Judge Dismisses Paul Allen Suit Against Apple, Google, Other Tech Firms

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a vaguely worded patent-infringement lawsuit against 11 tech firms because it didn't specify which of the company's products or technologies infringed on the patents. The suit—which was filed against Apple, Facebook, Google, and other tech firms—had been brought by billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen on behalf of his company Interval Licensing.

"Plaintiff has failed to identify the infringing products or devices with any specificity," US District Court Judge Marsha Pechman wrote in the dismissal order. "The Court and Defendants are left to guess what devices infringe on the four patents."

Allen filed the suit in September, alleging that AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo!, and YouTube were violating four patents originally owned by a company called Internal Research, a company Allen founded in 1992 and shut down in 2000. The patents were then transferred to another Allen-owned company called Interval Licensing.

It's unclear, looking at the patents, how the companies were infringing. All 11 companies were accused of infringing on a patent called simply, "Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest," for example. And 10 of the companies (Facebook excluded) were accused of violating a patent titled "Browser for Use in Navigating a Body of Information, With Particular Application to Browsing Information Represented By Audiovisual Data."

Several of the plaintiffs complained that the charges were too vague, and Judge Pechman agreed, noting that the "allegations are insufficient to put Defendants on 'notice as to what \\[they\\] must defend.'" Allen has until December 28 to file an amended complaint that details the violations. He pledges to do so. "The case is staying on track," a spokesperson for Allen has said.

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