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Google, Apple, Microsoft sued over file preview

By Robert McMillan
December 24, 2008 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - A small Indiana company has sued tech heavyweights Microsoft, Apple and Google, claiming that it holds the patent on a common file-preview feature used by browsers and operating systems to show users small snapshots of the files before they are opened.

Cygnus Systems sued the three companies on Wednesday, saying that they infringed on its patent with products such as Windows Vista, Internet Explorer 8 and Google Chrome, which allow users to view preview images of documents on their computers. Mac OS X, the iPhone and Safari also infringe, the company said in court filings. Apple uses this technology in its Finder and Cover Flow Mac OS X features, the filings state.

While Cygnus has sued three very high-profile companies, they may not be the only vendors in Cygnus's sights. "They were a logical starting place for us," said Matt McAndrews, a partner with law firm Niro, Scavone, Haller & Niro, which is representing Cygnus. "We've identified many other potentially infringing products that we're investigating," he added.

Cygnus' owner and president, Gregory Swartz, developed the technology described in the patent, while working on IT consulting projects, McAndrews said. The company is looking for "a reasonable royalty" as well as a court injunction preventing further infringement, he said.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Arizona, where Swartz resides, McAndrews said.

Google, Microsoft and Apple did not return messages seeking comment on the suit.

Cygnus applied for its patent (No. 7346850) in 2001. It covers a "system and method for iconic software environment management" and was granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in March.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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