Redmond, Washington -- Barely days after launching its much touted Windows 8 Operating System and Windows Phone 8, the software titan Microsoft has been slapped with a patent infringement lawsuit over its use of dynamic “live” tile icons in Windows, including in the newly launched Windows 8 OS for PCs and tablets and in the Windows Phone 8 OS for smartphones, by a US Maine-based company named Surfcast alleging that it had patented the concept of Live Tiles as far back as the 90s.
SurfCast, filed a complaint on Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, claiming that Redmond's Windows Live Tiles on the company's smartphones and PCs infringe on one of its patents, and is asking Microsoft to pay an undetermined amount of money in damages and attorneys' fees.
Microsoft's recently launched Live Tiles concept is an integral feature of the company's interface since the launch of Windows Phone 7 two years ago, and were recently integrated into Windows 8 and the upcoming Windows Phone 8, which refers to self updating dynamic tiles that have replaced the familiar start menu.
As a matter of fact, according to SurfCast's complaint, the company alleges that Redmond is stepping on a patent issued in April 2004. The patent covers the ability to select multiple information sources, each assigned to a different tile and updated periodically. The company repeatedly pointed to Microsoft's own patent for a “tile space user interface for mobile devices” -- saying that it was used as a reference during SurfCast's patent application in 2000.
A statement on the SurfCast website from Ovid Santoro, designated as the CEO of the company read, “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.”
(Download the PDF of the lawsuit)
In question is the U.S. Patent 6,724,403, titled “System and Method for Simultaneous Display of Multiple Information Sources,” which SurfCast was awarded in 2004. Further, it has four patents, with more pending. Its website explains the Tiles concept as “dynamically updating icons” that are selectable and live, with refreshed content providing real-time or near-real-time information.
According to The Next Web reports, these patents are identical. They both consists “systems and methods for providing a user interface mobile devices enable data and services available through mobile device to be represented as a set of tiles maintained as a display space.” Apart from that, Surfcast said that Microsoft's permitting developers to build Windows 8 apps, which are then submitted to the Windows Store, also infringe on its patent.
In a statement, Microsoft firmly said it was “confident” it would prove in court that SurfCast's claims are without merit and that Microsoft has created a “unique user experience.”
Nevertheless, Windows is a minor player in tablets and smartphones, whose sales have been booming in the past three years. Google's Android and Apple's iOS are the main OSes used in tablets and smartphones.
Microsoft is a late comer to the party officially released its Windows Phone 8 OS in San Francisco on Monday, which will be available first in Europe starting Nov. 3, with a late November launch in the U.S. and elsewhere.