Paul Allen refiles lawsuit against Facebook, Google, Apple, Netflix, Yahoo and others
Paul Allen has refiled a lawsuit against Facebook, Google, Apple, Netflix, Yahoo and five other companies over alleged patent infringement.
Allen, who co-founded Microsoft, refiled the suit through his company, Interval Licensing -- which owns patents from technology developed by the billionaire's former company, Interval Research in the 1990s.
The suit argues that the named tech companies have infringed on four patents Interval owns, according to an article from the Associated Press.
Interval argues in the suit that the companies are infringing on patents dealing with the way movies, news stories and other related content are displayed on websites, as well as computer programs and websites which send alerts to a user "without disturbing their main activity on the computer, unobtrusively and off to the side," the article said.
The lawsuit was originally filed in August, but it was dismissed because it didn't cite specific examples of products and services that were infringing on the patents in question, the Associated Press said.
Michael Hiltzik, a business columnist here at The Times, wrote an article on Allen's original lawsuit in September.
There's no disputing that the four patents at the heart of the infringement lawsuit Allen, 57, filed last month against 11 Internet and e-commerce companies had been developed in his shop — the legendary Silicon Valley incubator Interval Research, which he personally funded to the tune of a reported $200 million from 1992 to 2002.
The patents cover some online features that are today so deeply embedded in so many websites that many people have trouble imagining that they weren't part of the Web from birth (they weren't, of course). For instance, they include features fundamental to news aggregator sites, which bring snippets of news reports from a variety of sources together on a single page at the user's specification.
Perhaps it's better to say that Allen isn't a patent troll, but on this occasion has dressed up as one.
"This is a patent troll-style lawsuit," Mark A. Lemley, a patent law expert at Stanford Law School, told me. And it is likely to have the same effect as conventional patent troll lawsuits: It will cost the defendants millions.
"They'll certainly have to litigate for a while," Lemley said, predicting that it will take a year and a half of lawyer fees even to get to the point where the defendants can ask a court to throw the case out.
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Paul Allen applauds at a fund-raising campaign kickoff event for Washington State University on Dec. 2 in Seattle. Allen gave a $26-million donation to WSU's School for Global Animal Health. Allen is WSU's richest dropout. Credit: Elaine Thompson/Associated Press