Microsoft sued over patents concerning Live Tiles in Windows 8 and Windows Phone

Microsoft sued over patents concerning Live Tiles in Windows 8 and Windows Phone
When we first saw this headline, we had two thoughts in quick succession: 1) Of course someone has a patent on squares and rectangles that deliver information to users!, and 2) Why wasn't this lawsuit filed against Microsoft when Windows Phone 7 was released? Regardless of the answers to both of those questions, we've got ourselves just one more example of how the US patent system is completely borked. 

The patent infringement lawsuit comes from SurfCast, an OS development company based in Portland, which owns a patent granted in 2004 pertaining to a “System and method for simultaneous display of multiple information sources.” How's that for an overly broad patent title? Just from that title alone, it would sound like SurfCast could sue over just about anything from Google News to Hootsuite. Of course, the patent itself isn't quite as broad, but still not great. It details a GUI that ”organizes content from a variety of information sources into grid of tiles each of which can refresh its content independently of the others.”

That does sound quite a bit like Live Tiles, although as you can see in the image to the right, which shows SurfCast's patented system, it doesn't really look all that much like Live Tiles. But, no surprise here, Microsoft also holds a patent for Live Tiles, which covers “systems and methods for providing a user interface mobile devices enable data and services available through mobile device to be represented as a set of tiles maintained a display space.” Microsoft's patent was filed back in 2006, but it was rejected in 2009 specifically because of the prior art existing in SurfCast's patent. Microsoft reapplied and the patent was granted in 2011. (The image associated with Microsoft's patent is below on the left.)

SurfCast names “Windows Phone, Microsoft Surface with the Windows RT Operating System, Microsoft Windows RT, Microsoft Windows 8, Microsoft Windows 8 Pro, and Microsoft Windows 8 Enterprise Operating System” in its suit, but surprisingly leaves out Windows Phone 7/7.5, which has been using this same system for 2 years now, going back to before Microsoft held a patent for the system. We have reached out to SurfCast asking why the lawsuit wasn't filed until now, given that it seems like the suit would have been much easier to win before Microsoft had the patent approved. 

Beyond the various Microsoft operating systems, SurfCast's patent could also be applied to any of the now 120,000 apps that have been submitted to the Windows and Windows Phone Stores, because Microsoft details ways for developers to create Live Tiles, which means each app would be infringing when it is submitted to the store. 

We have also reached out to Microsoft, and while Microsoft's PR company has yet to respond to our request, a statement was given to The Next Web saying, “We are confident we will prove to the court that these claims are without merit and that Microsoft has created a unique user experience.”

That's right, Microsoft is set on going to court in order to prove that its method for displaying information in boxes is "unique" compared to the method of displaying information in boxes that was patented by SurfCast. Once again, bravo US Patent & Trademark Office, you have gone above and beyond in your never-ending quest to destroy the meaning of patents, and make sure all companies get the opportunity to waste money on lawsuits rather than innovation.

source: The Next Web

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