Feeds

Microsoft fights AT&T before US Supremes

Judges weigh IP liability

Boost IT visibility and business value

A US court case that threatens to ramp-up damages against US technology companies which lose patent infringement suits has entered its final stages.

US Supreme Court justices today heard arguments that Microsoft broke the terms of a patent infringement suit brought by AT&T because it sold copies of Windows in markets outside the US containing AT&T's intellectual property.

Microsoft and AT&T settled their action, over a sound recorder in Windows, in 2001 but AT&T claims the agreement has been breached, as PC makers outside the US have sold machines running Windows containing its code.

The carrier has so-far secured victory at the district court level and in the US Court of Appeals.

Patent infringement suits - particularly against Microsoft - occur with tedious regularity in the US, but this particular case stands out because of its implications for all US-based technology vendors.

If AT&T wins, then litigants in future cases stand to gain much bigger awards and damages, as defendants will be held liable on an international, as opposed to a national scale.

Because of this threat, Microsoft has attracted support from an unlikely alliance of open source advocates, the US Department of Justice and Yahoo! among others.

Sensing the problem, justice Stephen Breyer told AT&T's attorney on Wednesday he'd be "quite frightened of deciding for you and discovering that all over the world there are vast numbers of inventions that can be thought of in the same way that you are thinking of this one."

At issue is US patent law section 271 section F that says US companies are liable for damages at home and abroad if they manufactured components that were shipped to overseas suppliers and assembled, and if the final product was found to infringe on US patents.

Microsoft's legal team has argued the law was not meant to apply to conduct that "takes place entirely abroad".®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Has Europe cut the UK adrift on data protection?
EU reckons we've one foot out the door anyway
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Government's 'Google Review' copyright rules become law
Welcome in a New Era ... of copyright litigation
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.