Interval Licensing, LLC (and Paul Allen) vs. The World

Most everyone in software circles has heard by now that Paul Allen’s IP company, Interval Licensing, LLC, has sued AOL, INC.; APPLE, INC.; eBAY, INC.; FACEBOOK, INC.; GOOGLE INC.; NETFLIX, INC.; OFFICE DEPOT, INC.; OFFICEMAX INC.; STAPLES, INC.; YAHOO! INC.; AND YOUTUBE, LLC, for infringing the following US Patents:

United States Patent No. 6,263,507 (“the ’507 patent”) for “Browser for Use in Navigating a Body of Information, With Particular Application to Browsing Information Represented By Audiovisual Data.” 

United States Patent No. 6,034,652 (“the ’652 patent”) for “Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device.” 

 United States Patent No. 6,788,314 (“the ’314 patent”) is a division of the ‘652 patent and claims related subject matter.

United States Patent No. 6,757,682 (“the ’682 patent”) for “Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest.” The abstract for this patent states:

“Disseminating to a participant an indication that an item accessible by the participant via a network is of current interest is disclosed. An indication that the item is of current interest is received in real time. The indication is processed. The participant is informed that the item is of current interest. “

There has been what appears to be a sharp uptick in software patent litigation between “white hat” organizations – i.e. organizations that can point to considerable and substantial R&D efforts to develop their respective technologies and corresponding patent rights.  These recent suits include Apple’s suit against HTC (Google’s partner) and Oracle’s suit against Google.     

The close timing of these suits is most likely partly accidental, partly due to the recent release of the Kappos v. Bilski decision, and partly due to the protracted economic slowdown we are still in the middle of.  The motivation for these suits, however, is most likely different in each case.  Interval seems motivated by economics — an attempt to cash in on valuable patents.  The decision to file was probably spurred on in part by the obstensibly favorable ruling Kappos v. Bilski, which probably spurred on Oracle as well in their suit against Google.  However, the other plaintiffs would likely not be that motivated by the money alone, so there are likely other business objectives they have in mind for their respective suits.

United States Patent No. 6,263,507 (“the ’507 patent”) for “Browser for Use in Navigating a Body of Information, With Particular Application to Browsing Information Represented By Audiovisual Data.”  The abstract for this patent is as follows:

“The invention facilitates and enhances review of a body of information (that can be represented by a set of audio data, video data, text data or some combination of the three), enabling the body of information to be quickly reviewed to obtain an overview of the content of the body of information and allowing flexibility in the manner in which the body of information is reviewed. In a particular application of the invention, the content of audiovisual news programs is acquired from a first set of one or more information sources (e.g., television news programs) and text news stories are acquired from a second set of one or more information sources (e.g., on-line news services or news wire services). In such a particular application, the invention can enable the user to access the news stories of audiovisual news programs in a random manner so that the user can move quickly among news stories or news programs. The invention can also enable the user to quickly locate news stories pertaining to a particular subject. Additionally, when the user is observing a particular news story in a news program, the invention can identify and display related news stories. The invention can also enable the user to control the display of the news programs by, for example, speeding up the display, causing a summary of one or more news stories to be displayed, or pausing the display of the news stories. Additionally, the invention can indicate to the user which news story is currently being viewed, as well as which news stories have previously been viewed.”

United States Patent No. 6,034,652 (“the ’652 patent”) for “Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device.”  The abstract for this patent recites:

“An attention manager presents information to a person in the vicinity of a display device in a manner that engages at least the peripheral attention of the person. The information is embodied by one or more sets of content data (e.g., video or audio data). Each set of content data is formulated by a content provider and made available for use by content display systems. Upon appropriate activation, each content display system displays images corresponding to the sets of content data in accordance with predetermined scheduling information. The attention manager makes use of “unused capacity” of the display device and the person’s attention, providing information to the person that the person might not otherwise expend adequate energy to obtain. The attention manager also affords an opportunity to content providers to disseminate their information to people that are interested in receiving such information, enabling the content providers to provide better directed information dissemination, as well as providing access to the previously unused attention capacity of those interested people.”

United States Patent No. 6,788,314 (“the ’314 patent”) is a division of the ‘652 patent and claims related subject matter.

United States Patent No. 6,757,682 (“the ’682 patent”) for “Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest.” The abstract for this patent states:

“Disseminating to a participant an indication that an item accessible by the participant via a network is of current interest is disclosed. An indication that the item is of current interest is received in real time. The indication is processed. The participant is informed that the item is of current interest. “

There has been what appears to be a sharp uptick in software patent litigation between “white hat” organizations – i.e. organizations that can point to considerable and substantial R&D efforts to develop their respective technologies and corresponding patent rights.  These recent suits include Apple’s suit against HTC (Google’s partner) and Oracle’s suit against Google.

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