Friday, February 23, 2007

Microsoft v. AT&T

Read "Court Takes on Software Patents: Microsoft Case May Have Global Reach" by Robert Barnes and Alan Sipress in The Washington Post, February 22, 2007.

This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could have major international repercussions. AT&T holds a patent on technology that condenses speech into computer code. Microsoft admitted it infringed the AT&T patent on computers sold domestically. Microsoft also has used the code in the "golden disk" and related transmission of Windows to be installed in computers in foreign countries. Microsoft's lawyer, argues that since the code is copied outside the United States and installed on computers overseas, U.S. patent laws don't apply. AT&T's lawyer told justices they should uphold two lower courts' rulings in AT&T's favor.
In 1984, Congress amended the patent law to forbid companies from shipping components of patented inventions overseas and having the parts assembled elsewhere in an attempt to skirt patent laws.

So in this case, justices are looking at whether digital software code can be considered a "component" of a patented invention and if so, whether it was "supplied" from the United States......

some of Microsoft's traditional competitors such as Yahoo and have joined to support the company's argument that overseas production should be governed by those countries' laws......

an unfavorable ruling for Microsoft could extend patent liability "to every corner of the world" where a copy of U.S.-developed software is used, including software downloaded over the Internet.

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