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Friday, August 27, 2010, 11:45 am PT (02:45 pm ET)

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen sues Apple over patents

Multi-billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has sued Apple, Google, and a number of other companies which he claims infringe on patents he owns related to online recommendation algorithms.

Apple and Google are among 11 companies named in the suit, accused by Allen of using technology developed a decade ago in his now-defunct Silicon Valley laboratory Interval Research Corp., according to The Wall Street Journal. The complaint was filed on Friday.

Interval Research Corp was a lab and technology incubator that Allen financed with about $100 million during the dot-com bubble. Allen owns a number of patents from that venture, and he has alleged that four of them related to e-commerce and Internet search are infringed upon.

One patent offers suggestions for customers to see items related to a product they are currently viewing, while another allows a reader of a news story to find related stories about a similar subject.

"The lab worked on numerous projects, with goals to create technology to use in Mr. Allen's ventures in telecom," author Dionne Searcey wrote. "In later days it also focused on developing technology to license to others. Over the course of a decade, Interval was issued 300 patents."

"It successfully marketed some of its patent portfolio, including cellular voice processing technology and motion-detection technology used in games that allows a computer to "see" commands. It also created a 'smart' toy called 'Red Beard's Pirate Quest' and later sold the technology behind it to Lego Group."

The suit was filed by Interval Licensing LLC, which issued a press release Friday specifically naming the four patents in question:
  • United States Patent No. 6,263,507 issued for an invention entitled "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 issued for an invention entitled "Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device."
  • United States Patent No. 6,788,314 issued for an invention entitled "Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device."
  • United States Patent No. 6,757,682 issued for an invention entitled "Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest."

Named in the suit, along with Apple and Google, are AOL, eBay, FaceBook, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo and YouTube. The report noted that Microsoft, in which he is a major investor, is absent, along with Amazon.com, which is based in Allen's hometown of Seattle, Wash.