One Patent Claim Against Microsoft Dropped

A judge in a San Diego court late Thursday dismissed one of several patent claims Alcatel-Lucent SA has made against Microsoft Corp. in several high-profile cases against the vendor, but that does not mean the software company is out of the woods yet.

According to Microsoft spokesman Jack Evans, a judge in the U.S. District Court in San Diego ruled that Microsoft does not infringe a patent for speech-recognition technology asserted by Alcatel-Lucent.

This is the only patent that was to be considered during a second trial in the series of claims, which had been scheduled in San Diego on March 19, he said. That trial has now been cancelled.

"This ruling reaffirms our confidence that once there's judicial review of these complex patent cases, these Alcatel-Lucent claims ultimately won't stand up," said Tom Burt, Microsoft corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, in an e-mail statement.

Last week, a jury in the first of what had been six separate patent-infringement cases ordered Microsoft to pay US$1.5 billion in damages to Alcatel-Lucent for infringing on patents for MP3 encoding and decoding technology.

It was believed to be the largest patent-infringement damage award in history in the case that the then Lucent Technologies first filed against Microsoft and partners Dell Inc. and Gateway Inc. in 2003. Many believe the decision could put other companies that use MP3 technology at risk for patent-infringement claims from Alcatel-Lucent.

Microsoft had asked the judge last week for a summary judgment in the patent-infringement case that was to go to trial this month, and the judge granted that on Thursday, said Alcatel-Lucent spokeswoman Mary Lou Ambrus. She said her company plans to appeal the decision.

"We invest billions in research and development every year, which yields inventions that we make available to any company on reasonable terms," she wrote in an e-mail to IDG News Service. "Through these upcoming trials, we are seeking fair and reasonable compensation for developing our inventions and making them available."

The next and third case dealing with Alcatel-Lucent's patent-infringement claims, which focuses on user-interface technology and lists Microsoft, Dell and Gateway as defendants, is scheduled to be held May 21, Evans said. Three other trials on Alcatel-Lucent patent-infringement claims will follow this year, with Microsoft being listed as defendants in two of those.

The Alcatel-Lucent suit is not the only major patent case Microsoft is currently dealing with. Microsoft presented opening arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court last week in a six-year patent dispute with AT&T Inc.

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