August 29, 2010, 4:13 PM — For years, decades, the big companies didn't tend to wage patent wars on each other. The reason is simple. Major patent holders don't tend to target other major patent holders because of MAD (mutually assured destruction). Or, in other words, if you sue me, I sue you, and we can both burn potentially hundreds of millions per year in legal costs just to conduct a business fight. Well that was the case until Oracle went after Google and now Allen is suing the world.
OK, well maybe not the world, but his company, Interval Licensing, is suing AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo and YouTube for violating one or more of four patents. These patents are Patent No. 6,263,507, for "Browser for Use in Navigating a Body of Information, With Particular Application to Browsing Information Represented ;" Patent No. 6,034,652, for "Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device;" Patent No. 6,788,314, for "Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device;" and Patent No. 6,757,682, for "Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest."
David Postman, a spokesman for Allen, said that Interval Research was a "groundbreaking contributor" to the development of the commercial Internet and that the patents are fundamental to the ways leading e-commerce and search companies continue to operate." I say this is nonsense.
I am not a lawyer, but I have used the Web almost since day one and I was using the Internet for more than a decade before the Web ever showed up. I've read these patents and they all scream prior art to me.
I think the patents that Oracle is using against Google are weak, but with our fouled up patent legal system in the U.S. they may hold up. I can't imagine Allen's patents holding up.
That aside, I don't understand why Allen is launching these patent attacks. Allen, according to Forbes, was worth 11.5-billion dollars in 2009 thanks to his Microsoft investments.