Company Established by Microsoft Co-Founder Sues Major Internet Companies

Interval Licensing Accuses Internet Companies of Patent Infringement

by Anton Shilov
08/30/2010 | 10:20 PM

Interval Licensing, a company found by Paul G. Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft Corp., has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington against major Onternet search and e-commerce companies alleging that they have infringed on four patents held by Interval. 


Interval Licensing holds patents of Interval Research, the former company founded by Paul Allen and David Liddle in 1992 to perform advanced research and development in the areas of information systems, communications, and computer science. The patents in the lawsuit cover fundamental web technologies first developed at Interval Research in the 1990s, which the company believes are being infringed by major e-commerce and web search companies. The eleven defendants are AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo, and YouTube.

"Interval Research was an early, ground-breaking contributor to the development of the internet economy. Interval has worked hard to bring its technologies to market through spinning off new companies, technology transfer arrangements, and sales of its patented technology. This lawsuit is necessary to protect our investment in innovation. 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," ," said David Postman, spokesman for Paul G. Allen.

These key patents are fundamental to the ways that leading e-commerce and search companies operate today, according to the plaintiffs. However, observers note that companies that lack production but utilize old patents to make broad infringement claims tend to raise red flags.

"It's usually an indication either that the patents are invalid, or they're overclaiming them. Part of what's going on here is the plaintiffs are going out of their way to say, 'Hey, look, we're really important people. We're real innovators," said Mr. Lemley, whose law firm represents Google and Netflix in unrelated matters.

Interval Research was founded by Allen, the Microsoft co-founder, and Liddle, who developed fundamental technologies in the 1970s when he worked at Xerox PARC. Interval was a preeminent technology firm, employing over 110 scientists, physicists and engineers. Interval also helped fund outside projects, including Sergey Brin's and Lawrence Page's research that resulted in Google.