Feeds

Supreme Court: Microsoft off the hook in AT&T case

Decision could save companies billions in future patent battles

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The Supreme Court has sided with Microsoft today, in a patent infringement case filed by AT&T over international copyright liability.

The 7-1 ruling, which relieves Microsoft of US legal responsibility of infringing software sent overseas will give many other software companies a sigh of relief.

Microsoft had the unusual backing of Yahoo!, the US Department of Justice and open source advocates in the case. Had AT&T won, litigants in future IP offenders would have been held liable on an international scale.

AT&T sued Microsoft in 2001, alleging Windows OS infringes on AT&T technology that encodes and compresses recorded speech. Microsoft had acknowledged the violation and settled, but AT&T claimed the agreement was breached by Microsoft selling its OS with the violating code outside the country.

The courts had ruled in AT&T's favor at the district court level and in the US Court of Appeals.

Patent-infringing exports 101

A US company cannot ship the invention's "parts" or "components" to be assembled or combined abroad. However, sending intangible information, such as a blueprint (which may contain the precise instructions on how to assemble or combine said parts) is perfectly legal eagle. Then it's up to the receiving country to deal with the sticky details of patent infringement.

At the center of the dispute: whether a golden master copy of Windows sent overseas to be mass-produced is considered a "part" or a "blueprint" of the operating system.

The Court ruled that because a master disk is never installed on any foreign-made computers and since Microsoft does not export installation copies of Windows, US patent law does not apply outside the country.

The dissenting opinion written by Justice John Stevens argued that software actually causes infringing conduct to occur, unlike a blueprint, which merely instructs a user how to do something. He said a golden master is more like a roller that makes a player piano produce sound than sheet music, which only tells a musician what to do. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
Torvalds CONFESSES: 'I'm pretty good at alienating devs'
Admits to 'a metric ****load' of mistakes during work with Linux collaborators
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
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.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.