updated 03:30 pm EDT, Tue April 26, 2011
Interval patent suit creates a headache in court
The lawsuit filed against Apple, Facebook, Google, Yahoo and more companies by Paul Allen and his former Interval Research lab is proving to be tough for the court to handle. A federal judge in Seattle, Marsha Pechman, is faced with managing eleven defendants and Internet-related technology along with intellectual property issues that date decades back, GeekWire reported. The hearing is also expected to see many industry and technology experts take the stand.
"What I know about computers is really minimal," the judge said to the lawyers. "If you want me to understand these patents then you’ve got to start educating me."
The hearing's main goal was to split the case into separate ones, as requested by the defendants. The companies are accused of violating the same patents, but lawyers argue each company uses different products, technologies and issues. As such, some of the same pretrial proceedings could be shared, but little or nothing else, they said.
Yahoo alone, for example, has about 40 products that are at issue. Another lawyer, who represents Netflix, Office Depot, Staples and eBay, said in court that splitting up the case in such a fashion would also discourage sweeping patent suits against multiple defendants.
The lawyer representing Interval Licensing LLC, Justin Nelson, disagreed with the need for separate trials, as he believed there would be a huge overlap in what the jurors would hear.
The suit accuses the defendants on violating patents related to fundamental methods of browsing, displaying and alerting users to information online.
Pechman procedurally ruled to break up the case but consolidated it for the pretrial activities and hearings. A single docket and case number was kept, but this leaves the option open for separate proceedings for each defendant when it gets to trial. She added that those cases that don't settle may be combined in some ways in order to keep them simple.