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Microsoft founder Allen sues Google, Apple, eBay and many more

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 29 Aug 2010 17:30 User comments (25)

Microsoft founder Allen sues Google, Apple, eBay and many more Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, has begun a campaign of patent infringement lawsuits against companies ranging from YouTube and Facebook to eBay and Office Depot.
Allen's patents were originally granted to his company, Interval Media, which shut down in 2006. The company w

"We recognize that innovation has a value, and patents are the way to protect that," said a spokesman for Allen. When asked about the notable absence of Microsoft and Amazon from the suit, the spokesman wrote in an email, "This is the most recent step in a long process, but it is not necessarily the end of the process."

But do the patents themselves actually have any value? If so, why wasn't Allen's company able to make money on them to begin with?

The patents include 6,757,682, "Alerting Users To Items of Current Interest," which covers suggesting items from an online store based on the content of the current page. AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples, Yahoo & YouTube are all accused of infringing on this patent.

The first question which comes to mind is how this wouldn't be considered obvious for anyone in the online selling industry? Just because something hasn't been worked out in code already doesn't mean other developers haven't thought of it.

More likely, what it means is either it's a solution for an as of yet non-existent (or at least minor) problem or it's simply not something they've decided to implement (or prioritize).

Certainly the concept of suggesting products to someone based on what they appear to be interested in already isn't new. It's been done by brick and mortar merchants as long as they've existed. Even before brick or mortar themselves were invented.

Is the idea that an online merchant would benefit from adopting this standard business practice anything but obvious?

So what about the individual bits of the process? They could be a revolutionary approach. But really it's not. The following steps are listed in the patent.
  1. Receiving in real time from a source other than the participant an indication that the item is of current interest
  2. Processing the indication
  3. Determining an intensity value to be associated with the indication and an intensity weight value, and adjusting the intensity value based on a characteristic for the item provided by the source
  4. Informing the participant that the item is of current interest

There's nothing revolutionary, or even inobvious, about these steps. What's revolutionary is actually figuring out the metrics to use for steps two and three.

In fact that step is so inobvious, Netflix gave out $1 million for helping them improve it. They could just as easily have worked out an agreement to license Allen's patent, but that wouldn't have helped them in any way.

Patents are supposed to be given for finding innovative solutions but all this patent does, like the others listed in Allen's lawsuit, is list a few vague steps required to computerize every day human activities.

Patents 6,034,652 & 6,788,314 are over adding audio and video content to other content for the purpose of attracting a viewer's attention. The suit alleges AOL, Apple, Google &Yahoo are infringing.

Patent 6,263,507 covers automated comparison of different audio and video files, which Allen claims AOL, Apple, eBay, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo & YouTube are infringing.

In both these cases the patents are, again, simply explaining the steps required for a computer to duplicate tasks already performed by humans.

TV broadcasters have added information to the content they're broadcasting for decades. That information just happened to be selected by a person rather than a computer.

For much longer, people have provided comparisons of music to share with other people in the form of everything from reviews to personal recommendations.

Essentially all Allen's patents do is take human solutions and explain that they still apply to doing business or providing a service on the internet. Nowhere do they advance the implementation of these solutions, which is where all the value lies.

Simply recognizing the vague shape of a technological implementation of an existing solution isn't inobvious, and neither is it valuable. Building a technological solution and using it to improve your operation is where the challenge is.

And there's no need for the IP protection of patents as an incentive for those solutions to be developed and implemented. If selling more products, attracting more visitors or generating more pageviews doesn't justify coming up with a solution, is it really worth anything anyway?

Punishing the people who come up with the answers to compensate others who merely point out the questions is completely backward.

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25 user comments

129.8.2010 18:12

seriously? I had to read it 2 times to understand what the hell he was suing.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 29 Aug 2010 @ 18:35

229.8.2010 19:12

Quote:
Allen's patents were originally granted to his company, Interval Media, which shut down in 2006. The company w
What? Did Candlejack catch your t

329.8.2010 20:33
Ray1938
Unverified new user

Instead of suing I suggest Allen buy Apple stock.

429.8.2010 21:29

Funny how NON of the websites of the companies getting sued are
running IIS. I guess MS made sure they were not suing someone who
supports them.

529.8.2010 23:01

I kinda understand why some sites who reported on this didnt give full info, Its confusing as hellO_O

629.8.2010 23:10

NetFlix uses "Silverlight" to deliver video content :)

730.8.2010 13:57

Originally posted by Sameer5316:
NetFlix uses "Silverlight" to deliver video content :)
I think you need that and netflix software to watch it on pc.

as for watching it on console, all you need is the disc(wii/ps3)
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 30 Aug 2010 @ 13:58

831.8.2010 11:17

I had to take a moment to stop laughing at the absurdity of this lawsuit. Has anyone considered suing the U.S. Patent Office for authorizing these patents in the first place? I think there's a far better chance of that suit succeeding over this ridiculous farce. LOL

931.8.2010 14:19

I'm no lawyer (thank God!) but I thought you could only patent a product or device, not an concept or idea?

1031.8.2010 14:30

Apparently Paul Allen doesn't have enough money already . . .

Greedy bastard !!

1131.8.2010 15:07

The question is why was the patent granted in the first place? Never should have been.

1231.8.2010 17:57

you can patent a concept or idea of a product or device. but they do allow patents of non physical things or procedures. why i have no idea.

patents of a thing should allow processes. such as paper. anyone should be able to make paper. but methods for making different types could be patented.

they have a huge team of people that are suppose to honestly look over this stuff. i think the "lazy" worker has hit the patent office now. that opens a whole new thread...

