Paul Allen Files Amended Patent Lawsuit; Shows It's Even More Ridiculous Than We Originally Thought

from the related-items? dept

Back in August, many people were surprised that Paul Allen had suddenly decided to go full on patent troll, using a bunch of patents he had received as part of his complete business failure, Interval Research, during the 90s. Interval was supposed to be kind of like Xerox PARC, a research center focused on inventing the future, but the plan was to actually commercialize what came out of the labs. However, in the end, Interval did little of anything and, after spending many of Allen's Microsoft millions, shut down. Yet, years later, he suddenly starts suing a ton of companies over incredibly broad patents? In this initial lawsuit (apparently more are planned), he sued Google (and separately, YouTube), Apple, AOL, eBay, Facebook, Netflix, Yahoo, Office Depot, OfficeMax and Staples. Earlier this month, we noted that the lawsuit had been dismissed due to the failure by Allen to actually explain how these companies violated his patents. Of course, as mentioned at the time, he was free to try again, and everyone knew he would. He has now filed that amended complaint, complete with the "details" of what each of these companies has done that's infringing, and it's even more ridiculous than we originally thought.

As a reminder, here are the patents he's suing over:
  • 6,263,507: "Browser for use in navigating a body of information, with particular application to browsing information represented by audio data."
  • 6,034,652 & 6,788,314 (really the same patent, involving continuations): "Attention manager for occupying the peripheral attention of a person in the vicinity of a display device"
  • 6,757,682: "Alerting users to items of current interest"
We have the full amended filing embedded below, but his claims of what's infringing are ridiculously broad. For the first patent (the '507 patent), he basically seems to be claiming that any website that offers a listing of "related items" or uses any kind of spam filter is infringing. Basically, that's a huge percentage of content-based websites out there. Does anyone really (honestly, now) believe that without such a patent, the idea of "related content" or spam filters would never have been developed?

Then there's the next two (related) patents ('652 and '314), about "peripheral attention." According to Allen, the use of products that pop up a little notifier in the corner of your screen window violate this patent: so AOL, Google and Yahoo all violate this because of the little instant messenger/email pop up tools they offer. Apple supposedly violates this because of the Apple Dashboard and related widgets that pop up information such as sports scores and weather. Really, Paul? You want to claim ownership of any system that pops up information in the corner of your screen? That's sickeningly broad.

Finally, the last patent (the '682 patent), he appears to be claiming that it covers making recommendations to users on things they might like. So, the fact that AOL will alert you to products you might like? Infringing. Same with all the other companies, who all offer basic recommendations of one form or another because offering recommendations is one of the most obvious things out there.

To say that Allen's interpretation of what these patents cover is extraordinarily broad would be to downplay the concept of broad interpretations of patents. Allen's interpretations are so broad as to make a mockery of the entire patent system, and how ridiculous concepts put forth in a patent can (years later) cover a significant number of all websites out there, all doing obvious things to make their websites useful to users. Honestly, reading through the details makes me wonder if the conspiracy theory that some have put forth -- that Allen is doing this just to demonstrate how silly patents have become -- seems somewhat more plausible. I still don't really believe that, but either way, this lawsuit certainly represents the madness of the patent system.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 3:22pm

    What? pop-ups are patented? WTF!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 3:53pm

    "Does anyone really (honestly, now) believe that without such a patent, the idea of "related content" or spam filters would never have been developed? "

    Without patents, we'll still be in the stone age!!!

    Forget all the evidence that says IP only delays progress and the total lack of evidence saying they promote the progress, big corporations make money from patents and so they must promote the progress. and whichever politician disagrees will not get a dime in big corporate campaign contributions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    RD, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 4:22pm

    Awesome!

    So what do you do when you file demonstrably bad patent lawsuits that get thrown out? Thats right kids, you DOUBLE DOWN and go EVEN FURTHER! Its awesomesauce wrapped in epic failure slathered with a huge helping of cluelessness.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 5:22pm

    Traction

    Honestly, reading through the details makes me wonder if the conspiracy theory that some have put forth -- that Allen is doing this just to demonstrate how silly patents have become -- seems somewhat more plausible.

