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Paul Allen launches patent broadside on world+dog

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Billionaire Paul Allen on Friday became the latest tech titan to launch a major patent offensive, filing a far-reaching complaint against Google, Apple, Facebook, Netflix, and seven other companies over technology that was developed almost a decade ago.

The complaint (PDF), filed in federal court in Washington state, asserts four patents that cover e-commerce and online functions that have been staples of most websites for years. Noticeably absent from the hit list is Microsoft, which Allen co-founded in 1975 and in which he remains a major shareholder. It was filed on behalf of Interval Licensing, the patent arm of Interval Research, the Silicon Valley technology incubator Allen bankrolled in 1992.

The company holds about 300 patents, including those included in Friday's action. The complaint also takes credit for helping to establish one of the companies it's suing, claiming that it “served as an outside collaborator to and provided research funding for Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page’s research that resulted in Google.”

Other companies named are Google's YouTube, Yahoo, AOL, eBay, Office Depot, OfficeMax, and Staples.

The patents asserted are:

  • 6,263,507, titled “Browser for use in navigating a body of information, with particular application to browsing information represented by audiovisual data”
  • 6,034,652, titled “Attention manager for occupying the peripheral attention of a person in the vicinity of a display device”
  • 6,788,314, titled “Attention manager for occupying the peripheral attention of a person in the vicinity of a display device” and
  • 6,757,682, titled “Alerting users to items of current interest”

The complaint seeks unspecified damages and a court order permanently barring the companies from continued infringement. It comes two weeks after Oracle mounted a no-holds-barred legal attack against Google over its use of Java in the Android operating system. ®

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