Feeds

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

Decision could save companies billions in future patent battles

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Inside the Hekaton: SQL Server 2014's database engine deconstructed
Nadella's database sqares the circle of cheap memory vs speed
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
IRS boss on XP migration: 'Classic fix the airplane while you're flying it attempt'
Plus: Condoleezza Rice at Dropbox 'maybe she can find ... weapons of mass destruction'
Ditch the sync, paddle in the Streem: Upstart offers syncless sharing
Upload, delete and carry on sharing afterwards?
New Facebook phone app allows you to stalk your mates
Nearby Friends feature goes live in a few weeks
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.