A Michigan-based networking company on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Google, Microsoft, and Apple alleging that all three tech giants violated a patent it owns on the use of document-preview icons - or thumbnails - in operating systems.
In the suit, Cygnus Systems targets Google's Chrome, Microsoft's Vista and Internet Explorer 8, and Apple's iPhone, Safari, and Mac OS X as patent infringers. Apple uses the patent-protected technology in its Finder and Cover Flow Mac OS X features, the lawsuit claims.
The case was filed in Arizona District Court, where company owner Gregory Swartz lives. Cygnus is seeking the typical damages and permanent injunction that prevents further infringement, but is also stating that these big three may not be the only companies it goes after.
"They were a logical starting place for us," said Matt McAndrews, a partner with the Niro, Scavone, Haller & Niro, law firm, which is representing Cygnus. "We've identified many other potentially infringing products that we're investigating," he added.
Plenty of other companies and products, such as Adobe, Opera, iPhoto, Windows Mobile, and possibly even web services like Flickr, may all infringe upon some of the broad terms in Cygnus' patent.
The patent in question is US 7,346,850, called "System and method for iconic software environment management." Its abstract describes "a method and system for storing, navigating, and accessing files within an operating system through the use of a graphical thumbnail representing the video display of the active document within the active application."
Cygnus filed its patent on 8 June 2001 as a continuation of an application originally filed on 12 June 1998. The patent was granted on 18 March 2008, and it doesn't appear to have taken Cygnus long to begin devising a lawsuit strategy to recover "an award of damages adequate to compensate plaintiff for the infringement that has occurred." Notably, Cygnus is also seeking retroactive damages from the date the infringement began.