Windows 8 tiles infringed on our patent, says SurfCast

A Maine company claims that Microsoft used its live tile technology in Windows 8. 

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    Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer displays a Nokia Lumia 920 running the Windows Phone 8 operating system during an event in San Francisco this week. A Maine company has alleged that Microsoft stole key design cues for the Windows 8 OS.
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After 1.24 billion hours of public testing in 190 countries, Windows 8 went live earlier this week. The latest version of the Microsoft operating system has been billed by Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer as a "new era for Microsoft and our customers" – a distinct "tile" interface that plays well with traditional PCs and laptops and also smartphones and tablets. 

But according to a lawsuit filed this week in Maine court, in developing Windows 8, Microsoft may have stolen a few design cues from a company called SurfCast. Several years ago, SurfCast representatives allege, the company came up with a system of "dynamically updating icons" – otherwise known as "tiles." Tiles, Horizons readers will remember, are an integral part of Microsoft 8. 

Now SurfCast is suing for an undisclosed amount of damages, Computerworld reports

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"We developed the concept of Tiles in the 1990s, which was ahead of its time," Ovid Santoro, CEO of SurfCast said in a statement posted to the SurfCast site. "Microsoft’s Live Tiles are the centerpiece of Microsoft’s new Operating Systems and are covered by our patent."

So does SurfCast have a shot at making this lawsuit stick? Well, over at Ars Technica, Jon Brodkin calls the company a "patent troll." 

"SurfCast says it has suffered 'harm and injury' as a result of Microsoft's infringement," Brodkin writes. "But since SurfCast claims to have invented its tile-based technology in the 1990s and doesn't sell any products based upon it, it's hard to see how Microsoft's use of tiles in a brand-new operating system is costing the company any revenue." 

Still, if SurfCast is persistent enough – and if its legal resources run deep enough – it could manage to keep Microsoft tied up in court for some time to come. 

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