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Alcatel slaps Microsoft with patent infringement claim

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Fresh from Steve Ballmer's claim Linux infringes on Microsoft IP, Microsoft has itself succumbed to another accusation it is illegally using someone else's technology.

Telecoms giant Alcatel has opened legal proceedings against Microsoft seeking damages and costs for the alleged infringement of seven patents. The disputed patents cover video and voice communications, according to Alcatel, and are apparently being used for video de-coding in the Xbox 360.

Alcatel is pursuing its action through the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

According to Alcatel's filing: "Microsoft has purposefully and voluntarily placed one or more of its infringing products into the stream of commerce with the expectation that they will be purchased by consumers in the Eastern District of Texas. These infringing products have been and continue to be purchased."

Microsoft has reportedly said the Texas case is an extension of litigation in San Diego, California, with Lucent, who Alcatel is buying for $11.8bn.

Regardless of where it came from, this latest Microsoft-centric IP action will be viewed with dismay by the free software and open source community and viewed as proof of the inherent dangers of recognising IP in software. IP claims are an easy target for attorneys seeking easy money as defendants tend to settle out of court rather than risk a costly case where they may pay even greater damages.

The cost of such actions can be harmful to FLOSS companies who lack the money of their closed source cousins. The average patent suit costs $2m, according to the American Intellectual Property Lawyers' Association. ®

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