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October 28, 2006

Microsoft legal news roundup, October 28, 2006

Posted by David Hunter at 12:18 PM ET.

While Microsoft was announcing this week that their 1Q profits got a big boost from reduced legal expenses, a number of lawsuits involving Microsoft were also making the news:

Pride of place has to go to Microsoft’s opportunity to be part of landmark legal ruling as the US Supreme Court agreed to hear Microsoft’s appeal of a patent lawsuit it had lost to AT&T over a speech codec included in Windows worldwide. Scott M. Fulton, III has more details at BetaNews than you likely want to know, but while there are several aspects that might have piqued the interest of the Supremes, the key one apparently is that US law uniquely holds companies liable for foreign sales of patent infringing items if research and development was done in the USA:

But in the end, reports the AP, it was a plea from the United States’ own Solicitor General, Paul Clement, which seems to have turned the tide. In his plea, he argued that AT&T should be seeking remedies in courts within the jurisdictions where its patents were infringed, “not in attempting to extend United States patent law to overseas activities.”

The efficacy of US patents in foreign jurisdictions has been a matter of some contention, especially among proponents of patent reform. As a result, the Microsoft appeal could produce a landmark ruling from the high court, establishing the U.S. position on the territorial reach of its own patent protection.

This news may be greeted positively by European patent law reformers, who have argued lately that U.S. patent jurisdiction should stop at its own borders, and who may be surprised to learn Microsoft is in agreement with them.

It’s not clear what the price tag of a loss would be for Microsoft, but the issue is thorn in the side of Microsoft and other US software vendors among others.

Less likely to make legal history:

Microsoft settles Arkansas antitrust suit with $37.8 million in vouchers.

Meanwhile in the Iowa antitrust suit where Microsoft’s attempt last week to disqualify the head opposing lawyer failed, they also failed this week to decertify the class in the class action lawsuit. Trial starts November 13.

In the continuing search engine extortion comedy from Belgium’s Copiepresse, Struan Robertson at The Register goes direct to the source, Margaret Boribon, Secretary General of Copiepresse:

But the real reason for not opting-out with a robots.txt file or mandating against caching is that Belgium’s newspapers want to be indexed by Google. “Yes, we have a problem with Google, but we don’t want to be out of Google,” Boribon said. “We want Google to respect the rules. If Google wanted to index us, they need to ask.”

Copiepresse also wants Google to pay for indexing sites. Boribon declined to discuss how or how much. “That has to be negotiated,” she said.

Since the ruling, Google has pulled the plug on the news sites in the lawsuit. They are not just missing from Google News Belgium, they have disappeared from Google’s main index and cache too.

“They have done it to punish us,” said Boribon, who didn’t want Google to go that far. “They have a bad attitude.” Yet Boribon went on to complain that some of her members’ content can still be accessed via Google News France. “They don’t apply the judgment fully so we will ask for the fine,” she said.

Copiepresse and Google will be back in court November 23 for more wrangling, but as I mentioned last week, Microsoft has already dropped the Copiepresse papers from its search indexes to avoid a similar lawsuit. Ms. Boribon is after Yahoo as well and I predict that one day soon all of her client newspapers will be invisible on the major search engines.

Finally, the Symantec lawsuit against Microsoft for patent infringement that was initiated in May is scheduled for trial in December 2007.



Filed under AT&T, Antitrust, Coopetition, General Business, Google, Governmental Relations, Legal, Microsoft, Patent Lawsuits, Patents, Symantec, Yahoo

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2 Responses to “Microsoft legal news roundup, October 28, 2006”

  1. Gates, Ballmer to testify in Iowa -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] In the latest round of the Iowa antitrust suit against Microsoft ([1], [2], [3]) the presiding judge has ruled that Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer will testify. That’s not a particular surprise since Microsoft had them on their witness list, but he has agreed to let them be questioned first and in person by the plaintiffs’ attorneys: Des Moines lawyer Roxanne Conlin won a strategic victory today in her class action law suit against Microsoft when a judge said she can call Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and chief executive Steve Ballmer as witnesses to help prove her case against the company. [...]

  2. Microsoft Supreme Court showdown with AT&T next week -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] The issue at hand is whether Microsoft violated AT&T’s domestic patent on sophisticated speech decoding technology by sending the software overseas to be replicated and installed in its Windows operating system. Microsoft is appealing a lower court ruling against them and is estimated to be on the hook for about $1 billion if they lose . That’s not a negligible amount, but won’t cause Microsoft major discomfort either. What has everyone’s juices flowing is the underlying issue of domestic enforcement of domestic patents used overseas as discussed in the rest of the article and our previous mention of this lawsuit. Filed under Coopetition, Patents, Microsoft, Patent Lawsuits, AT&T [...]

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