The concept of LiveTiles – one of the main UI elements of Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and of various other Microsoft products – is being sued by an entity that, more or less, amounts to nothing more than a patent troll. The company, SurfCast, seems to be pouncing on the release of Microsoft’s Windows 8 and the Surface RT, both of which are prime examples of the concept of “live tiles” in action.
Nilay Patel of The Verge, a former patent attorney, took a look at the filing, and came away with the following conclusions:
SurfCast owns US Patent #6,724,403, which was filed in October 2000 and issued in April 2004. Broadly, the patent covers selecting a variety of information sources, assigning each of those sources to a tile, and updating those tiles at variable refresh rates. That’s very much what Microsoft’s Live Tiles do, but there’s a catch: SurfCast’s patent claims are for “a device under control of a program” and “an electronic readable memory to direct an electronic device,” not pure software.
So, while SurfCast does name Windows 8 as being an infringing product, the strongest case can only be made against specific devices. Patel also notes that this case could have been made against Windows Phone 7 (and possibly even the Zune HD), but that the monetary compensation wouldn’t have been as significant.
Regardless, these types of cases generally are settled outside of court long before they go anywhere, and just involve money changing hands.