How to Get Big Bucks from Redmond: Click, Sue, Win!

The ruling by a Texas judge that Microsoft has to pay more than $240 million in a patent infringement suit has emboldened patent trolls everywhere. Now two more firms have crawled out of the woodwork to sue Microsoft in the same court. The judge may as well put up a Web site that says "Click here to sue Microsoft."

Judge Leonard Davis, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas recently ruled that Microsoft had impinged on a patent of i4i covering, "A system and method for the separate manipulation of the architecture and content of a document, particularly for data representation and transformations."

In addition, the judge issued a ban that "prohibits Microsoft from selling or importing to the United States any Microsoft Word products that have the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX or DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML." The ban goes into effect on October 12.

It's a clear example of a patent that should never have been issued because the technology it describes is far too broad, and covers far too much ground. No matter what you think about Microsoft, it's bad for the development of technology.

InformationWeek reports that two other companies have crawled out of the woodwork to sue Microsoft, sensing that they've got a judge on their side. The newspaper reports that:

"Allvoice Developments US, a provider of speech recognition systems, and mobile software developer EMG Technology both filed suits against Microsoft in recent days in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Texas, where judge Leonard Davis a week ago ruled in favor of Toronto-based i4i in its action against Microsoft.

"llvoice claims that speech recognition support built into Windows XP and Windows Vista violates its patent on the technology. Allvoice also alleges that Microsoft discussed using its technology in Windows but later rejected it. Allvoice is seeking unspecified damages against Microsoft.

"EMG, meanwhile, contends that Microsoft's Windows CE, PocketPC, and Windows Mobile products infringe its patent for viewing Web content on a mobile device. EMG also lists investment broker Scottrade and Southwest Airlines in its complaint."

The newspaper also reports that a 2006 article in the New York Times found that the town where the suits are being filed has become known as the nation's patent lawsuit capital. According to the Times:

"Marshall, Tex., population 25,000, is arguably the patent lawsuit capital of the nation, where plaintiffs know they are more likely to get a favorable judgment. The odds against defendants are so daunting that many settle before ever setting foot in Marshall."

Texas has already exported more than its share of woes to the rest of the United States. With its friendliness to patent trolls, it's continuing in that grand tradition.

This story, "How to Get Big Bucks from Redmond: Click, Sue, Win!" was originally published by Computerworld.

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