1331.8.2010 18:12

Originally posted by Hyasuma:
seriously? I had to read it 2 times to understand what the hell he was suing.
I didn't even have to read it through to get the gist. He is suing anything and everyone he can. He doesn't even care if 90% get thrown out he still has 10%. Companies ought to be intimidated by a ton gorilla with rabies. Small companies might pay M$ just to keep it safe. It is kind of a good move for M$. They haven't really innovated in many years so this ought to pass the time.

Originally posted by EIMB1999:
I'm no lawyer (thank God!) but I thought you could only patent a product or device, not an concept or idea?
You are correct. Patents only last a short time in the US. Ideas can be copyrighted and they last for a century. You can see which side the lobbyists were on those 2 issues.

1431.8.2010 19:00

Its called Insurance, and short on cash. He's deside to cash in, plain and simple..documentation is the key. If he's got that, everyones knows the rest.

1531.8.2010 20:55

Quote:
Has anyone considered suing the U.S. Patent Office for authorizing these patents in the first place?
That is the only real question here. If he has a patent and companies are infringing upon it, then they must compensate him. Period! The U.S. Patent Office is the only one to blame because clearly they lost their minds the day this was presented.

1631.8.2010 22:31

Originally posted by Mez:
Originally posted by Hyasuma:
seriously? I had to read it 2 times to understand what the hell he was suing.
I didn't even have to read it through to get the gist. He is suing anything and everyone he can. He doesn't even care if 90% get thrown out he still has 10%. Companies ought to be intimidated by a ton gorilla with rabies. Small companies might pay M$ just to keep it safe. It is kind of a good move for M$. They haven't really innovated in many years so this ought to pass the time.

Originally posted by EIMB1999:
I'm no lawyer (thank God!) but I thought you could only patent a product or device, not an concept or idea?
You are correct. Patents only last a short time in the US. Ideas can be copyrighted and they last for a century. You can see which side the lobbyists were on those 2 issues.


Actually you have that in reverse, copyrights are limited, patents are ongoing. You can will a patent to someone, you cannot will a copyright. That's why you see some older music hitting the public domain each year to be royalty-free, the copyright ran out. I believe copyrights generally last about 30 years on average.

171.9.2010 1:03

Using this kind of logic, no one could ever APPLY for a patent because applying for a patent is ACTUALLY PATENTED. er.. ugh?

181.9.2010 3:20

GO ALLEN GO. Close em down or make them pay. Make steve jobs pay for his sins (for inventing apple...lol). But dont punish GOOGLE. Google have much more to offer than apple.

Id like to see Paul Allen sue apple for billions. That would be my happiest day.

191.9.2010 15:24

He's still upset from his Charter Communications deal...

202.9.2010 7:40

This reminds of that selfish kid in a playground that doesn't let anyone else play with his toys..

Clinging onto a concept simply because you're bored or money or whatever? Maybe he just thinks that if Google release their OS, It'll be better than M$ OS... and it just happens that these other companies also infringe upon his patents (yay more money for me, probably what he's thinking). Such a petty lawsuit could end so many companies... what a waste of time.. no wonder the economy struggles to survive...

213.9.2010 11:25

Originally posted by catfreak:
Apparently Paul Allen doesn't have enough money already . . .

Greedy bastard !!
He doesn't need the money, even with the downturn he's still worth at least $10 billion. And he's pledged to give most of it away when he dies.

What I've heard is that he wants recognition in the industry as an innovator. Which is odd, since most of these patents were done by employees of his and he only owns them since he was their employer.

223.9.2010 17:18

Same sort of bullcrap as patenting genes. Patenting natural things.... come on!

And yeah, copyrights last longer. it's ridiculous how long they go for.

This has gone too far, people will have nothing to work with at this rate. You don't create in a vacuum. It's suffocating and corrupt.


Its a lot easier being righteous than right.


DSE VZ300-
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234.9.2010 22:30

QUOTE by rick930

I had to take a moment to stop laughing at the absurdity of this lawsuit. Has anyone considered suing the U.S. Patent Office for authorizing these patents in the first place? I think there's a far better chance of that suit succeeding over this ridiculous farce. LOL

People should they have gotten way off track pretty soon there will be a patient on breathing and well all have to pay or hold our breaths.


QUOTE by EIMB1999

I'm no lawyer (thank God!) but I thought you could only patent a product or device, not an concept or idea?

Just about anything can be patient these days but it also takes time to do so with lots of red tape and expense. For the average Joe getting a patient is almost impossible but for big Corps no problem they apply for all sorts of frivolous things just banking for situations like this.


The goal here is to settle out of court typical extortion tactics used so commonly today. If we had common sense in our system this would be thrown out and save everyone money but our system today is void of such justice. Of course a good lawyer would argue that!

244.9.2010 23:19

Originally posted by Hyasuma:
seriously? I had to read it 2 times to understand what the hell he was suing.
Huh, like we really need to understand what this guy is suing for. That's like Steve Jobs being buddy buddy with Adobe demanding Flash on his products. Guess what, not going to happen!! Same thing for this guy. If he thinks he's going to sue everything out of oblivion, think again, it's NOT going to happen. Complete BS if you ask me.

Chance prepares the favored mind. Look up once in a while and you might learn something. - BLUEBOY

2518.11.2010 10:07

Oh wow..... patented thought....


Copyright infringement is nothing more than civil disobedience to a bad set of laws. Lets renegotiate them.

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