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Microsoft sued over use of Live Tiles in Windows 8 interface

Microsoft is being sued over the Live Tiles feature used in its Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 operating systems. SurfCast, a software development company based in Portland, Maine, has launched a legal challenge over Microsoft's alleged infringement of one of its patents.

The lawsuit was filed on 30 October with the US District Court for the District of Maine (opens in new tab) and argues that Microsoft infringes one of four patents held by SurfCast. The patent in question, No. 6,724,403 (opens in new tab), details SurfCast’s schematics for its “Grid & Tile User Interface” which, according to the company’s site, has existed for more than a decade. The patent was filed in 2000 and eventually granted in 2004.

SurfCast’s legal complaint goes on to further allege that Microsoft was aware of its patent when it filed its own application (No.7,933,532 (opens in new tab)) for Live Tiles.

"Microsoft had knowledge of the '403 patent at least as early as April 21, 2009," asserts SurfCast in its complaint.

The company also accuses Microsoft of further encouraging the infringement by requesting that developers use the interface in creating apps for the Windows Store.

Live Tiles are considered to be Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s icons, though they don’t just link to applications, functions and features - they also contain realtime information like email and social media notifications. This aspect is also highlighted as a defining feature of SurfCast's Tiles.

“A Tile is different from an icon because it can be both selectable and live - containing refreshed content that provides a real-time or near-real-time view of the underlying information,” according to the company's website.

Though SurfCast could have filed the legal challenge sooner - Windows Phone 7 has utilised the contentious interface feature for more than a year - the timing could be due to a desire to link the case to Microsoft's current cross-platform offerings, which encompass Windows 8 Pro, RT, Enterprise, and Windows Phone 8.

Microsoft has not yet commented on the case.

(Image above shows Live Tiles patent on the left and SurfCast patent on the right.)