Tippr’s Legal Intrigue, PhotoRocket’s Debut, Untangling Earmarks, and More in the Seattle-Area Tech Roundup

It lives! Now that Xconomy Seattle has a full-time tech writer again (yours truly), we’re bringing back a weekly roundup to help our far-too-busy readers catch up with what’s been on our minds and percolating in the Seattle-area scene lately.

Highlights from the past week or so:

Tippr, the Seattle-based group-deals site that emphasizes its intellectual property portfolio, made news for a pair of lawsuits it has going against competitors. A federal patent-infringement claim against both DealOn and BuyWithMe garnered focus, but there was more cloak-and-dagger in the state-court lawsuit against BuyWithMe and a former employee.

In a nutshell, Tippr’s parent company claims BuyWithMe’s founder solicited a bunch of proprietary information from a now-departed Tippr salesman who was job-hunting. A King County Superior Court judge agreed there was enough evidence on hand this month to issue an injunction against BuyWithMe to secure the information at issue. BuyWithMe answered by demanding a jury trial.

—Xconomy San Francisco’s Wade Roush weighed in with the second installment of his Seven Questions about the future of mobile. It’s a good read that gets you thinking, and is a great preview for our big Mobile Madness event next Wednesday at Microsoft’s NERD center in Cambridge, MA. Seattle-area folks from Clearwire, Swype and Ground Truth are participating in the program—keep an eye out for some interesting reports from what everyone there has to say.

— I unloaded some lingering government knowledge from my previous job at The Associated Press in a story that dissected how President Obama’s threatened ban on earmarked spending in the federal budget could affect innovation in Washington state. I was frankly impressed by the tons of cool-sounding projects and programs that were on the list of earmark requests for this fiscal year, but I had to narrow it down to 25 big items just to make it all fit.

—On the fun side, the Washington Technology Industry Association braved another threatened snowstorm to put on its annual Industry Achievement Awards. It was well-attended and a bunch of fun, even though I spent too much time hunched over my laptop. DocuSign and Isilon split Commercial Product or Service of the Year, and Swype nabbed Consumer Product or Service.

—A pair of companies with strong Seattle DNA were among the many making noise at the DEMO conference this week. Pioneer Square-headquartered PhotoRocket, helmed by Amazon and aQuantive alum Scott Lipsky, wants to be the indispensible utility for pushing photos to websites or e-mail contacts. San Francisco-based SocialEyes, with leadership from a pair of former RealNetworks Robs, is aiming for a higher-quality video chat service by blending it with the social graph on Facebook.

—On the cleantech side of things, we dropped by a Washington Clean Technology Alliance briefing with three companies focused on water: Hydrovolts, WaterTectonics, and Halosource. It was kind of a small-medium-large arrangement: Hydrovolts is a kinetic hydropower startup that’s still testing its technology and looking for big buyers, WaterTectonics is an established commercial water-cleaning company making moves in the oil sector, and Halosource is coming off last fall’s $80 million IPO

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