Paul Allen's Interval Licensing Sues Web Search Giants Alleging Patent Violations

Company owned by Microsoft co-founder sues AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Stapes, Yahoo and YouTube claiming patent infringement of Web technologies.

August 30, 2010

D.H. Kass

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Interval Licensing LLC, a company owned by Paul Allen, Microsoft Corp.’s co-founder, has filed suit in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington against 11 Internet search and e-commerce companies claiming patent infringement on four of its patents that it said cover “fundamental web technologies.”

The 11 companies named in the lawsuit include AOL Inc., Apple Computer Inc., eBay Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc., Netflix Inc., Yahoo! Inc., and YouTube Inc., as well as office product companies Office Depot Inc., Office Max (OMX) Inc. and Staples Inc.

YouTube operates as a subsidiary of Google.

Interval said that the patents in the lawsuit cover web technologies initially developed at Interval Research, a now defunct, research and development company founded in 1992 by Allen and David Liddle that focused on information systems, communications and computer science.

According to court documents, the four patents in question are part of some 300 that Interval gained from 1992 – 2000 when the company shuttered operations.

The four patents relate to a user’s experience on the Web, specifically, how information is displayed and categorized.

Interval also said it helped fund research by Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page that led to the search’s giant’s composition as a company.

Interval’s complaint cites a Google screenshot from September 27, 1998 that identifies Interval as one of two outside collaborators and one of four sources of funding for the company’s research, according to court papers.

"Interval Research was an early, ground-breaking contributor to the development of the internet economy," said an Allen spokesperson.

"This lawsuit is necessary to protect our investment in innovation," the spokesperson said. "We are not asserting patents that other companies have filed, nor are we buying patents originally assigned to someone else. These are patents developed by and for Interval."

Liddle is a partner at U.S. Venture Partners, a Menlo Park, CA-based venture capital firm and also sits on the board of directors at the New York Times.

According to reports, eBay, Google and Facebook denied the suit’s merits, while AOL, Yahoo!, Office Depot, Office Max and Staples declined comment.

TAGS: lawsuit,Interval Licensing,Interval Research,Paul Allen,David Liddle

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