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Cygnus Systems, a Michigan-based solution provider, is suing Microsoft, Apple and Google, claiming the tech heavyweights infringed on a patent it holds for a common file preview feature. Future lawsuits could hit Adobe and other software vendors.

Cygnus, a solution provider and Web development company that partners with many leading technology vendors, was recently awarded a patent (#7346850) for thumbnail previews of a file, based on an application filed in 2001. The patent is a continuation of an application Cygnus filed in 1998. The patent covers a “system and method for iconic software environment management,” and was granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in March 2008.

Cygnus has named Microsoft’s Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 8, Apple’s OS X and Cover Flow, and Google’s Chrome as infringing on its thumbnail preview patent. A number of other products fall under the scope of the patent, including all modern Web browsers, Adobe’s Photoshop and even Web applications such as Flickr, industry analysts say.

And it appears Cygnus has even more vendors in its sights. In a statement, Matt McAndrews, a partner at Niro, Scavone, Haller & Niro, the law firm representing Cygnus, said Microsoft, Google and Apple were simply “a logical starting place for us. We’ve identified many other potentially infringing products that we’re investigating."

Cygnus’s owner and President Gregory Swartz developed the technology laid out 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.

According to Cygnus’ Web site, the solution provider is a Microsoft gold partner and partners with such leading vendors as Citrix Systems, Cisco Systems, Symantec, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.


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