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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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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.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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