A company headquartered in Portland has sued Microsoft for patent infringement related to aspects of its new Windows 8 operating system and tablet products.
The Portland company is called SurfCast. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Maine.
At question is a feature called "Live Tiles," a key piece of the user interface Microsoft has incorporated into its Windows 8 operating system and tablet products.
In a brief message posted on SurfCast's website, CEO Ovid Santoro states: "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's patent (U.S. Patent No. 6,724,403), "System and Method For Simultaneous Display of Multiple Information Sources," was issued in 2004. At the time of its filing in 2000, the company's address was listed as Palo Alto, Calif.
Microsoft has its own patent related to the Tiles feature (U.S. Patent No. 7,933,632) called "Tile Space User Interface for Mobile Devices."
The company issued a statement, according to The Seattle Times, saying, "We are confident we will prove to the court that these claims are without merit and that Microsoft has created a unique user experience."
While the language contained within SurfCast's patent does sound similar to what Microsoft is doing, SurfCast's claims that it has suffered "harm and injury" are tenuous, according to Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica, an online publication covering technology.
Brodkin, in an article published Wednesday, describes SurfCast as a "patent troll" and writes that "the company's website shows that it has only one thing on its mind -- patent litigation." Brodkin supports that conclusion with the facts that SurfCast has patents, but no real products to its name; its website has had the same layout since 2003, but recently was edited so its technology sounds more like Microsoft's; and the only item in the website's "News" section is an announcement from Tuesday about its lawsuit.
"SurfCast says it has suffered 'harm and injury' as a result of Microsoft's infringement," Brodkin writes. "But since SurfCast claims to have invented its tile-based technology in the 1990s and doesn't sell any products based upon it, it's hard to see how Microsoft's use of tiles in a brand-new operating system is costing the company any revenue."
A call to Santoro was not returned as of early Thursday afternoon.
SurfCast's website lists seven "founders and directors" with experience at companies such as IBM, Cisco, Deutsche Bank and Bank of England.
According to Santoro's executive profile on Bloomberg Businessweek, Santoro was the founder and global head of venture capital at Deutsche Bank AG.
Maine corporation registration records list Santoro's address in Lincolnville.
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