Paul Allen Becomes A Patent Troll, Sues Google, Apple, Facebook, eBay And Others…
from the those-who-can't-innovate,-litigate dept
Microsoft’s “other” co-founder, Paul Allen, has had a long string of business failures since leaving Microsoft. It’s actually quite impressive. One of his most high profile ventures, back in the 90’s, was Interval Research, which was designed to be a pure research institute “done right.” It was described as trying to replicate Xerox PARC, but that it would actually commercialize the amazing ideas. Of course, as we’ve pointed out for ages, ideas are only a small part of innovation. Actual execution is the really difficult part, and one thing Interval was never able to do was execute. After eight years and over $100 million of Allen’s money, the operation was shut down back in 2000. That was about the last we’d heard of Interval… until now.
Because, while Interval was unable to actually execute, thanks to the wonders of the US Patent system, it was able to secure lots of patents, and now it looks like Paul Allen has gone full on patent troll. He’s using those patents to sue Google (and, separately, YouTube), Apple, AOL, eBay, Facebook, Netflix, Yahoo, Office Depot, OfficeMax and Staples — you know, the companies that actually did innovate and did execute — for being successful where he failed. Of course, Paul Allen has been tangentially related to patent trolling operations in the past, so perhaps it was just a matter of time. Still, this is a pretty disgusting situation all around.
The WSJ article about the lawsuits doesn’t mention the actual patents (why do so few reporters actually point you to the useful info?), but they’re the following:
- 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”
According to a report by Todd Bishop at Techflash, Interval may just be getting started: “This is the most recent step in a long process,” he said in an email, “but it is not necessarily the end of the process.” What a sad, sad legacy Mr. Allen is leaving behind.