SurfCast suit says Microsoft swiped tile concept for new OS

Software giant Microsoft is being sued by a company called SurfCast, which claims the software giant stole its ideas for tiles to make Windows 8 and the Windows Phone. SurfCast has been described in reports as a “patent troll” because the company holds patents without putting them to use in product manufacturing or sales.

Microsoft, like other technology companies from California’s Silicon Valley, is no stranger to intellectual property challenges. SurfCast claims it was light years ahead of Microsoft in the creation of the “tile” technology and holds a 2004 patent to prove it. The company wants Microsoft to pay damages for patent infringement.

SurfCast did not ask a court to force Microsoft to stop selling the apparently-offensive products. The company may be hoping to lure Microsoft into a licensing settlement before a court can address the tile patent dispute. SurfCast has four patents and makes no products, with or without tiles.

SurfCast maintains that Microsoft knew about the SurfCast tile patent in the spring of 2009, three years after Microsoft applied for a “tile space user interface” patent for mobile electronic devices. The patent was approved by federal officials last year after a five-year review. “Live tiles” equal applications that refresh PC, phone and tablet information.

SurfCast claims it invented the tile grid information organizer in the late 1990s and that Microsoft pirated the concept for its latest operating systems. The lawsuit also charges Microsoft with encouraging users and application developers to infringe upon the SurfCast patent.

Microsoft has expressed that it does not fear the SurfCast “patent troll” suit. A statement released by Microsoft officials indicated that the company could show that its user “experience” was “unique.”

Critics have said that SurfCast cannot claim that Microsoft harms the company’s revenue since the plaintiff receives zero money from product sales.

Source:, “Patent troll claims it invented the Windows 8 and Windows Phone “tiles”, Jon Brodkin, Oct. 31, 2012