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Microsoft finds itself on the defensive for once

Somewhere in Germany sit stocks of handsets from Google Inc. (GOOG) subsidiary Motorola Mobility.  The handsets were seized by German authorities after the courts found that the onboard mobile operating system likely violated user interface and file system patents owned by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) makers of the ubiquitous Windows operating system.  Soon the handsets may be destroyed.

But after preying on newcomers to the operating system world like Google's Android handset partners with a pay-or-be-sued approach, Microsoft finds itself in the crosshairs of a major mobile suit that could compromise its most critical platform launch -- the Windows 8/Windows Phone 8 rollout.

The case lands in an unusual jurisdiction -- U.S. District Court for the District of Maine  -- far from Microsoft's home on the West Coast.  The suit alleges Microsoft "stole" the concept Live Tiles, which the plaintiffs claim they invented in 2000 and received a patent for in 2004, with U.S. Patent 6,724,403.

Customizable Live Tiles in Windows Phone 8

The owners founded a startup named SurfCast.  They describe it, writing:

SurfCast designs Operating System technology and has four issued patents with additional applications pending.

SurfCast designed a new concept referred to as 'Tiles'.

Tiles can be thought of as dynamically updating icons. A Tile is different from an icon because it can be both selectable and live -- containing refreshed content that provides a real-time or near-real-time view of the underlying information.

Tiles can provide dynamic bookmarking -- an at-a-glance view of the current status of the program, file, or content associated with it.

Tiles enable people to have all their content, applications, and resources, regardless of whether on their mobile device, tablet, computer, or in their Cloud -- visualized persistently -- dynamically updating.

It's hard to deny Microsoft's Live Tiles narrowly mirror the technology described in SurfStar's patents, which came out before the Live Tiles landed as part of the "Metro UI" in Windows Phone's 2009 launch.

SurfStar v. Microsoft
SurfStar's Live Tiles (left) are uncannily like Microsoft's Live Tiles (right).

Microsoft appears to have known for some time about SurfStar's IP, so this suit shouldn't come as a big surprise.  The electronics giant in 2005 tried to patent Live Tiles with U.S. Patent 7,933,632.  The patent was finally granted in 2011, but only after Microsoft cited SurfStar's "relevant prior art".

The SurfStar suit targets "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" -- pretty much all of Microsoft's next-gen operating system platform. SurfStar also suggest that devices with Windows 8 or Windows 8 apps that use animated Live Tiles may also be in infringement and potentially liable for future damages.

SurfStar asks the court to force Microsoft to "account and pay to SurfCast all damages caused to SurfCast by reason of Microsoft’s patent infringement."

On the surface (no pun intended) it appears that SurfStar has a compelling and valid case, but it's always hard to pick out savvy trolls from earnest inventors.  Either way, the turn of events is certainly highly ironic, given the hell Microsoft has put Android through in terms of aggressive intellectual property threats and litigation.

Source: Prior Smart

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Karma's a $$#@*
By Reclaimer77 on 10/31/2012 3:01:03 PM , Rating: 3
To all of you jumping to MS's defense here, you didn't seem to have a problem when Microsoft bullied Samsung, HTC, and Motorola into paying $15-20 royalties per handset sold for software patents that are of the same nature as this article. In fact they were more flimsy than the ones held by this "patent troll" imo.

And the way they went about it was so offensive too, it shouldn't even be legal. MS informed them they were infringing and then said they wouldn't disclose what patents were violated UNTIL they agreed to pay.

It's just really hard to feel sorry for Microsoft here now that their chickens have come home to roost.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Aries1470 on 10/31/2012 3:19:07 PM , Rating: 2
Totally agree :)
Would give thumbs up - +1, but... it does not allow me to vote :(

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By phatboye on 10/31/2012 4:33:52 PM , Rating: 3
This site no longer allows me to vote either, do you know why? I can't seem to figure this out. The weird thing is that as you can see I can I can reply to posts just fine.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Schadenfroh on 10/31/2012 5:58:36 PM , Rating: 4
The solution is to stop posting... once you reply, you forfeit your vote and your right to vote. The lurkers are the judges of the worthiness of threads here.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By phatboye on 10/31/2012 6:19:27 PM , Rating: 4
It's not that, even in post where I don't reply in, this site does not allow me to vote. I initially though it was because an admin must have banned me for something but I don't ever remember getting any notice for from the administration for anything.

