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Sunday, December 12, 2010, 08:50 pm PT (11:50 pm ET)

Paul Allen's lawsuit against Apple dismissed, Allen to refile

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Paul Allen's lawsuit against Apple and 10 other major tech companies hit a snag Friday when a judge dismissed the complaint for being too vague in its allegations. Allen has until Dec. 28 to file an amended complaint.

Allen initially filed the suit in August through his now-defunct Interval Research Corp, claiming that Apple had infringed on four patents related to e-commerce and Internet search. 10 other companies are named in the suit, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo and AOL.

In October, Apple and the other defendants filed a request to dismiss the charges. The accused companies asserted that Allen's clams were too broad.

"Interval has sued eleven major corporations and made the same bald assertions that each defendant infringes 197 claims in four patents," Apple wrote in the motion. "As the U.S. Supreme Court noted in Twombly, it is in this type of situation in which courts should use their 'power to insist upon some specificity in pleading before allowing a potentially massive factual controversy to proceed.'"

According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman dismissed Allen's original complaint Friday, siding with the defendants.

"The allegations in the complaint are spartan," wrote Judge Pechman, setting a Dec. 28 deadline for Allen's company to file a more specific complaint.

Allen's spokespeople called the dismissal a "procedural issue," and reassured that "the case is staying on track."

Alan Fisch, a lawyer not involved in the case, said Allen's attorneys shouldn't have any trouble rewriting the complaint to meet the higher standards for specificity. "I would see this as a temporary setback or speed bump on the road that will be this litigation," said Fisch.

For several years now, Apple has held the unfortunate title of world's most-sued tech company. As a result, the Cupertino, Calif., is recruiting lawyers with applicable intellectual property experience. According to Businessweek, Apple has also hired "some of the nation's top patent lawyers as outside counsel."

Apple is engaged in numerous legal battles against its competitors. Earlier this month, Apple added 12 more patents to its lawsuit against Motorola, bringing the total number of patents that Apple claims Motorola is infringing upon to 24. By comparison, Motorola alleges that Apple has violated 18 of its own patents.

Nokia and Apple are also facing each other in a lengthy legal confrontation. Last year, Nokia sued Apple over the iPhone's use of patented wireless standards. Apple promptly countersued, alleging that the Finnish company infringed on 13 of its patents.

Allen's suit specifically references the following four patents:
  • 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."