Google, Apple, Microsoft sued over file preview

A small Indiana company has sued Microsoft, Google, and Apple claiming that their new file preview features violate its patent.

A small Indiana company has sued tech heavyweights Microsoft, Apple, and Google, claiming that it holds the patent on a common file preview feature used by browsers and operating systems to show users small snapshots of the files before they are opened.

Cygnus Systems sued the three companies on Wednesday saying that they infringed on its patent with products such as Windows Vista, Internet Explorer 8 and Google Chrome, which allow users to view preview images of documents on the computer. Mac OS X, the iPhone and Safari also infringe, the company said in court filings. Apple uses this technology in its Finder and Cover Flow Mac OS X features, the filings state.

While Cygnus has sued three very high profile companies, there may not be the only vendors in Cygnus's sites. "They were a logical starting place for us," said Matt McAndrews, a partner with the Niro, Scavone, Haller & Niro, law firm, which is representing Cygnus. "We've identified many other potentially infringing products that we're investigating," he added.

Cygnus's owner and president Gregory Swartz developed the technology laid out in the patent while working on IT consulting projects, McAndrews said. The company is looking for "a reasonable royalty" as well as a court injunction preventing further infringement, he said.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Arizona, where Swartz resides, McAndrews said.

Google, Microsoft and Apple did not return messages seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Cygnus applied for its patent (# 7346850) in 2001. It covers a "System and method for iconic software environment management" and was granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in March of this year.

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Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
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