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October 31, 2012

SurfCast Sues Microsoft over Windows Live Tiles

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

Maine-based SurfCast chose to file a lawsuit – against the much larger Microsoft (News - Alert), for allegedly stealing its patented technology – the very week of Hurricane Sandy.

The company may hope its lawsuit will create another storm about Microsoft’s new Windows 8 and Windows Phone (News - Alert) 8.

SurfCast claims Microsoft infringed on one of its four patents by "making, using, selling and offering to sell devices and software products" covered by SurfCast's patent, according to CNET.

Microsoft is also “encouraging developers to make app tiles for the Windows Store,” CNET added.

It is seeking damages.

Live Tiles are found on the phone's start screen.

"Microsoft had knowledge of the '403 patent at least as early as April 21, 2009," SurfCast's complaint said.

“Tiles can be thought of as dynamically updating icons,” it added on its website. “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,” the website added. “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.”

However, a rather negative view of SurfCast came from Jon Brodkin writing in ArtsTechnica.

He said it is a “company with a few patents but no products to its name – meeting the common definition of a ‘non-practicing entity’ or ‘patent troll.’”

The company's “website shows that it has only one thing on its mind – patent litigation,” he added.

But SurfCast says Tiles go back to the 1990s.

"We developed the concept of Tiles in the 1990s, which was ahead of its time. Microsoft’s Live Tiles are the centerpiece of Microsoft’s new Operating Systems and are covered by our patent," SurfCast CEO Ovid Santoro claimed in a statement posted on the company’s website.

There was no immediate comment from Microsoft on the lawsuit. But it appears Microsoft prefers not to get sued by anyone. Windows announced earlier this year it’s now a lot harder for individual consumers to sue Microsoft or join in a class action lawsuit against the giant company. Microsoft added a class action waiver and binding arbitration clause to its customer service agreement, TechZone360 reported in August.

Edited by Braden Becker
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