The fact that I can still post makes it even more suspect.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By MaulBall789 on 10/31/2012 7:01:55 PM , Rating: 5
I've noticed this too, but today found a workaround. Right click on the "worth reading" or "not worth reading" link and and select "open in new tab". Vote is recorded in the new tab.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Schadenfroh on 10/31/2012 8:54:01 PM , Rating: 5
Have you tried hitting F5 / refreshing the page after you vote? Mine does not reflect my vote until I refresh the page.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By frobizzle on 11/1/2012 9:34:04 AM , Rating: 2
Another workaround. After you vote on a posting, you can go up to the "Threshold" drop down box, click change (you don't need to actually change the threshold) and your vote will be recorded.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By maugrimtr on 11/1/2012 9:49:25 AM , Rating: 2
I'm guessing this is a Javascript error in updating the vote count on the current page. Anything that triggers a refresh would correctly show your vote as recorded (same problem here using Firefox).

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By trooper11 on 10/31/2012 3:20:30 PM , Rating: 2
I still don't think MS' strategy when it comes to patents has been as bad as Apple's strategy. At least MS offers an agreement first and not straight to court with the intent of wiping out the product.

As far as not showing the patents, it seems reasonable that if those patents cover confidential information, that MS would not just make that public. I thought there was a story about this a while back where MS was asking for these companies to sign an NDA. If they were also saying that the fee had to be paid to see them, then I think that's going to far as well.

You may think its unfair, but its an open market and these companies felt like the price MS was asking was fair (vs a court battle). If they don't feel its fair, then do like Motorola did and take them to court over it.

Personally, I don't have a problem with companies protecting their patents and asking for compensation when someone is making money thanks in some part to those patents. So if this company has a real claim, they need to press it. If they are patent trolls, then it'll be just another reason why the system needs reform.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Reclaimer77 on 10/31/2012 3:39:04 PM , Rating: 2
Oh I agree with you there, it's not "as bad". But MS definitely isn't an outside observer to this software patent mess. And let's not forget, they partnered with Apple to "share" patents. Which put them in a position to be free from litigation from Apple, while simultaneously bullying the other players.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By trooper11 on 10/31/2012 3:44:13 PM , Rating: 2

I agree, MS isn't clean in this, but the reality is that I can't say any of these companies are clean. They have all shown themselves to be less than kind over the years. So maybe its not so much that the companies are evil, but they all try to get away with as much as possible to get an edge. When its your turn to get caught, you take the punishment.

So if the claim is real and can be backed up in court, then it should be pursued. If it turns out to be baseless, I don't want to see MS or anyone else get hammered because of it.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By trooper11 on 10/31/2012 3:45:31 PM , Rating: 4
Oh and I thought it was funny that the article mentioned that MS is on the defensive for once. If you have been following MS for any amount of time, you would know they are on the defensive nearly constantly.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By StevoLincolnite on 10/31/2012 4:46:17 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, MS isn't clean in this, but the reality is that I can't say any of these companies are clean. They have all shown themselves to be less than kind over the years.

Of course. They're companies.
Their main goal and objective is to create products so you hand over your money, they don't actually care about the well being of each individual on mother earth.

However, some companies are more aggressive with their behavior than others, Microsoft of late has been less aggressive in terms of litigation, Apple is on the opposite side of the spectrum.
Microsoft would rather license it's I.P to profit from it rather than take everyone to court.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By RufusM on 11/1/2012 12:19:43 PM , Rating: 2
This is why software design patents need to go away. SurfCast waiting until Microsoft launched a long line of products then they jump in to sue; to maximize potential harm to Microsoft.

Updating tiles is essentially a dynamic icon. They've been around for a long time. Windows XP had a dynamic icon on its login screen that would tell me the number of unread emails. This is one example and I'm sure I could find many more. Adding to that, I'm sure Microsoft's implementation is completely different from SurfCast's. Software is written in a language and, like a book, should be copyrighted not patented!

