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Paul Allen's Puzzling Patent Lawsuit

Publication Date: 
September 25, 2010
Los Angeles Times
Michael Hiltzik

Professor Mark Lemley is quoted in the LA Times on Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's patent suit against Silicon Valley companies including Apple, Google, eBay, Yahoo, and Facebook. Michael Hiltzik filed this story:

Over the years, Paul Allen has been praised and cursed in his multiple roles as Microsoft billionaire, pro sports magnate, cable boss and philanthropist.

But no one ever called him a "patent troll." Until now.

Maybe that's unfair. The garden-variety patent troll is a company that buys up patents developed by others, then files lawsuits claiming that established companies have infringed the rights of its new portfolio.

By contrast, there's no disputing that the four patents at the heart of the infringement lawsuit Allen, 57, filed last month against 11 Internet and e-commerce companies had been developed in his shop — the legendary Silicon Valley incubator Interval Research, which he personally funded to the tune of a reported $200 million from 1992 to 2002.


"This is a patent troll-style lawsuit," Mark A. Lemley, a patent law expert at Stanford law school, told me. And it is likely to have the same effect as conventional patent troll lawsuits: It will cost the defendants millions.

"They'll certainly have to litigate for a while," Lemley said, predicting that it will take a year and a half of lawyer fees even to get to the point where the defendants can ask a court to throw the case out.