    Here's how I imagine it went down. Allen has a research center with the goal of "inventing the future". Computer simulation after computer simulation all point the the same conclusion: The way IP laws are going, soon it will be impossible to invent *anything*, let alone "the future". Crestfallen, Allen closes up shop and sets his sights on destroying the system that will ruin the future. Since fighting it directly is nigh impossible, he decides to fight it by taking it to the extreme.

    I like it. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 6:30pm

    Interesting He’s Not Suing Microsoft

    Doesn’t Windows Phone 7 do much the same sorts of things as Android and Apple’s phones?

     

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  6.  
    icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Dec 29th, 2010 @ 6:56pm

    Re: Interesting He’s Not Suing Microsoft

    I believe the answer to that is obvious (which means Paul Allen probably has a patent on it)

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2010 @ 8:20pm

    I have a patent on words. If you speak, you will be sued.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 30th, 2010 @ 12:57am

    Re: Interesting He’s Not Suing Microsoft

    Microsoft probably already has a license for all of these patents.

    Paul Allen probably knows personally some very highly placed people within Microsoft. He would not have much difficulty convincing them to buy a license for these patents.

     

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  9.  
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    kemcha (profile), Dec 30th, 2010 @ 5:17am

    He owns the patents and if someone infringes on those patents then they should pay up.

    The whole idea of patents is to protect your idea, your intellectual property. Even if you don't use it or plan to implement it into a product, if someone violates that patent, it is your right to sue to recover damages.

    You guys would be suing too if someone violated your patent.

    I patented my balls so if anyone ever violates them I can sue them ...

     

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  10.  
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    AMusingFool (profile), Dec 30th, 2010 @ 5:41am

    xbiff

    I wonder about Mozilla Foundation not being part of the suit, not to mention everyone who makes an RSS reader.

    And how far back do xbiff and biff go? I know at least back to '91; that'd be pushing the bounds of patentability even if the patent application did go back that far (which, of course, it isn't even close).

     

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  11.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Dec 30th, 2010 @ 5:43am

    Re:

    8/10

    Well played.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Ronald J Riley (profile), Jan 2nd, 2011 @ 8:33pm

    More Mike Masnick BS.

    "However, in the end, Interval did little of anything"

    More Mike Masnick BS. Paul Allen and Interval produced inventions. Mike always likes to talk about innovators whose innovation is build on misappropriating others inventions and Mike Masnick constantly minimize the value of those who actually invent while hyping those who do not.

    Marketing hucksters are dime a dozen. They do not walk on water and their ability to con everyone is not something any ethical person should admire.

    Ronald J. Riley,

    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org

    Other Affiliations:
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 9 pm EST.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jan 2nd, 2011 @ 9:36pm

    Re: More Mike Masnick BS.

    More Mike Masnick BS.

    Hi Ronald, please point to a single product that Paul Allen and Interval brought to market.

    If you cannot, please admit that you are falsely claiming my statement is BS.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Ronald J Riley, Jan 2nd, 2011 @ 10:39pm

    Re: Re: More Mike Masnick BS.

    Inventions which are published are a product, a product of research.

    You keep repeating the same lies, that everyone must produce a tangible product and that when they do not that they are somehow second class.

    There is no basis in law or ethics for such claims. All you do is regurgitate propaganda of those who steal. You really should be ashamed.

    Now why don't you show us some of your inventions, that piece of paper which demonstrates that you actually invented something?

    Ronald J. Riley,

    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 9 pm EST.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jan 2nd, 2011 @ 11:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: More Mike Masnick BS.

    Now why don't you show us some of your inventions, that piece of paper which demonstrates that you actually invented something?

    You heard it here first, without a patent, no one invents anything.

