Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, is suing some of the biggest names on the net - claiming that they are willfully violating patents held by his new company, Interval Research.
According to the Wall Street Journal
, Allen is targeting some pretty deep pockets with his latest lawsuit - including Google, Facebook, and eBay - which alleges that patents develop for and held by his company Interval Research are being infringed by the defendants' sites.
Targeting eleven companies in total, the suit alleges that each violates one or more patents - developed ten years ago - and is demanding damages plus ongoing royalty payments for the claimed infringement.
His targets are, as you can imagine, not exactly convinced by Allen's claims: a Google spokesman has stated that "[Allen's] 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,
" while other companies named in the suit have vowed to fight rather than settle.
The patents in question are thought to cover some fairly basic functionality for modern websites, including financial sites that feature stock tracking pop-up windows, news sites which include automatically generated links to related articles, and sites which host videos outside the main content frame.
Unlike many similar cases, which usually feature holding companies which buy up vast swathes of patents in the hope of bringing a suit against a well-heeled target in the future, Allen's claims have one thing going for them: the patents in question were developed specifically for Interval Research, rather than having been bought from a third part for litigious reasons. However, the fact that Allen's company no longer produces
anything - and has never appeared to make use of the patented technology itself - could spell trouble.
Do you think that Paul Allen has a chance to take on the big boys and win, or is this just another case of why software patents simply don't work? Share your thoughts over in the forums