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Microsoft Co-Founder Allen Launches Patent War

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen alleges in a federal lawsuit that Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google and seven other companies are violating patents that were developed at a defunct laboratory he funded in Silicon Valley, Dionne Searcey and Julia Angwin report. Microsoft, in which Allen remains a major investor, and Amazon, which is based in his hometown of Seattle, are not on the list.

The suit was filed on behalf of technology allegedly developed by Interval Research Corp., an incubator company shut down about a decade ago when the Internet bubble burst. Allen had invested about $100 million in the lab to fund research and file patents for functions such as offering suggestions to Web surfers for items related to what they're currently viewing; enabling ads, stock quotes, news updates or video images to flash on a computer screen, and allowing readers of a news story to quickly locate stories related to a particular subject.

"It sounds like the classic patent-troll case," says Mark Lemley, a Stanford Law School professor who specializes in intellectual property. He points out that suits filed by holders of years-old patents over technology that's in widespread use can be difficult for a plaintiff to win.



The defendants who responded to a reporter's query about the merits of the suit said that it didn't have any. "This lawsuit against some of America's most innovative companies reflects an unfortunate trend of people trying to compete in the courtroom instead of the marketplace," says a Google spokesman.

Read the whole story at Wall Street Journal »

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