    You make me laugh, Ronald. Why would you make such a blatantly false statement? It only makes you look foolish.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Jan 3rd, 2011 @ 5:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: More Mike Masnick BS.

    Why would you make such a blatantly false statement?

    Check out that signature. Everything about him screams "snake oil".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Ronald J Riley, Jan 3rd, 2011 @ 6:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: More Mike Masnick BS.

    "without a patent, no one invents anything."

    Without a patent or a publication which discloses to the same degree as a patent then there is no proof that someone invented anything.

    There are plenty of third rate opportunists whose only inventions are marketing hype. You know the type I am talking about, hucksters who start a business, generally on the basis of questionable claims for their product. They take liberties with others inventions and loudly proclaim that they are inventors when in reality they rank in the same class as people who run chop shops or pick pockets.

    Ronald J. Riley,

    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 9 pm EST.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Jan 3rd, 2011 @ 3:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: More Mike Masnick BS.

    As opposed to patent trolls?

    I guess all of those tinkerers in Japan, China, Brazil, etc. are just evil people that owe money to other people for no reason other than a small part of law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), Jan 4th, 2011 @ 2:53pm

    Inventors v. Parasites

    "As opposed to patent trolls?"

    A patent troll is simply an inventor or someone who invests in an inventor who has produced an invention of significant value which is being infringed and who has the gall to defend their legal property rights.

    "I guess all of those tinkerers in Japan, China, Brazil, etc. are just evil people"

    If they are good enough to produce something original and they have the sense to teach via patents then they drive job creation and prosperity. Otherwise they are not ever likely to do themselves and society at large much good.

    It is unfortunate that the world has far more parasites than than it has real inventors. It is also unfortunate that parasites never care about the damage they do to the host.

    Ronald J. Riley,

    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org

    Other Affiliations:
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 9 pm EST.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Jan 4th, 2011 @ 10:56pm

    Re: Inventors v. Parasites

    I don't think so.

    There's quite a difference between your belief that people are parasites if they aren't original and a firm view that there are a lot of different ways to create than "patent pending".

    Yes, you can learn a lot from a patent. Einstein learned a lot while he had a job in the Swedish(?) patent office. Regardless, the patent system was a different beast than it is today.

    Your argument always seems to fail to consider that creation involves a lot more than an "original" idea. The reason I put original in quotes is because normally, something is created out of either a new application of old ideas or new uses of old technology.

    Broadband and VoIP came out as a faster way than dialup and AT&T's monopoly strangling the public phone market place.

    The Steam Engine was improved because of James Watt's patents expiring.

    We've already gone over this, Riley. It's just disappointing that you continue to push an agenda that seems to support nothing more than pushing for more patents without consideration into how they are ineffective.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), Jan 5th, 2011 @ 4:23am

    TechDIRT Drones Mad Because Patent System Is Effective

    "We've already gone over this, Riley. It's just disappointing that you continue to push an agenda that seems to support nothing more than pushing for more patents without consideration into how they are ineffective."

    Patents are meant to teach and you admit that they do so. In exchange for inventing and teaching the inventor gets the right to recover their investment of time and money by excluding those who do not pay for the right to use it.

    Patents are effective in that inventors are successfully adjusting attitudes of those who do not play by the rules. The only reason that TechDIRT drones do not like patents is that they are effective.

    I have no doubt that Mike Masnick is profiting handsomely from the services he is delivering to big patent pirating companies, in large part from getting a bunch of drones to promote his and their agenda for nothing.

    Jay, tell me are you one of the fools who works for nothing or are you on their payroll?

    Ronald J. Riley,

    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org

    Other Affiliations:
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 9 pm EST.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Jan 6th, 2011 @ 5:19am

    No, the patent system has flaws. That's what people realize, not drones who want the same system.

    If you would kindly leave the insults in your head, we can continue a civil discussion. I have not been rude to you and I won't take such negative comments as nothing more than you being unable to answer the questions anyone asks of you.

