Microsoft Corp co-founder and billionaire investor Paul Allen relaunched a wide-ranging patent lawsuit against Apple Inc, Google Inc. and its YouTube subsidiary, Facebook Inc., Yahoo Inc., AOL Inc., eBay Inc., Netflix Inc., OfficeMax Inc. and Staples Inc. with specific allegations that the companies are illegally using technology owned by his firm.
The move Tuesday by Interval Licensing LLC, a small research company set up by Allen in 1992, comes in response to a ruling by a federal judge in Seattle, who threw out the complaint Interval filed in August on grounds that its allegations were not described specifically enough.
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman had given Interval a Dec. 28 deadline to revise the suit, and a spokesman for Mr. Allen had said it would do so.
The revised complaint lists specific products and services offered by the defendants, along with related technologies that Interval alleges are covered by its patents.
In the case of Apple, for example, the 35-page document states that the Silicon Valley giant relies on such functions as comparing content items to determine whether they are related. Offerings that Interval alleges infringe patents covering such technologies include iTunes, Apple’s app stores, Apple TV systems and its Apple Dashboard software.
Interval claims Apple’s iTunes service uses the technology to suggest music based on a user’s searches, and that eBay Inc, Facebook, Netflix, Yahoo Inc and Office Depot’s sit have also infringed the patent in the way they direct users to related content.
In the case of Google, the new complaint also cites technology that helps determine whether content items are related. Services that Interval allege infringe its patents include Google search, Gmail, Google Finance, Google Videos, Google Maps, Orkut and the Adsense ad-payment system. Interval claims Google uses this technology to match advertisements from third parties to content being displayed, while AOL’s sites use it to suggest items related to news stories.
The second and third patents concern relaying information on a computer screen in a peripheral, unobtrusive manner, such as in an instant messaging box or overlay.
Interval claims its patent has been infringed by features in AOL’s Instant Messenger, Apple’s Dashboard, Google Talk and Gmail Notifier, Google’s Android phone system and Yahoo Widgets.
The fourth patent concerns alerting web browsers to new items of interest based on activity of other users. Interval claims AOL uses this technology on its shopping sites, while Apple’s iTunes uses it to recommend music.
Interval claims eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, Staples Inc, Yahoo and Google’s YouTube all have infringed the patent in the way they suggest content to users.
Interval has asked the court for damages and a ban on products that use the disputed patents.