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Smilin on 10/31/2012 9:37:37 PM , Rating: 1

I think MS learned many lessons during there legal troubles decades ago. Their reputation took a huge hit and they realized how valuable it is. They've been acting like grown ups amongst their peers ever since. The attitude seems to win them more partners than enemies.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By drycrust3 on 11/1/2012 2:43:59 AM , Rating: 3
As far as not showing the patents, it seems reasonable that if those patents cover confidential information, that MS would not just make that public.

I don't see how you can have confidential patents. Either you have a patent, which is a public document, or you have a secret, which isn't public knowledge, you can't have both.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Smilin on 10/31/2012 3:49:07 PM , Rating: 5
Oh please.

1. Nobody knows the royalties paid but the participants.
2. It's rumored to be in the sub $5 range for most and I think one report for a max of $15 (your hyperbolic minimum)
3. If the patents were so flimsy the companies in question would not have settled. It isn't like they are some 10 employee small business that couldn't have afforded the litigation.
4. You have no clue what a bully is. A bully will have the courts yank your products off the shelf instead of negotiating royalties.
5. The post-Gates Microsoft takes the high road when things like this come along and they pay. They have happily licensed Apple patents in the surface for example.
6. Why didn't the "chickens come home to roost" back when tiles appears on Xbox and WP7? Why not when the Win8 developer preview released? Sense anything alterior perhaps?

Now that you've jumped out from behind the tree with your pants down yelling "gotcha" just simmer down and see how this actually plays out. IF there was an infringement I would be willing to bet you see a fair settlement.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Reclaimer77 on 10/31/2012 4:00:43 PM , Rating: 2
People settle because it's usually cheaper than lawsuits. That doesn't mean, however, that they are just okay with the situation. It's like being offered the choice between being shot in a head, or having your face smashed with a baseball bat. Well...the bat would probably be less-bad, so okay I'll pick that.

The logic that big companies can afford litigation, so they should pursue it, is asinine. And it's possible that if MS had revealed what patents were so-called infringed on before hand, some may have decided to go that route.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Smilin on 10/31/2012 9:11:53 PM , Rating: 3
Not quite. People settle because the game changes when you get in front of jury. There are times when it is indeed cheaper to settle. But didn't you just say $20 per handset (shenanigans on that number anyway) but even at half that it would be worth taking things to court. Remember, the loser pays the legal fees.

MS absolutely revealed what patents were contested. They might not reveal it to you and me but they would have to reveal it during the settlement...otherwise you would have the stupidest lawyer on the planet to suggest a settlement. Give me a break Reclaimer.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By phatboye on 10/31/2012 5:01:31 PM , Rating: 2
1 & 2) does not matter how much they paid. be it $100/device or $0.01/device or $0.01 total.

3) MS wouldn't tell the companies they were threatening what patents they were suing for until after they agreed to settle. to scare them. Everyone knows MS has a shit ton of OS patents, no one would be stupid enough to even challenge that.

4) MS is a bully

5) Forcing your Android competitors to pay royalties for each device sold is definitely not an example of taking the high road.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Master Kenobi on 10/31/2012 7:45:18 PM , Rating: 2
Ironically Google has yet to defend a single Android manufacturer. Microsoft has. Frankly if you are a hardware company you would like it if your Software provider could use its large corporate influence to protect you from their rivals.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Reclaimer77 on 10/31/2012 8:22:10 PM , Rating: 3
Okay I mean no offense, but I expect a staffer here at DT to have a little more technical knowledge than this.

Google absolutely cannot "defend" the manufacturers because they aren't responsible for the lawsuits. For example Samsung was sued by Apple, and lost, because of hardware designs of the phones itself and their custom "TouchWiz" Android UI scheme. None of this is Google's fault, therefore they can't just "defend" them in court.

You're making it seem like they are just being sued because they use Android, and I seriously doubt you don't know better. Honestly can we put this FUD to bed now? I'm tired of hearing how Google won't "defend" people from their own wrongdoings (in the eyes of the law).

