After Winning Patent Suit, Z4 Sues Microsoft Again

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A company that was just awarded more than US$140 million from Microsoft in a patent-infringement suit has sued the software giant again, this time for alleged infringements in Windows Vista and Office 2007.

Z4 Technologies, in Commerce Township, Michigan, claims Microsoft has only made "an insignificant change" in Vista and Office to product-activation technology that has been found by U.S. courts to violate patents z4 holds. The privately held company claims that it notified Microsoft of the infringement on Dec. 19, 2006, but Microsoft has not remedied the situation.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court upheld a ruling z4 was awarded last year in Texas on a suit it filed in 2004 against both Microsoft and Autodesk for infringing on U.S. Patent No. 6,044,471 and U.S. Patent No. 6,785,825. The patents, which z4 holds, are for product-activation technology aimed at preventing unauthorized use or piracy of software. Z4, founded by David Colvin, creates digital rights management technology.

In April 2006, a jury in the U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas found that both Microsoft and Autodesk infringed on those patents, ordering Microsoft to pay $115 million to z4 and Autodesk $18 million.

Several months later in August, the judge presiding over the case slapped $25 million more in damages on Microsoft for litigation misconduct, saying in his ruling that the software company tried to have z4's patents declared unenforceable even as it continued to willfully infringe on those patents and withheld evidence of its actions. U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis also upheld the original fines and ordered Microsoft to pay z4 $1.98 million and Autodesk $322,000 in attorney fees.

Microsoft appealed the Texas court's decision, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld it on Nov. 16.

Microsoft spokesman David Bowermaster said on Thursday that Microsoft does not believe Vista or Office 2007 infringe on z4's patents, and the company is in the process of reviewing the suit.

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