SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Microsoft Corp. co-founder and billionaire Paul Allen is suing nearly a dozen major companies, including tech giants Google Inc. and Apple Inc., alleging they infringed on four Web technology patents held by his company Interval Licensing LLC.
Interval said Friday it filed the suit in a U.S. District Court in Seattle against the companies. In addition to Google and Apple, the defendants named in the suit are: Facebook Inc., eBay Inc., Yahoo Inc., Netflix Inc., AOL Inc., Office Depot Inc., OfficeMax Inc., Staples Inc. and Google-owned YouTube LLC.
Interval owns patents from Interval Research, which was a technology research and development company that Allen started with David Liddle in the early '90s.
Interval said that the patents it believes are being violated are key to how e-commerce and search companies work. The patents described in the suit refer to technology used for things such as Web browsing and sending alerts over the Web.
"This lawsuit is necessary to protect our investment in innovation," Allen's spokesman, David Postman, said in a statement.
Interval is seeking unspecified damages for the alleged infringements, and an order that the defendants either stop infringing on its patents or pay royalties for doing so.
Several companies named as defendants did not return requests for comment. Netflix, AOL, Yahoo and Office Depot had no comment.
Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes called the suit "completely without merit," and eBay spokeswoman Johnna Hoff said the company is reviewing the suit.
Google said the suit "reflects an unfortunate trend of people trying to compete in the courtroom instead of the marketplace."
Gerry J. Elman, founder of Swarthmore, Pa.-based Elman Technology Law PC, said the suit looks like one "that has to be taken seriously and not just blown away as a nonstarter."
Still, the products and services offered by the companies named in the suit aren't immediately threatened. Patent cases can take months or years to resolve, and agreements over licensing and royalty payments often emerge.