Paul Allen: billionaire, philanthropist, industrialist, Microsoft co-founder...litigator.
Today Allen, who rocketed to fortune with Bill Gates, filed suit against Apple, Google, AOL, eBay, Facebook...breathe, breathe...Netflix, Yahoo, YouTube, and others for patent infringement. The lawsuit's defendant list reads like an all-star roster of one of the many professional sport's teams owned by Allen, who claims the tech-company heavyweights have violated patents developed by Interval Research, a Palo Alto-R&D lab he founded with $100 million in the 1990s.
Allen still owns many of the 300 patents developed by the now-defunct research firm. The Wall Street Journal reports that a team of lawyers has been reviewing his patent portfolio for years, examining which companies violated them—and it appears pretty much all of them have.
The suit itself references four violated patents, including e-commerce and search engine technology. But the patents are also very vague and standard-sounding, though they may have been novel when first patented. For example, one patent covers the technology behind allowing a website to "offer suggestions to consumers for items related to what they're currently viewing." Sound familiar? That's Amazon shopping 101.
But neither Amazon nor Microsoft were named in the suit. Why? According to the WSJ, Allen remains a large shareholder in Microsoft, and since Amazon is based in his hometown of Seattle, he may be less likely to sue.
Allen's net worth is estimated at $13.5 billion, and he's pledged to give away the majority of his wealth in the coming years, continuing his history of philanthropy.
And perhaps after this lawsuit, he'll become even more philanthropic.