AAPL, MSFT, GOOG sued over doc previews

Small firm says Windows, Mac, Chrome all violate its patent on using icons to display previews of document content.

Interesting patent claim from a small company in Indiana: Apple, Microsoft and Google have violated a patent on the use of document-preview icons in operating systems, as Macworld reports.

Indiana-based Cygnus Systems claims:

A method of accessing one or more computer files via a graphical icon, comprising the steps of: capturing automatically one or more graphical representations of [the content of a file], creating automatically an icon including selected portions [of the file], linking the icon to the application and to the [file]; storing the icon in a memory; displaying the icon in a window on a display screen; invoking the application upon selection of the icon by ... reference to an underlying file system corresponding to the icon; and opening the one or more computer files within the application.

(I did my best to simplify the patent-ese language.) In the lawsuit, Cygnus claims Microsoft's Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 8, Google's Chrome, and Apple's Mac OS X (Finder and CoverFlow), iPhone and Safari all infringe on the patent. also infringe, the company said in court filings. According to Cygnus' lawyer, Matt McAndrews, with Niro, Scavone, Haller & Niro, these big guys may just be the start of a long-term litigation strategy.

They were a logical starting place for us. We’ve identified many other potentially infringing products that we’re investigating.

As is usual, Cygnus is seeking an injunction, as well as a "reasonable royalty."

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