Allen sues Google, Apple, others over patents

The Microsoft co-founder's firm sues 11 companies

A firm owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has filed a lawsuit against Google, Apple, Facebook, and other companies alleging that they have violated patents related to search, multimedia, screen pop-ups and database management.

Interval Licensing filed the patent lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington. The companies named in the lawsuit are Aol, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo and YouTube.

The four patents cover several technologies related to search, multimedia, databases and screen activity, said David Postman, a spokesman for Allen. Details about how the 11 defendants are allegedly infringing Interval's patents will come out as the lawsuit progresses, he said.

Interval Licensing holds patents of Interval Research, the now-defunct company founded by Allen and David Liddle in 1992 to research information systems, communications and computer science. The patents in the lawsuit cover fundamental Web technologies first developed at Interval Research in the 1990s, Interval said in a press release.

The patents covered by the lawsuit are:

-- U.S. Patent No. 6,263,507, for "Browser for Use in Navigating a Body of Information, With Particular Application to Browsing Information Represented By Audiovisual Data."

-- U.S. Patent No. 6,034,652, for "Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device."

-- U.S. Patent No. 6,788,314, for "Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device."

-- U.S. Patent No. 6,757,682, for "Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest."

Postman called Interval Research a "groundbreaking contributor" to the development of the commercial Internet. The patents are fundamental to the ways leading e-commerce and search companies continue to operate, he said.

Some of the named companies slammed the lawsuit.

"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. Innovation -- not litigation -- is the way to bring to market the kinds of products and services that benefit millions of people around the world," a Google representative said.

"We believe this suit is completely without merit, and we will fight it vigorously," said Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes. EBay said it was reviewing the suit and intended to defend itself vigorously.

Representatives of Yahoo and Aol declined to comment. Apple representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comments.

Stephen Lawson in San Francisco contributed to this story.

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