Live Tiles Gets A Lawsuit: This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Microsoft just launched Windows 8 last week, and it’s already getting sued over Live Tiles by an OS development company called Surfcast.

Surfcast claims that it already owns the rights to technology that does the same thing, naming in a lawsuit a patent for “presenting information from variety of sources on a display device” and a graphical user interface that ”organises content from a variety of information sources into grid of tiles each of which can refresh its content independently of the others”. For the record, Microsoft’s Live Tiles patent is for “tile space user interface for mobile devices”. It’s kind of hard to see how the two are that different. Microsoft’s patent is above. Surfcast’s looks like this:

Though both companies clearly have patented the tech they’re using, but Surfcast is saying that Microsoft’s patent actually includes prior art. Microsoft has yet to comment on the suit, and we’ll see if the claim has any legs.


    Out of curiosity, how come that almost everytime Microsoft release a new windows/office version, it get bombarded with lawsuit this and that, while on the other hand Apple seems to be bullet proof?

    No, I'm not trying to troll!

      I know of Apple being sued for Quick Look, Messages and face time, so yeah it happens to them too. I'm sure there's other examples as well. In fact (and I'm happy to be corrected if anyone knows of an early case) but I believe the smartphone patent war began October 22nd 2009 when Nokia sued Apple over 10 different patents, so hardly bullet proof.

      Last edited 01/11/12 11:18 am

    Ugh. This crap is becoming ridiculous. The patent system needs an overhaul.

    "We got squares with pictures! YAY!"

    So by that right... if they look like anything I drew in preschool and I have an existing copy from back then I should sue their asses??? O_O

    I like the way that they waited for windows to launch.

    I guess the only ones that ever really win from these patent suits are the lawyers.

    let's face it. I is in the lawyers best interests to not have the patent system fixed.

    It's easy money for them.

    And I think that "Windows 1" wasn't able to have the windows covering each other, resulting in what is really the same tiled effect.

    Last edited 01/11/12 10:18 am

    If MS want to invalidate this patent, they can easily use the WindowMaker window manager for Linux to show that the Live Tiles concept has been around longer than SurfCast's patent. WindowMaker uses "dockapps" to do all kinds of things but weather, phases of the moon and media players are obviously similar to this patent. Of course WindowMaker is open source, which I imagine makes it the perfect prior art in a legal case.

    Actually, WindowMaker looks like it has finally been getting some love from developers. It sat at 0.8x for years and years but today it is at 0.95.3, which is great news. It is easily my favourite Linux window manager.

    Last edited 01/11/12 10:16 am

    Werent live tiles a part of Windows 7 Phone?

      this isnt a surprise - now surfcast could potentially make more money

    I have an easy solution to the patent system - allow anyone to use any patent they wish, however they must pay a fee set impartially set by the Patent Office or other regulatory. This means that "inventors" (a very loose term these days as the patents in this article show) still receive benefit for their innovation but it stops this silly patent hording to prevent competitors competing since anyone will be legally allowed to copy the technology as long as they pay the reasonable fee

    As for the fee, all sorts of equitable formula could be set by the regulatory including linking it to volume of sales or flat fees. Just need to make sure that the regulator remains very impartial and beyond corruption so that big "inventors" like Apple or Google or drug companies don't influence the fee being set too high.

    Last edited 01/11/12 10:26 am

      You think the US patent office doesn't already charge fees? Of course it does. It lost it's impartiality in the 1970s when the govt decided it was a brilliant idea to cut the patent office off from taxpayer funding. Now the patent office relies entirely on patent fees to stay afloat. Why do you think there are so many stupid patents? The patent office helps walk people through the patent process to get as much stupid crap approved as possible.

        Not fees to patent office, but to the inventor - it should just be regulated by the patent office to ensure the usage fee is reasonable for that patent.

    I love that as part of this suit, Surfcast are claiming massive damages, etc..

    You don't have a product. Never have. How the *&%^ do you expect to make money in the first place!?

    “presenting information from variety of sources on a display device” Sounds like every device from the last 10 years in some form.

    Just another reason why American Patent laws need to be reviewed and all these frivolous patents and suits sorted out.

    I'm curious, honestly and genuinely.. not trying to troll, how this is different to widgets?

    OMG they should sue apple!
    iphones show the time and date and battery percentage ON THE SAME SCREEN!

    Microsoft shouldn't have any problems defending WP8, but they might be stuck defending the desktop version seeing as their patent only specifies mobile devices. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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