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MS defeated in ergo keyboard patent appeal

District Court must re-type ruling

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The US Court of Appeals has told Microsoft that it should have not been successful in its attempt to have two patents detailing ergonomic keyboard designs rendered invalid.

The ruling comes two years after a US District Court judged the patents, held by TypeRight Keyboard, to be void. Two years before that, in July 1998, TypeRight issued an intellectual property violation suit against Microsoft.

It alleged that Microsoft had adopted a keyboard design it owned: specifically, splitting left and right groups of the keys to better suit the position of the user's hands, and the addition of a large wrist-rest in front.

In June 2000, Microsoft produced testimony from German company Marquardt GmbH, alleging that it had developed just such a keyboard layout before TypeRight had filed its first patent application.

However, the appeal court this week questioned the credibility of that testimony: "While this is a close case, we conclude that summary judgment of invalidity was improperly granted and that a trial is necessary to determine whether the testimony offered by Microsoft to prove that the Marquardt document was prior art is credible."

Microsoft is sticking to its claim that the patents are invalid. "The evidence will also ultimately show that there was no infringement of any kind, and our ergonomic keyboard technology was developed by our own engineers based on pre-existing Microsoft technology," it said.

TypeRight said it was willing to go to trial to settle the matter, if necessary. ®

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