

  • Microsoft (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dog-Cow ( 21281 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:42PM (#33398278)

    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.

  • 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?


  • Re:He can't win (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ExploHD ( 888637 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:21PM (#33398694)
    You are my HERO!!!


    Congratulations, you just divided by zero!
  • Re:Why now? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:48PM (#33398894)

    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:Trial by fire (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:51PM (#33398912) Homepage

    It's probably because he's using this to demonstrate to the Microsoft Board of Directors that he's shameless enough to be Microsoft's CEO after they boot out Ballmer.

  • 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."

  • Re:Trial by fire (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HiThere ( 15173 ) <charleshixsn@ea r t h l i n> on Friday August 27, 2010 @07:42PM (#33399320)

    Yes, there are patent trolls, and the system does facilitate them. It doesn't, however, facilitate a real small competitor. Patent trolls don't dare do anything BUT troll, because if they did they would become vulnerable to counter-suits for patent violation.

    *This* is a good system?

    Well, yes, if you're a major corporation. Patent trolls are a major headache, but you can often buy them off, and send them chasing your competition. They're good for major corporations in the same way that cows are good for grass: They kill off the competition.

  • Re:Trial by fire (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SoftwareArtist ( 1472499 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @07:48PM (#33399384)
    Another possibility is that Microsoft has already paid to license those patents.
  • 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 arth1 ( 260657 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @10:14PM (#33400242) Homepage Journal

    I'm going to patent thinking...

    So nobody can think about this until they pay me.

    You're the first person I've heard of that suggests patenting something for which Plato is prior art...

    Anyhow, I find the timing is near perfect. The patents have lived long enough that enough big companies have become dependent on these technologies, but not long enough for the patents to expire. And we're getting close to, but are not yet in, a double recession -- a few years down the road, there may not be any money to troll for. To top it all off, the USPTO have now reverted from the doctrine of the past few years of denying and invalidating obvious patents, and are back to rubberstamping.

  • by ejasons ( 205408 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @10:29PM (#33400320)

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

  • by Pinky's Brain ( 1158667 ) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @12:30AM (#33400884)

    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.

  • Re:What a waste (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 28, 2010 @07:13AM (#33402146)

    yeah sure, just continue insulting people that you have no idea about.

    if this guy is just greedy, how do you explain that he's already donated over a billion to charity, and is planning to give away at least half of his fortune?

  • 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 [] should have been and SCOTUS will hold that software [] is not patentable subject matter [].

    (fingers crossed)
  • Re:Why now? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Michael D Kristopeit ( 1887500 ) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @08:46PM (#33411652)
    claiming that adding "on the internet" or "in a web browser" is not innovation does not make it law.

Variables don't; constants aren't.