Supreme Court favors Microsoft in AT&T case

The US Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Microsoft is not liable for using patented AT&T technology in copies of Windows on computers outside the US

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Microsoft is not liable for using patented AT&T technology in copies of Windows running on computers outside the U.S.

The 7-to-1 ruling relieves the software giant from paying what could have been enormous damages and changes how the software industry looks at patent rights.

Microsoft has previously admitted to violating an AT&T patent for converting speech to computer code, which it incorporated into tens of millions of copies of its Windows OS. It settled with AT&T in the U.S., but disputed that Windows software running on machines located overseas were covered by the patent.

At issue was part of a 1984 patent law, Section 271F, which prevents companies from shipping parts overseas to be assembled in a fashion that would infringe on a U.S. patent.

In front of the court in February, Microsoft argued that the master copies of Windows it ships overseas to other manufacturers are blueprints that do not violate patent laws.

AT&T, which filed the original case in federal court in New York in 2001, countered that Microsoft used the code in combination with other components in order to reap royalties from every copy of Windows sold.

In delivering the court's opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the "master disk" or "electronic transmission" Microsoft gives to foreign manufacturers does not violate the patent on its own since that specific copy is not used on foreign-made computers.

"Instead, copies made abroad are used for installation," Ginsburg wrote. Because those copies are not supplied by Microsoft, the company does not supply the "components," she wrote.

A decision in favor of AT&T had could have put the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office into a role of an arbiter of intellectual property worldwide and pushed software prices higher.

The Supreme Court was the last stop for Microsoft, which had lost a previous court battle. In July 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a lower-court ruling that Microsoft was liable to pay fines for foreign sales of patent-infringing software even if it was originally created in the U.S.

But Microsoft had gained broad support in its defense efforts, including the Bush administration and tech giants Amazon.com, Intel and Yahoo, and industry groups such as the Business Software Alliance and the American Intellectual Property Law Association.

AT&T was unavailable to comment.

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

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service

Comments

Comments are now closed.

Latest News Articles

Most Popular Articles

Follow Us

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Resources

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?