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Article

Paul Allen Sues Android for Patent Infringement

Allen is asking for the obligatory injunction, one that extends to all of Android’s licensees and resellers

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen refiled his patent infringement suit Tuesday against AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo and YouTube - the one that the court tossed out on December 10 for lack of detail - like exactly which products he's talking about.

He just made the court's refiling deadline and one of the many, many things he claims infringe the patents he holds by virtue of having started and funded Interval Research back in 1992 is Android, everybody's favorite patent-infringing punching bag these days.

Well, allegedly patent-infringing punching bag at any rate but patent watcher Florian Mueller says he's taking Allen's chances seriously because "he can really show an involvement with early Internet innovation," which lowers the odds of someone trotting in with some patent-busting prior art and increases Allen's statute as a "legitimate inventor rather than a troll if and when it comes to whether or not he's entitled to an injunction."

And of course Allen is asking for the obligatory injunction, one that extends to all of Android's licensees and resellers.

According to the refiled suit Android infringes on Interval Licensing LLC's US patent 6,034,652 and its continuation US patent 6,788,314, which are both titled "Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of Display Device."

That means those cute little text messages, Google Talk messages, Google Voice messages and calendar messages that pop up in the Android operating system or, as the suit says, by way of example, "when a user receives a new Google Voice message, the Android Operating System and Google Voice software display a notification in the status bar screen for a short period of time."

Mueller blogs that if the infringement assertions hold up, both the makers of Android-based devices and Android application developers are in for it since the alleged infringement clearly indicts "devices containing the Android Operating System" as well as the "Android Market infrastructure."

He also adds that "Should Google be served an injunction as a result of Interval's suit, owners of Android phones [a group that includes him] would experience a very significant degration of the user experience. Android's usability is generally under threat now because Apple already asserts various user interface (particularly multi-touch) patents against [Android phone makers] HTC and Motorola, and in its latest claims against Motorola, Microsoft also asserted a couple of touchscreen patents."

Allen's got a cache of 300 patents from Interval Research, which as it happens was one of two of the nascent Google's outside collaborators and one of four of baby Google's sources of research funding.

Only four patents from that patent portfolio are involved in the current suit, which indicts all of the defendants for threading on a patent covering the generation of information related to what the user is viewing and another patent called "Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest." That means basically all of their web sites, services, e-mail systems and in Apple's case iTunes, App Stores, TV systems and Apple.com store.

No wonder Stanford law professor Mark Lemley, the director of the school's law, science and technology program, told the Seattle Times Allen could be angling for a pay-off verdict of a half-billion dollars or more.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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