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Smilin on 10/31/2012 9:22:44 PM , Rating: 2
It's not FUD in the slightest.

1. If you sell a device then you are liable for any patents that device infringes. (any disagreement so far?)
2. If some part of that device comes from elsewhere then you are still liable because you are the one manufacturing and selling it. (still with me?)
3. Microsoft agrees to indemnify anyone who is sued because of a part (the OS) that they supplied. (is this the part that is BS?)
4. Google does not. (am I lying yet?)

Explain to me which part is FUD?

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Reclaimer77 on 10/31/2012 9:28:39 PM , Rating: 2
Uhh do I need to break this down?

1. Google didn't design or code the "TouchWiz" and HTC "Sense" UI's. Stock versions of Android are NOT being sued.

2. Google didn't design the phones which are being sued for infringing on Apple's designs

What is so hard for you to understand about this? Where do you see Google as being responsible? They aren't the ones who designed this stuff, or created the UI's being sued!

This argument is retarded, end of discussion. You. Are. Wrong.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Smilin on 10/31/2012 9:47:41 PM , Rating: 2
1. It does not have to be a stock version of android so long as an infringing part of android is still present. Stop acting like you know the details of the violation or settlement.
2. WTF Does apple have to do with an MS vs Android OEM settlement? Spare me the red herring and get back to which of the 4 statements above is false.

You are welcome to tell yourself that I am wrong but it doesn't make it so. Here, allow me to demonstrate...

You. Are. A. Monkey. (unless a banana just appeared in your hand when you read that then it's safe to say logic doesn't work that way)

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Reclaimer77 on 11/1/12, Rating: 0
RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By RufusM on 11/1/2012 12:01:20 PM , Rating: 2
Also, the original assumption was not correct. Google has assisted Samsung and HTC with litigation advice and some costs when it's been appropriate.

Having said that, Google should not be responsible for the last win Apple had over Samsung. Samsung's own internal communications clearly indicated a path of copying Apple's designs for the Galaxy S1 phone.

I dislike software design patents all together, but there are some things Google should keep its hands out of.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Smilin on 11/1/2012 12:29:49 PM , Rating: 2
You are correct. #4 in my point above is not 100% accurate. I had forgotten that there has been some limited assistance.

Wish I could +1 you for disagreeing with my own post. It's refreshing to have a conversation with a grown-up.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Smilin on 11/1/2012 12:24:44 PM , Rating: 2
If you want grown-ups to listen to you then act like one.

Instead of having an outright temper tantrum, begin by pointing out which of my assertions is incorrect:


It's not FUD in the slightest.

1. If you sell a device then you are liable for any patents that device infringes. (any disagreement so far?)
2. If some part of that device comes from elsewhere then you are still liable because you are the one manufacturing and selling it. (still with me?)
3. Microsoft agrees to indemnify anyone who is sued because of a part (the OS) that they supplied. (is this the part that is BS?)
4. Google does not. (am I lying yet?)

Explain to me which part is FUD?

It may very well be that the reason your point is not coming across is that you are explaining it inadequately, or it is flat out wrong . That doesn't seem to be a reality you are capable of facing so you keep getting mad at your reader.

I believe the flaw that your thoughts keep circling around is that you think you know the details of the settlement. In your mind it is exclusively hardware and UI. Since each settlement involves different hardware and UI yet contains the common Android OS it would imply otherwise. Yet here is the key: You don't know. Neither do I. One of us gets that we don't know it. The other is stomping around red faced and mad with spittle on their chin.

Grow up Reclaimer.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Smilin on 10/31/2012 9:06:00 PM , Rating: 2
MS wouldn't tell the companies they were threatening what patents they were suing for until after they agreed to settle.
Oh wow man, thanks for the laugh. If someone settled under such circumstances they would have the *stupidest lawyers on earth*. I don't think so. I'll just take "you're full of crap for 1000" Alex.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Reclaimer77 on 10/31/2012 10:05:26 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry but that's how it went down. Google is your friend Smilin.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Smilin on 10/31/2012 10:12:07 PM , Rating: 2
Really now? Why don't you bust out your Google-jitsu and provide me any link whatsoever to the verbiage of the NDA settlements. Didn't think so. Stop acting like you have some insider details or that the tripe you are spewing should just be accepted as common know, just um, knows that!

