Microsoft co-founder targets Apple, Google over e-commerce patents

"Paul thinks this is important, not just to him but to the researchers at [the now-defunct lab] who created this technology," a spokesman, David Postman, told the WSJ. "We recognize that innovation has a value, and patents are the way to protect that."

The patents in question cover technology that is central to the companies' e-commerce operations. For instance, one patent allows websites to suggest additional purchases to consumers as they shop online, according to the article.

"A second, among other things, allow readers of a news story to quickly locate stories related to a particular subject. Two others enable ads, stock quotes, news updates or video images to flash on a computer screen, peripherally to a user's main activity," the article says.

Allen is worth a reported $13.5 billion and has pledged to give most of it away.

The lab that developed the allegedly-cribbed technology was called Interval Research Corp. and once employed more than 110 top tech minds. The WSJ says the lab's efforts did not "materialize as expected" despite some neat innovations, including a kind of motion-detection technology. 

"The market lagged behind Interval's technology," Allen's spokesman said.