August 30, 2010, 3:43 PM

Interval Licensing sues 11 big e-commerce firms over site search

A company launched by Mircosoft co-founder Paul Allen alleges patent infringement.

An Internet technology development company launched by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen is suing 11 other major Internet players, including four Top 500 retailers, over patent infringement claims related to site search.

In the suit filed Aug. 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Interval Licensing LLC, an Internet and information technology research and development firm co-founded by Allen in 1992, alleges that the 11 companies—AOL Inc.; Apple Inc., No. 4 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide; eBay Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc., Netflix Inc., No. 14; Office Depot Inc., No. 5; OfficeMax Inc., No. 7; Staples Inc., No. 2; Yahoo Inc. and You Tube LLC—violated four of its patents for site search development.

Specifically, the complaint says the major e-commerce and Internet search companies violated Interval Licensing’s patents “for a browser for use in navigating a body of information” and three other patents related to “categorizing, comparing and displaying segments of information.”

The suit asks for unspecified monetary damages for patent infringement and attorney’s fees. None of the 11 companies named in the suit have yet to respond with their own court filings, according to a documents search on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington web site. The court has yet to set a hearing date for the suit.

“This lawsuit is necessary to protect our investment in innovation," says an Interval Licensing spokesman. "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."

Interval Licensing was founded by Allen and former Xerox PARC executive David Liddle. At one time Interval says it helped fund outside projects, including research from Google Inc. founders Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page that eventually lead to the formation of Google.

"Interval was an early, ground-breaking contributor to the development of the Internet economy," the spokesman says. "Interval has worked hard to bring its technologies to market through spinning off new companies, technology transfer arrangements, and sales of its patented technology."

The e-commerce industry continues to deal with a proliferation of patent infringement suits. On Aug. 11, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas has ruled against online retailer Newegg Inc. in a patent infringement law suit over shopping cart software and other related e-commerce applications brought three years ago by Soverain Software LLC.

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