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By BifurcatedBoat on 11/2/2012 3:27:46 AM , Rating: 2
They settle because of what could happen if they don't.

You're assuming somehow that common sense prevails in modern US patent lawsuits, when in fact the evidence shows that nothing could be further from the case.

So if I can get a patent on something we might both actually think is obvious, but some random judge in his 60s or a handful of non-tech people off the street chosen to be the jury don't see it that way, it can cost you billions.

Do you take that risk, or do you just pay me what I'm asking and be done with it?

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By encia on 10/31/2012 6:49:06 PM , Rating: 2
A user can tile multiple web browsers and fit it one screen in MS Window 95.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By encia on 10/31/2012 7:16:50 PM , Rating: 4

1985: Windows 1.0
Gaudy colors, boxy design. Apps can either run as a small tile or fullscreen. No freely resizable/movable windows.

2012. Windows 8.0 (home screen)
Gaudy colors, boxy design. Apps can either run as a small tile or fullscreen. No freely resizable/movable windows.

MS should sue them back for copying Windows 1.0 lol.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Smilin on 10/31/2012 9:56:19 PM , Rating: 1
For a second I thought that was funny and insightful and I was about to laugh. Then I realized it isn't so I didn't.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Kyuu on 11/1/2012 12:32:44 AM , Rating: 1
Yeah... that's not funny, clever, or poignant. Go away troll.

Plus, y'know, Win8 didn't take away the desktop or the ability to have multiple, resizable windows.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By encia on 11/1/2012 2:21:54 AM , Rating: 2
Go away stupid.

My point was MS has the tiling format that automatically updates itself (e.g. clock app) since 1985.

PS I have been using Windows 8 RTM on my tablet since Sep 2012.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Smilin on 11/1/2012 10:56:36 AM , Rating: 1
If you were not trolling then you made your point poorly by linking directly to some obvious and extremely petty MS bashing.

Don't get all butthurt at your readers over it.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By Silver2k7 on 11/1/2012 12:43:56 AM , Rating: 2
Windows 1 vs. Windows 8
the simmilarities are kind of funny.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By ET on 11/1/2012 3:10:36 AM , Rating: 2
Nice trolling.

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By damianrobertjones on 11/1/2012 4:09:10 AM , Rating: 2
Nah. MS played fair and straight. "You're using this, pay money!"

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By damianrobertjones on 11/1/2012 4:14:30 AM , Rating: 2
P.s. What took the person/people so long to sue? Ahh, yeah, they waited until this point to MILK AS MUCH as they can

RE: Karma's a $$#@*
By anactoraaron on 11/1/2012 12:04:46 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry but they are trolling. They filed for this patent in 2000 then claim to apply this patent to the cloud, tablets, or mobile devices in this statement : "Tiles enable people to have all their content, applications, and resources, regardless of whether on their mobile device, tablet, computer, or in their Cloud -- visualized persistently -- dynamically updating." Of which NONE of these things - save the computer (which already had features like this already) were capable of even utilizing this tech or even existed when they applied for this patent.

Patenting the process to tech that isn't even around yet isn't possible as you don't know how the non-existent devices will be able to implement it nor do you know specifically how communication between the 'tiles' and os will work. Thus MS cited the prior work and patented the NEW means to implement this tech for a platform that the original tech was NEVER MEANT NOR DESIGNED FOR. If they truly wanted to apply this tech for smartphones and tablets they should have created a means to do so and PATENT THAT. They will lose on the PC side also as I'm sure MS has more than enough patents on icons and windows, etc.

Not to mention that if we have learned anything from apple's trolling it's that you can take an idea - like 'tiles' meant for the computer - and attach a specific means to apply the currently existing patent to a 'mobile platform' aka smartphone or tablet and suddenly you have 'created' a tech which you can patent.

BTW I have a problem with MS's bullying and "you are infringing on our patents so sign this to pay us royalties before we even tell you what you have infringed upon" tactics.

