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Microsoft co-founder relaunches patent suit

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen relaunched a wide-ranging patent lawsuit against Apple Inc. , Google Inc. , Facebook and others with specific allegations that the companies are illegally using technology owned by his firm.

Interval Licensing LLC, a small research company set up by Mr. Allen in 1992, originally filed a broad patent suit in federal court in Seattle in August, but Judge Marsha Pechman dismissed it on the grounds that it did not specify any actual products or devices. The revised suit was filed by Interval Tuesday.

Mr. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, claims Interval was central to research and development of technology in the Internet arena in the 1990s, amassing more than 300 patents and providing research assistance to Google.

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In the suit, Mr. Allen's firm claims four of its patents - chiefly related to the way Web data is sorted and presented - have been infringed by a number of successful companies.

The first patent concerns the generation of data related to information being browsed. Interval claims Google uses this technology to match advertisements from third parties to content being displayed, while AOL's sites use it to suggest items related to news stories.

Interval claims Apple's iTunes service uses the technology to suggest music based on a user's searches, and that eBay Inc., Facebook, Netflix, Yahoo Inc. and Office Depot's sites have also infringed the patent in the way they direct users to related content.

The second and third patents concern relaying information on a computer screen in a peripheral, unobtrusive manner, such as in an instant messaging box or overlay.

Interval claims its patent has been infringed by features in AOL's Instant Messenger, Apple's Dashboard, Google Talk and Gmail Notifier, Google's Android phone system and Yahoo Widgets.

The fourth patent concerns alerting web browsers to new items of interest based on activity of other users. Interval claims AOL uses this technology on its shopping sites, while Apple's iTunes uses it to recommend music.

Interval claims eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, Staples Inc., Yahoo and Google's YouTube all have infringed the patent in the way they suggest content to users.

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Interval has asked the court for damages and a ban on products that use the disputed patents.

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