Paul Allen’s Bold Move

To different people, the name Paul Allen may mean different things.  For fans of desktop computing, Allen is probably the lesser-known part of the tandem that founded Microsoft, with Bill Gates obviously being the other.  Although still the owner of perhaps 100 million shares of Microsoft, Allen began to divest himself from the company after health issues in the late 1900s.

What does a relatively young billionaire do once they have left the computing game?  Well, here is what other people may know him for:  sports team owner.  Allen is the owner of the recently wildly successful Seattle Seahawks of the NFL, whom he bought in 1996.  He is also the owner of the not-quite-as-successful (at least recently) Portland Trailblazers (the not so successful part was both on and off the court, as the team was once known derisively as the Jail Blazers).  Allen bought the NBA team in 1988, and they went to the NBA finals in 1990 and 92 (the Clyde “the Glide” Drexler Era).  Finally, Allen has a partial interest in the Seattle Sounders of the MSL.

Obviously this so far has nothing to do with either patents or inventions or any of the other topics normally dealt with in this blog.  This is where the third part of Allen’s notoriety comes into play:  he and a company he co-founded, Interval Research Corporation, on August 29, 2010, launched what may be the most important patent lawsuit of modern times.

Interval Research Corporation is probably a company that you are unfamiliar with.  You can’t go to the store and buy one of their products.  The company was set up to acquire patents, and acquire patents it did.  Eventually the company came to hold over 100 patents, which isn’t a particularly large number.  But, as the old saying goes it’s the quality, not the quantity.  Interval Research Corporation went after patents that have become extremely useful in the world of computing.

How important?  Well, it is going to be up to the courts to decide, but the company (and/or Allen, depending on how you want to look at it) had a big enough belief in the value of its patents that it has taken some of the most well-known companies in America to court for patent infringement.  These include household names like Google, Netflix, Facebook, eBay and Apple, among others.

Clearly the company has made a bold statement, but can it win?  As Judge Wapner used to say, “Anybody can sue.  The question is if they will win.”

So, is Interval Research Corporation legitimately in control of this technology, or is this another case of a patent troll overexerting itself – this time against major players who can strike back?  The answer is a definite “maybe”.  At this point the court has issued a stay.  For those who are unfamiliar with what that means, a stay is a ruling by the court to stop the trial.  However, it is a somewhat indecisive maneuver.  Unlike dismissal, a stay can be either permanent or temporary.  In other words, the courts could decide that they want to take up the case again.  So, we will just have to wait for what could be a very long time as the courts try to sort this out.

At US Patent Services, though, we have gotten rid of the long wait.  There isn’t any question on how long it will take for our wide assortment of products to be shipped to you.  Looking for plaques?  They will be shipped in ten business days or less.  Personalized mugs?  10 business days or less.  Any of our super cool desktop awards?  10 days or less.  Inventor key fobs?  I think you get the picture – 10 days or less.  Whatever you want from our product line, we guarantee will be shipped to you in a timely fashion, leaving no question as to the status of your order, unlike this court case.

As a final note, if you would like more information on Interval Research Corporation, here is a summary of the whole case (http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2011/06/24/paul-allen-patent-litigation-stay/id=17842/).