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Interval Licensing v Everyone

Written by Ben Evans on 01 September 2010

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Interval Licensing a company owned by Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, has issued patent infringement claims against AOL, Apple, eBay, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples and Youtube.

The claims relate to alleged patent infringements that date back to 1999. According to Interval Licensing: "fundamental to the ways that leading e-commerce and search companies operate today." Notably absent from the list of those sued are Amazon and Microsft (Allen still holds shares in Microsoft).

Google, Facebook and eBay have all indicated that they will fight the claims and according to Google: 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...Innovation - not litigation - is the way to bring to market the kinds of products and services that benefit millions of people around the world." A statement on behalf of Facebook included the following: "We believe this suit is completely without merit and we will fight it vigorously."

Paul Allen is one of the richest people in the world, Interval Research was set up in 1992 "to perform advanced research and development in the areas of information systems, communications, and computer science,". The company owned over 300 patents before it was shut down in 2000 and the patents assigned to Interval Licensing.

According to a statement released by Interval Licensing:"This lawsuit is necessary to protect our investment in innovation," this follows speculation that Inteval Licensing were effecitvely 'patent trolls': "We are not asserting patents that other companies have filed, nor are we buying patents originally assigned to someone else. These are patents developed by and for Interval."

Based as they are on technology used by billions of people every day these claims will certainly make interesting reading over the next few months / years.

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