Paul Allen patent lawsuit against everyone thrown out…for now

Judge Marsha Pechman of the U.S. District Court for western Washington has dismissed a broad patent lawsuit brought by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Interval Licensing LLC against a broad swath of Internet and technology companies, saying that the suit failed to identify specific products or services that infringed on Interval patents, noting that defendants and the court could not be left to guess about what products might be infringing. However, the judge left a door open for Interval to file an amended complaint by December 28—and that’s apparently exactly what Interval plans to do.

Allen’s Interval Licensing LLC filed the original lawsuit back in August, claiming almost a dozen high-profile technology companies (including Apple, Facebook, eBay, Google, AOL, and Netflix) infringed on its patents. The patents at issue include technologies that make product and content recommendations based on what a customer or site visitor is currently viewing—systems that are widely deployed across a broad range of ecommerce and content-oriented sites.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a spokesman for Paul Allen described the dismissal as a “procedural issue” and indicated the suit will be refiled.

Interval Licensing controls patents from Paul Allen’s defunct Interval Research, which closed up shop in 2000—the company was issued about 130 U.S. patents. Interval Licensing has been described as a “patent troll” in parts of the technology press, a company that exists purely to acquire and sell licenses to patents for technology it did not develop or use in products or services of its own.

Spokepeople for Interval have maintained that the patents at issue were developed wholly by Interval, and were not acquired from other parties. The company has maintained the broad lawsuit is to protect the company’s investment in developing the technologies. However, given that recommendation systems have been deployed on a broad range of e-commerce and content sites for well over a decade, one has to wonder what Interval has been doing behind the scenes to protect its patents for so many years.

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