Court finds Microsoft infringed AT&T codec patent

The US Federal Court of Appeals ruled that Microsoft infringed an AT&T patent for speech coding technology in Windows OS distribution outside the US.

Microsoft infringed an AT&T patent for speech-coding technology in its distribution of a master version of the Windows operating system outside of the US for replication abroad, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled Wednesday, concluding the final issue remaining from a 2001 lawsuit.

Microsoft agreed to an undisclosed settlement with AT&T in March of 2004 in the case, which was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, but as part of that agreement, the software maker was given the right to appeal liability for patent infringement. A three-judge panel from the Court of Appeals rendered Wednesday's decision, with circuit judges Alan D. Lourie and Haldane Robert Mayer deciding that Microsoft infringed the AT&T patent and Randall R. Rader dissenting.

The District Court ruled that software copies made from a master version, sent from the US are not shielded from patent law, which prohibits circumvention of infringement by exportation of products.

Microsoft argued on appeal that the District Court had erred in that finding. "According to Microsoft, a foreign-replicated copy made from a master version supplied from the United States has actually been 'manufactured' abroad by encoding a storage medium with the Windows software. "We disagree that no liability attaches," Wednesday's Appeals Court ruling said.

Calling copying "part and parcel of software distribution," the court found that in the case of software components "the act of copying is subsumed in the act of 'supplying,' such that sending a single copy abroad with the intent that it be replicated invokes liability for those foreign-made copies." The court further rejected Microsoft's contention that liability should apply only to each disk that is shipped and incorporated into computers assembled outside of the US on the grounds that the argument "fails to account for the realities of software distribution."

The court also rejected Microsoft's argument that software sent electronically should be treated differently with regard to liability from software shipped on master, or "golden" disks, and found an "insufficient basis" for the company's "impassioned recitation of a parade of horribles that may befall the domestic software industry -- such as the relocation of manufacturing facilities."

"Possible loss of jobs in this country is not justification for misinterpreting a statute to permit patent infringement," the court found.

In his dissenting opinion, Rader disagreed with the majority's interpretation of the patent infringement statute related to components shipped from the US, contending that his judicial colleagues had expanded the legal protection to non-US markets and non-US competitors.

Representatives of Microsoft and AT&T were not immediately available to comment on the case Thursday.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Nancy Weil

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?