Paul Allen’s company, Interval, holds four patents against which they are filing complaints against eleven high profile technology companies. The list, not surprisingly, doesn’t include Microsoft.
The patents revolve around three main concepts: browser use for navigating through information, managing a user’s peripheral attention while using a device, and alerting users to items of current interest. They collectively address the general concept of presenting searched-for information to a user along with related news articles, media (such as music or videos), status updates from friends, or data (such as stock or weather info).
As Jacquie Cheung points out, this move is very consistent with the practice of patent trolling. Interval, like other ventures by Allen, doesn’t really produce anything yet still holds several patents. The suit is based solely on holding these patents, not on any actual inventions produced and sold.
Hopefully the suit will be thrown out. Most of the claims seem pretty obvious, obviousness being a foil to patents. Much will depend, of course, on the timing of the patents. What seems obvious now may not have been when the applications were made.