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06.17.09

Patents Roundup: Where Microsoft Stands

Posted in Courtroom, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 12:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Driving licence

Summary: Microsoft’s future to revolve around licensing and litigation based on the latest observations

THIS is a quick report on the lesser-explored side of Microsoft — the one which FOSS-oriented Web sites tend to neglect or ignore, which is not a smart thing to do.

Microsoft on the Defence

Today’s report starts with this regret from Microsoft over the decision that costs them hundreds of millions (for a single lawsuit).

TO Microsoft, a $US368 million jury loss in California over its Outlook software provides an opportunity to argue in a federal appeals court that there should be greater limits on patent trial damage awards.

Microsoft is still hoping to reverse this decision.

Microsoft Corp. argued before an appeals court yesterday that its Outlook calendar date-picker tool did not infringe an Alcatel-Lucent patent and asked for a US$358-million jury verdict to be overturned.

Well, meanwhile, Microsoft got sued again. The nature of the infringement? Dynamic Web page generation.

A case started in a Texas district court at the end of May 2009, with Microsoft being sued for allegedly breaching two patents.

Here is more:

Parallel Networks filed suit late last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas over two patents, United States Patent Nos. 5,894,554 and 6,415,335 B1. The company was granted the patents in 1999 and 2002, respectively, according to the court filing.

Being situated in the Eastern District of Texas is quite indicative of patent trolling. Here is another new case against Microsoft in the Eastern District of Texas. From the press release:

VirnetX Holding Corporation (NYSE Amex: VHC), a secure real-time communications and collaboration technology company, today announced that it has hired the law firm of McKool Smith to lead its ongoing litigation efforts in its patent infringement suit against Microsoft Corporation.

The suit against Microsoft was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division on February 15, 2007. In the suit VirnetX claims Microsoft infringes on three of its patents and seeks both damages and injunctive relief. In June 2008, Microsoft’s Motion to Dismiss was denied while VirnetX’s subsequent motion to amend infringement contentions was granted. On February 17, 2009, a “Markman” hearing on claim construction was conducted and the Company is currently awaiting the Court’s order.

Microsoft on the Offense

Slashdot’s theodp is catching a lot of bad patents. He has just caught “Microsoft Trying to Patent Parallel Processing.”

theodp writes “Microsoft may have been a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to parallel programming, but that’s not stopping the software giant from trying to patent it. This week, the USPTO revealed that Microsoft has three additional parallel-processing patents pending — 1. Partitioning and Repartitioning for Data Parallel Operations, 2. Data Parallel Searching, and 3. Data Parallel Production and Consumption. Informing the USPTO that ‘Software programs have been written to run sequentially since the beginning days of software development,’ Microsoft adds there’s been a ‘[recent] shift away from sequential execution toward parallel execution.’ Before they grant the patents, let’s hope the USPTO gets a second opinion on the novelty of Microsoft’s parallel-processing patent claims.”

Glyn Moody seems rather appalled by this Microsoft patent:

Architecture for providing feedback to a viewer and/or contributor on fashion and other personal appearance decisions that the contributor desires. The contributor uploads self images for viewing and rating (or voting) by viewers who choose provide an opinion on different fashion and/or cosmetic looks of the contributor. The contributor takes images show the contributor presented with a number (e.g., two) of different fashion choices. The snapshots can then be processed for upload to a website or other accessible location by one or more viewers. The viewers can cast a vote for one of the images by selecting the desired image, in response to which the viewer and/or contributor will be presented with overall statistics for that set of images as to how other viewers voted, as well as a next set of photos depicting the user in a different fashion and/or cosmetic choice. This process can continue until terminated.

Microsoft bloggers are still questioning Microsoft’s prospects as a patent licensing company. The latest example:

Could Microsoft’s ability to produce intellectual property be the company’s future salvation? A few weeks ago I complained that Microsoft wasn’t innovating. Yet the book Burning the Ships talks of Microsoft’s burgeoning intellectual property treasure chest. How can both be true?

Some days ago we wrote about Microsoft's "IP Ventures". Here is the press release and more coverage of this:

Microsoft’s future seems to be very much hinged and reliant on intellectual monopolies that already cause unrest. Microsoft thinks of a business transition, but alas, this is unlikely to prove successful.

“Dear Commissioner: Along with many other computer scientists, I would like to ask you to reconsider the current policy of giving patents for computational processes.

“There are far better ways to protect the intellectual property rights of software developers than to take away their right to use fundamental building blocks.

“I find a considerable anxiety throughout the community of practicing computer scientists that decisions by the patent courts and the Patent and Trademark Office are making life much more difficult for programmers. ”

Donald Knuth

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