Just read correctly, and why a TROLL?
By Aries1470 on 10/31/2012 3:15:29 PM , Rating: 1
Geez, don't you just love it when some people just can not read, or do not read properly.

Clearly stated:

"The suit alleges Microsoft "stole" the concept Live Tiles, which the plaintiffs claim they invented in 2000 and receive a patent for in 2004, with U.S. Patent 6,724,403."
It took them a good 4 years to receive it, makes you wonder why it took so long in the first place.

They received a patent.
Microsoft appears to have known for some time about SurfStar's IP, so this suit shouldn't come as a big surprise. The electronics giant in 2005 tried to patent Live Tiles with U.S. Patent 7,933,632. The patent was finally granted in 2011, but only after Microsoft cited SurfStar's "relevant prior art".
Wonder why it took them 6 years, maybe because they needed to include "Cite Prior Art"... so , They needed to CITE PRIOR ART.

As a patent holder, you may have had talks, may not been made aware, since lets face it, not many winmo phones are sold... in many places in the world, and to be a devils advocate, AS A PATENT HOLDER, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SUE WHEN EVER YOU CAN AND CAN AFFORD TO DO SO!! Maybe they are a "smallish" company, and did not have the deep pockets needed, or they just got a "pro-bono" lawyer... patent suits are very expensive and can easily run in the millions!

This article just does not site the reason for why they have not sued before now.

So, all your reasons are speculations at best, until you find actual and factual links citing the reasons for the delay.

Shheees.... it is after all, the "American Patent" system, not to mention that many other countries are similar now... with a broken system that is in dire need of fixing.

It should have been: make at least a prototype and get your patent, or at least make it within a set amount of time. Lower the price if the applicant is a small entity, or very small business, that has not been made by a huge corp... .... the system is already crying ...---...

By the way, the definition of a TROLL for me is, Companies that buy patents from small business's or individuals, and then go after infringers and do NOT pay any royalties except a small token amount to the original developer!

RE: Just read correctly, and why a TROLL?
By Denigrate on 10/31/2012 4:06:59 PM , Rating: 2
They are a troll by definition of coming up with an idea, then doing absolutely nothing with it. Then when someone comes up with a similar idea, and can monetize it, they sue.

RE: Just read correctly, and why a TROLL?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/31/2012 4:13:12 PM , Rating: 2
Yup small companies shouldn't come up with technology ideas unless they can afford the billions of dollars involved in launching a new product themselves.

Brilliant analysis there Denigrate. Our economy would clearly be booming if your points of view were prevalent.

By hankw on 10/31/2012 5:29:04 PM , Rating: 2
What they ought to do is shorten the life of software patents to only a few years. Hightech, especially software, moves at a much faster pace than other industries. If you come out with a great idea, why let it stagnate? Either release it ASAP, or sell the idea to the highest bidder and let someone else release it. Either way you'd still make good money.

By Denigrate on 11/1/2012 9:41:40 AM , Rating: 2
So if the "Live Tile" company thought their idea was so great, and that it should be implemented, why didn't they go out and try to sell it instead of sitting on it for years?

By BifurcatedBoat on 11/2/2012 3:41:26 AM , Rating: 2
Is an animated icon a novel idea worthy of protection to you?

What's the fundamental difference between that and an animated GIF used as a hyperlink on a webpage from 1992?

Maybe someone should have patented it back then.

"Wait, I can make an image hyperlink... and I can make an animated GIF... What if I combine the two together? This is an absolute genius idea that no ordinary human could have ever hoped to think up. Time to get a patent!"

By encia on 10/31/2012 7:06:25 PM , Rating: 2

MS Windows 1.0's tiled window layout.

By BifurcatedBoat on 11/2/2012 3:32:37 AM , Rating: 2
The problem is that the "concept" of tiles SHOULD NOT BE PATENTABLE. It's an idea. The implementation is in the code. Did MS copy their code to get live tiles to work? No. This company probably doesn't even have a working version of what they patented. That's what's so broken about patents related to software. You should have a right to your source code, and nothing more.