    If patents were meant to teach in the modern age, then that means we should have limited time with them. Most patents become worthless after 5 years because the technology has now moved on too fast for the laws to keep up.

    It seems you want it to only be inventors but the other area you ignore is tinkerers. Last we talked, you had the viewpoint that Toyota was in the wrong about their hybrid system. The facts remain thus:

    They made the system for hybrid cars independent of the research of the "first mover"

    The US patent system punished them for innovating (something it is supposed to promote)

    It has spurred Toyota to repeat this process in other areas, effectively causing a domino effect which comes out to promote larger businesses over the smaller engineers and tinkerers.

    Basically, it seems you don't realize that your argument is shooting you in the foot in the long run.

    I can't get behind an argument that is effectively short sighted in what it is doing. Patents alone aren't going to "save America", it's not going to help technology progress. As it is wielded now, it's going to hurt us in the long run unless it's changed to reflect limited terms.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), Jan 6th, 2011 @ 4:51pm

    Re: No, the patent system has flaws. That's what people realize, not drones who want the same system.

    You regurgitate Toyota propaganda like it it fact. It is not.

    First, a patent teaches and if Toyota is too stupid to check for prior art they still owe damages.

    Second, it has become clear that Toyota has unclean hands in their handing of product defects. This is a good indication of the company's ethics. Anyway you cut it, knowingly killing and maiming customers is very bad business and and good indication of how the company might act in other aspects of their business.

    In light of this reasonable people may question rather or not their work was independent.

    Ronald J. Riley,

    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org

    Other Affiliations:
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 9 pm EST.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    The Infamous Joe (profile), Jan 6th, 2011 @ 5:06pm

    Re: Re: No, the patent system has flaws. That's what people realize, not drones who want the same system.

    Yes, because if one part of a massive company might have, maybe, perhaps done something unethical, that means everyone in the company is unethical.

    Nice try, though.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 1:51pm

    Re: Re: No, the patent system has flaws. That's what people realize, not drones who want the same system.

    "First, a patent teaches and if Toyota is too stupid to check for prior art they still owe damages.

    Second, it has become clear that Toyota has unclean hands in their handing of product defects. This is a good indication of the company's ethics. Anyway you cut it, knowingly killing and maiming customers is very bad business and and good indication of how the company might act in other aspects of their business."

    You're really holding onto that patent teaching thing...

    Here is the demonstrated patent tax on Toyota

    In this, we see that Severinsky "squatted" on the patent for 10 years. He did nothing in the market, nothing with the research, just sat on it. The patent did not "teach" Toyota anything, merely was used against them. Now I personally read the Wired story that is linked in the article and everyone acknowledged that Toyota came up with the research themselves. A patent taught them nothing after a 10 year period. I have read quite a lot of stories on Toyota's development as a powerhouse, especially in the 70s and 80s when they had the embargo and had to choose which cars to bring over to the US.

    "Second, it has become clear that Toyota has unclean hands in their handing of product defects. "

    Wow, like Firestone, Ford, or American car companies and collusion? Nice way to back up your argument, but I can use the same one on American cars.

    "This is a good indication of the company's ethics. Anyway you cut it, knowingly killing and maiming customers is very bad business and and good indication of how the company might act in other aspects of their business."

    Please stop trying to put Toyota under the proverbial bus. A lot of companies have problems which become fixed. I understand that Toyota did put quantity over quality recently, which affected their engineering core. However, if you can tell me ONE car company that hasn't had mistakes in their cars, I have a bridge in the Pacific Ocean to sell you.

    So it is that Toyota did come up with a good system and Severinsky wanted a piece of that pie. Since Severinsky had a patent, he got 25% of the profits, which would make no sense, forcing Toyota to settle. The process stands that Toyota will buy up more patents, bog down the system, and cause it to create more problems than it solves. As I see it (and probably quite a few others), all of this litigation would best be served WITHOUT the patent boogie man lingering over the heads of those that want to create.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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