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.”

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

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



1. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

Thank you for yet another well-presented article, Michael. The first paragraph mirrored my thoughts. Best guess: Microsoft will have the patents invalidated, pay royalties, or buy the company. Or have it thrown out for being 2 years late

28. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

There is a bit of prior art that could give SurfCast some problems - Windows v. 2.0 was a tiled OS (developed under license from Apple, of all companies...). Adding a tiled OS to a phone doesn't exactly meet the novelty threshold. Net-net, don't expect MS to be rushing to negotiate a license any time soon.

35. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

It's not just a tiled layout, it's a tiled layout that pulls information from various sources and presents it.

50. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

The Windows 2.0 UI pulled information from various sources and displayed it. One window could display a telnet session, another window could be a Word session, yet another Window could be a Solitaire game. And, and, and. See where I am going? Just adding a telephone to the mix doesn't meet the novelty test.

29. AnTuTu

Posts: 1595; Member since: Oct 14, 2012

Does anyone know about Surfcast before? Hell No And now? Hell yes. Lets buy this company MS :p

54. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

I doubt the company is for sale.

30. XPERIA-KNIGHT unregistered

I agree, good job Michael :) I know alot of these lawsuits tend to be based off of jealousy or pride but I get the feeling some of these lawsuits are necessary. I only hope things continue to come to a balance in the mobile world and competition can thrive the way it was intended to be... Keep up the good work Michael I can sense a bit of "passion" in your articles which is a very good thing to see...

2. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Why do companies abuse lawsuits with FRAND patents?

4. wassup

Posts: 565; Member since: Jun 23, 2011

this isn't FRAND. Although it is dumb, like ALL of apple patents, it isn't FRAND. Sadly this is the state of affairs when it comes to the US.

5. Non_Sequitur

Posts: 1111; Member since: Mar 16, 2012

God, I hate the US patent system. So. Much.

46. plgladio

Posts: 314; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

But I love when they are agains Apple and MS :P

13. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

Not every patent is FRAND. You're like a child who discovered a new word. A patent has to be granted FRAND status, and it's usually has to be something that is essential and will become an industry standard. Prime examples patents dealing with voice/data transmission & reception, or audio/video codecs. Try understanding what you read before you parrot it.

23. theBankRobber

Posts: 682; Member since: Sep 22, 2011

If its anything against Microsoft and Apple its FRAND PATENTS with you, if its the other way around against Google, Motorola, Samsung, or ANY Android OEM then its, they are copycats and deserve what they get. You really are something else.

34. xtremesv

Posts: 299; Member since: Oct 21, 2011

FRAND is unfair, technologies selectively are chosen, these techs are normally the ones more technical and more innovative and by default the ones that have required more resources to be produced. With FRAND those REAL patents are given a generic status and the companies which created them cannot control ownership completely and that's good for technology progress. The problem is those garbage patents like design and utility ones which aren't FRAND, didn't involve a lot of intellectual resources and are used as litigation weapons by the companies that completely (without restriction) own them, just to threat the most innovative enterprises that can't use their own patents to protect themselves because they're FRAND.

42. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

I agree with your thought that the patents that usually fall under FRAND are more technical and valuable. But I believe the reason FRAND was brought about is two fold. First if these patents were not available at a reasonable price to everyone, the company that came up with them would have a stranglehold on the industry. Second, to reward the company that came up with them, the FRAND process guarantees that anyone who does use it must pay to license the tech or face injunctions. So the original company shouldn't have to litigate to get compensation. The problem is they don't seem to be enforcing it. And before anyone goes off about how nothing has been proven in the cases involving apple vs the android oems, they were found guilty for violating Nokia's FRAND patents, but Nokia had to bring the case to the courts. In another story apple has said they would be willing to pay $1 per phone for Motorola's patents. The problem is if that's less than what other companies are paying for those same patents, that would violate the terms of the FRAND process. It's supposed to be the same cost for EVERYONE, regardless of who they are. What really makes me angry is apple wants to lowball companies they have to pay, whose patents are essential to operate as a mobile device, but want to charge exhorbitant amounts for things that while are a convenience, are not essential for operation. What needs to happen, & I've been saying this since these stories started, is that they need to have a standard for what companies can charge for patents. They could have a tiered system based on the importance of the patent. Why they haven't enacted something like that is beyond me, but there it is.

44. stealthd unregistered

FRAND is an agreement between the inventor and a standards body. Nothing becomes FRAND without the inventor's approval. There's absolutely nothing unfair about that. FRAND is important because certain technologies need to be standard across an industry, like cellular technology, and it would be ridiculous if one or a few companies could dictate or discriminate prices. Design and utility patents aren't garbage, they're important too, they're just a completely different category. There's no point in comparing them, they're both useful for different reasons.

43. JunkCreek

Posts: 407; Member since: Jul 13, 2012

Mxyzptlk, you're Appler120%! Reminds me Alcohol120% software...

45. JunkCreek

Posts: 407; Member since: Jul 13, 2012

Why do companies abuse lawsuits with RECTANGULAR SHAPE patents?

3. thief-thief

Posts: 3; Member since: Oct 31, 2012

look like Microsoft doesn't get it even after when samsung got sued the hell out of them... talk about embarassing

6. daddysbeenabadgirl

Posts: 157; Member since: Jul 26, 2012

Microsoft and Joe Belfiore look like idiots right now, after saying a few days ago that Andoid copied Apple. All this shi t is starting to look like a kindergarden playground. All these companies need to shut up and focus on making consumers happy and stop trying to throw feces at each other because everyone stinks now.

41. nobelset

Posts: 270; Member since: Oct 17, 2012

I'm a windows and windows phone fan, especially Nokia, but I got real pissed when Joe said that. It seems quite clear that he dun know anything about what he's talking.

48. metoyou

Posts: 279; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

Joe has become "BLOW JOE" naughty me ^_^

47. plgladio

Posts: 314; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

Well said. Don't understand why you got these many thumbs down. Your comment wasn't biased atleast the second paragraph..

7. SleepingOz unregistered

Who said Google copied Apple? LMAO! In your face, Ballmer!

8. mas11

Posts: 1034; Member since: Mar 30, 2012

Never thought I'd feel this sorry for Microsoft. Maybe this will be the trial that brings about patent reform.

53. fervid

Posts: 183; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

I thought the same thing when Apple became popular. I hated Microsoft and everyone complained about their practices for years and sued them. Then Apple came along and did the exact same things and worse, but people allowed it like it was no issue and expected behavior. Microsoft was just started 15 years too soon. Had they came into play 15 years later and they'd be Apple. Now they are scraping for every little thing they can and people are treating them like the bad guy again.

9. Topcat488

Posts: 1411; Member since: Sep 29, 2012

This has nothing to do with FRAND, as it is not necessary to run your product, Microsoft copied, they'll have to pay... They could however change their icons to circles O, but that's probably patent too. But like who was now, I think Tim Cook said, after a few months, those rectangles will be boring and stale.

10. vvelez5

Posts: 623; Member since: Jan 29, 2011

It looks like an old bookmarks display I had on one of my older phones. I don't see this holding much water but let's see how it plays out.

12. rusticguy

Posts: 2828; Member since: Aug 11, 2012 But what do they do besides suing?

14. Aeires unregistered

So why didn't MS approach SurfCast and request a license deal? Seriously, they could have easily augmented that with the Android license fees they charge. If they lose, they're screwed, better start getting W9 ready ASAP.

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