If someone else creates software that performs the same function as your software, but they do not directly copy any of your code or images, then they may have built on your idea, but they should NOT be considered infringing on your IP. Ideas are not supposed to be patentable. That's a core tenet of the patent system that's being violated daily in the tech industry.

It's pretty obvious...
By inighthawki on 10/31/2012 2:49:15 PM , Rating: 2
...that they are trolling and sat there and waited for the release of Windows 8/WP8 so they could try to sue for higher damages. Live tiles have existing in WP7 and preview builds of Win8 for YEARS now, and now suddenly after all of Microsoft's big new products get released, there is a lawsuit? What a coincidence.

RE: It's pretty obvious...
By soydios on 10/31/2012 3:01:41 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, there has to be an actual product for sale to file the infringement suit against. Without commenting on the merits (or not) of the case:

The suit is not about taking the idea, it's about taking the idea and selling it. It's one of several reasons why Apple sued the Android ODMs instead of Google: the ODMs were doing the actual selling.

RE: It's pretty obvious...
By encia on 10/31/2012 7:25:27 PM , Rating: 2
Windows 1.0 has tiles i.e. it's clock app can update itself.

RE: It's pretty obvious...
By Smilin on 10/31/2012 9:52:31 PM , Rating: 2
That was my first thought as well but there may have been talks going on between the two since WP7 and they only now broke down. Just speculating.

Similar...but is it really?
By BSquared on 10/31/2012 4:06:35 PM , Rating: 2
Reading through the patent, sounded like the SurfCast implementation was meant as a desktop app that thumbnailed actual programs running (as well as applets that aggregate)...sort of like what Windows Flip does. In fact, if you rename tiles to icons, it matched a lot of early DWM's you could grab back in Win 9X days that did exactly as this patent describes, albeit not as "fancy" given that web services weren't prevalent as they are today. It also explains a central server based aggregator service to be used to funnel all web scraped information...I don't believe live tiles does that.

They sound like they sat on this patent issue until Windows 8/WP8/XBox experience, etc were simul-released, in order to maximize damage rewards. Since live tiles were known from MS since the announcement of both Metro and WP7, which has been public knowledge since 2009. I sense that they could have approached MS, or sent a legal warning, at that time to cease usage or work on licensing. Since MS also cited Surfcast in their own patent, it shows they knew of it, and maybe they found that the only similarity was the aesthetics and not the mechanism. Who really knows. Maybe it really took awhile for lawyers to be hired and the suit filed. In any case, I'd love to hear both sides of this issue as the case develops.

RE: Similar...but is it really?
By encia on 10/31/2012 8:46:21 PM , Rating: 2
Windows Phone 7.0 wasn't the first Windows release with tiles i.e. Windows 1.0 (1985).

RE: Similar...but is it really?
By Smilin on 10/31/2012 10:02:08 PM , Rating: 2
I think that's probably part of why MS cited their patent as prior art. There are similar "squares that update" going all the way back to PARC labs. It takes a bit more than that to constitute an original idea.

RE: Similar...but is it really?
By acer905 on 11/2/2012 12:43:02 PM , Rating: 2
Beyond just that, the claims themselves differentiate this from MS's implementation.

13. The method of claim 1 wherein a unit tile size is associated with said array of tiles, dependent upon a maximum number of tiles displayed vertically and a maximum number of tiles displayed horizontally , and wherein each tile in said array of tiles has a fixed size that is equal to said unit tile size, or a multiple thereof.

14. The method of claim 1 wherein said array is displayed in a web-browser .

Based on that, their system has a fixed size and the tile size is a factor of the fixed size and the number of tiles, unlike the MS approach. And, it is web based!

By Quadrillity on 10/31/2012 2:36:47 PM , Rating: 2
And someone explain again why these types of "patents" are allowed through. If Microsoft copied the programming of the tiles, then yeah... it's probably infringement. Other than that.... you CANNOT patent ideas.

RE: *sigh*
By nikon133 on 10/31/2012 4:36:35 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I was wondering. "...account and pay to SurfCast all damages caused to SurfCast" but what damages? Does SurfCast have product based on this IP, or at least are they developing a product based on this IP? Have they been making any money out of it and believe that they would make more without MS "infringement"? Is this anything more than idea - are there functional software routines/algorithms behind the patent?

