If you have a big software idea, chances are, you’re going to get sued. The latest company to get slapped with a patent infringement lawsuit over software is Microsoft. The technology giant is being sued by Surfcast, a Portland, Maine based company that claims it invented and patented the concept of the Tiles-style Windows Phone and Windows 8 operating system. The lawsuit comes conveniently after Microsoft held high-profile product announcements for phones, tablets, and computers running on Windows 8’s tiled interface.
The patent in question is U.S. Patent #6,724,403. Filed in October of 2000 and issued in April of 2004, the patent is owned by SurfCast, Inc. and describes a “computerized method of presenting information” that “comprises a graphical user interface which organizes content from a variety of information sources into a grid of tiles, each of which can refresh its content independently of the others.” That’s actually pretty spot on when you read it. It makes you wonder why SurfCast never made a product utilizing this patent, but it’s probably because the company has never made any products, which is already prompting accusations of patent trolling.
Microsoft actually owns a patent specifically for the Live Tiles functionality, U.S. Patent #7,933,632 granted in 2011, that references SurfCast’s patent. This means the U.S. Patent Office found enough difference to grant Microsoft its own claim, but the patent did receive a rejection during the process that has given SurfCast its chance to take action.
SurfCast’s lawsuit accuses Microsoft of knowingly infringing upon its patent, using it in all versions of Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Phone 7, and Microsoft Surface. The claim states that this has caused SurfCast “harm and injury,” which conjures up images of Steve Ballmer going after the company’s executives with a bat. That may actually happen if Microsoft were to let Ballmer go to court, so we’re sure the company is preparing its legal team for this battle. SurfCast has been waiting for this moment since its patent was issued. Trolls have a lot of time on their hands.