You might remember hearing back in November about Microsoft being sued over live tiles by a company called Surfcast. According to Surfcast they have a patent on this type of interface and wants Microsoft to pay them a licensing fee to use it.
Now we are hearing that the trial date has been set for September 3rd of 2013, quite a ways out still. Such a far-off date is supposed to give both companies (and their lawyers) plenty of times to make claims and counterclaims about the validity of various patents owned by Microsoft and Surfcast.
The original complaint from Surfcast was actually filed on the 30th of October, right around the time that Windows 8 was just preparing to make its way out of the gate.
So what’s the patent that Surfcast is fussing over? According to Surfcast, they were granted a patent in 2004 (#6,724,403) which covers a “ system and method for simultaneous display of multiple information sources”. Yah, that’s not exactly a cut and dry patent that says something like “the use of tile-like boxes for the display of information”… but its enough that Surfcast feels Microsoft needs to pay them for it.
There are quite a few things wrong with this case. First, the Surfcast patent should have been aimed at Windows Phone 7 when it first launched, if they were really interested in protecting their patent. Instead, they waited because WP7 wasn’t that popular of a product.
Another issue is just how broad their patent was. Personally I sort of understand how live tiles could fall into the patent, but it seems to be a bit of a stretch.
So what will happen with this case? More than likely, Microsoft will settle out of court, on the cheap. It is possible that it could go to court, but I personally doubt that doing so would do much more than cost both sides a bunch of money in continued court and lawyer fees.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m getting quite tired of the patent war. Its clear to me that the US patent system needs completely reworked. I understand that patents protect rights, but being a “patent troll” just holds back innovation.
Sure, big companies like Microsoft, Apple and Samsung can pay these annoying royalty fees. What about that little company formed in some guy’s basement? They have an EXCELLENT product design but they can’t release it because one or two patents that very broadly relate to it keep it from getting out the door?
What do you think, do we need to do something about the patent wars or do you feel lawsuits like Surfcast’s suite against Microsoft should continue on?