In addition, based on that image, it seems SurfCast tiles are more like minimized/cropped version of full screen app. That seems to be a bit different concept than MS live tiles, but is it different enough, well, court will say.

RE: *sigh*
By lennylim on 10/31/2012 5:35:28 PM , Rating: 1
For settlement, Steve Ballmer should be required to hand the CEO of SurfCast a lollipop while saying "Oh, you poor baby, don't cry. Here, have a candy".

RE: *sigh*
By Smilin on 10/31/2012 9:31:19 PM , Rating: 2
You hit the nail there. Surfcast will have to demonstrate how they were going to monetize this idea and that Microsoft prevented them from doing so. But hey, maybe they had a billion dollar deal with Apple that fell through when Win8 shipped.

Article missing relevent info
By GreenEnvt on 11/1/2012 8:17:43 AM , Rating: 3
Ars Technica has a much more informational writeup.

The company changed their website around 2009, after Windows phone 7 made it's debut, to use the word tiles. Before that, it did not talk about tiles.

They also make no product. They applied for this patent over a decade ago and never did anything with it. That is just about the definition of a troll.

RE: Article missing relevent info
By kmmatney on 11/1/2012 9:43:38 AM , Rating: 3
To me, Surfstar's interface looks like a bunch of "tiled" Windows. Not really the same thing as Microsoft's UI tiles.

FireFox 15 "tiles"
By docinct on 10/31/2012 5:44:23 PM , Rating: 2
The new tab page in FireFox 15 has previews of the selected web pages lair out in a grid (though not as tiles). These update when you visit the respective page, but don't update unless you do.

I wouldn't consider the company a troll if they are the original inventor of the idea and the method(s) for doing it. If they aren't a hardware OEM, that what they have to sell as the "product".
One does wonder why it took until now to sue Microsoft, though.

RE: FireFox 15 "tiles"
By BifurcatedBoat on 11/2/2012 3:36:59 AM , Rating: 2
What did they create that's useful? What did they contribute to the world of software? Is the world a better place now because they had this *idea* - which are NOT supposed to be patentable - and now can hold everyone else who might consider making an animated icon hostage.

software or other ideas as patents
By MadMan007 on 10/31/2012 2:26:42 PM , Rating: 3
Any time I read about a company who is patenting ideas without a corresponding product, it pushes them toward the troll end of the spectrum for me. I know these are called 'NPEs' for non-practicing entity, and it's a practice that's been legtimized (unfortunately) but that doesn't make them any less trolly to me.

MS gets what it doles out.
By flubaluba on 10/31/2012 6:10:13 PM , Rating: 2
The only ones who lose here are the customers with higher prices and less innovation, seriously the EU should demand that patents are only allowed for 5 years maximum on anything, and if America has to be dragged into the future well so be it, The EU has enough financial power to punish them if they do not do what is in the best interest of all and not just a few.

What does SurfCast do?
By tayb on 10/31/2012 8:05:33 PM , Rating: 2
I did a bit of research and couldn't come up with anything. There is absolutely nothing on the website which leads me to believe that if they do do anything it would be consulting. Does anyone know?

It's hard to feel bad for MS given how they've patent trolled Android handset makers but at least in that case MS had valid patents AND put them to use. The putting them to use part at least differentiates these two scenarios somewhat in my mind.

The best thing about this is that the more and more this happens the closer and closer we will get to patent reform. This is complete lunacy and shouldn't even be possible. Collateral damage in the "war" to overhaul a badly broken patent system.

Prior art
By opy on 10/31/2012 10:25:35 PM , Rating: 2
Open any Windows operating system 95 onwards, look at the bottom right, looks like live tiles to me.

Excuse me...
By Totally on 10/31/2012 10:35:25 PM , Rating: 2
Don't mean to play the devil's advocate they might sound the same but the examples provided vs MS's implementation appear to be very different.

I guess they'l settle
By vicarious1 on 11/1/2012 2:14:59 PM , Rating: 2
I guess someone is going to make a load of $ when they will settle with MS

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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