Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder and one of the richest men on earth, has filed a patent infringement suit today against several Internet titans, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The lawsuit centers on technology developed a decade ago by Interval Research Corp., a technology lab that Allen owned between 1992 and 2000. Eleven companies are named in the lawsuit: Google, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, eBay, YouTube, NetFlix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, and Staples. The lawsuit claims four patent violations of technologies that are widely used by search engines and e-commerce sites, according to the WSJ:
The technology behind one patent allows a site to offer suggestions to consumers for items related to what they’re currently viewing, or related to online activities of others in the case of social networking sites.
A second patent, among other things, allows readers of a news story to quickly locate stories related to a particular subject. Two others enable ads, stock quotes, news updates or video images to flash on a computer screen, peripherally to a user’s main activity.
A Google spokesperson gave this statement to the WSJ:
This lawsuit against some of America’s most innovative companies reflects an unfortunate trend of people trying to compete in the courtroom instead of the marketplace.
A Facebook spokesperson told the Journal, “We believe this suit is completely without merit and we will fight it vigorously.”
The lawsuit doesn’t include a damage estimate.
There’s more discussion at Techmeme.