Microsoft Founder Paul Allen Sues Google, Apple, Facebook on Patent Infringment

August 31, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

In this file photo, Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in September 2006 in Washington. Allen's patent holding company, Interval Research, is suing 11 major corporations on grounds of patent infringement.
In this file photo, Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in September 2006 in Washington. Allen's patent holding company, Interval Research, is suing 11 major corporations on grounds of patent infringement.
Paul Allen, who cofounded Microsoft with Bill Gates, is suing big international names in the information technology sector on patent infringement.

A Seattle federal court lawsuit was filed on Aug. 27 against companies including AOL, Apple Inc., eBay Inc., Facebook, Google Inc., Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo, as well as YouTube, a subsidiary of Google.

Allen’s patent research business—Interval—is seeking compensation from 11 companies for sourcing its “groundbreaking” input into the Internet economy.

Interval Licensing was closed by Allen in 2000 and owned patents of computer science and communications research. The legal complaint claimed that online shopping technologies used by the aforementioned companies infringed on its patents.

The reason behind the lawsuits was mainly the violation of four patents, which are “Browser for use in navigating a body of information with particular application to browsing information represented by audiovisual data,” “Attention manager for occupying the peripheral attention of a person in the vicinity of a display device,” “Attention manager for occupying the peripheral attention of a person in the vicinity of a display device,” and “Alerting users to items of current interest.”

Part of the complaint included a 1998 Internet screenshot of Google's "About" page that showed Interval Research credited as one of four sources of research funding, and one of two outside collaborators, according to a Reuters report.

Google’s spokesman, Aaron Zamost, regarded Allen's lawsuit to be "unfortunate."

"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," claimed Google through an e-mailed statement. "Innovation—not litigation—is the way to bring to market the kinds of products and services that benefit millions of people around the world."

Facebook did not mince words when its company spokesman Andrew Noyes said in that “we believe this suit is completely without merit and we will fight it vigorously."

The most noted name absent in the lawsuit is Microsoft. According to Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners LP in New York in an interview with Bloomberg, “Legal risk and patent risk in this day and age is part of the process of doing business. … The most interesting part is it doesn’t include Microsoft or Amazon.com Inc.,” he said.

David Postman, the spokesman for Allen, claimed that the lawsuit is very crucial to the business of Allen’s group in order to protect the group’s investments. According to Postman, Interval Research, Allen’s company, has made a great contribution to the market with these technologies and would not tolerate any companies manipulating its contributions in the business. Hence it was imperative to protect the “groundbreaking” work Interval Research provided to the Internet economy, said Postman.

Postman declined to say why Microsoft or Amazon weren’t named.

EBay, the owner of e-commerce sites and the PayPal payment service, is investigating the allegations.

“We intend to defend ourselves vigorously,” said Johnna Hoff, a spokeswoman for the San Jose, Calif.-based company.