Tech's Top 5 Patent Battles — Before Apple vs. HTC

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Making matters even more complicated, computer makers, including Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), became involved because they had purchased chips from Intel that included memory features claimed by Intergraph. Ultimately, those claims were settled as well.

5. A Gold Medal for the Canadians

It would be hard to find a product that has a larger user base than Microsoft Word, or an application that makes more money for its inventors. So when a tiny Canadian company called i4i won an injunction preventing Microsoft from selling Word, the world noticed.

The 30-employee company claimed that Microsoft had infringed on a patent for the use of an XML feature. Microsoft never stopped selling Word, but it has removed the featured from Word 2007 and the upcoming Office 2010 and paid $290 million in damages.

It's worth noting that i4i filed its case in the small East Texas town of Tyler, a venue considered the friendliest in the United States for claims brought by patent trolls.

One other bit of tech patent history: It appears that the term patent troll was first used by Chuck Mulloy, a veteran tech industry public relations man who has fought on both sides of the Intel-AMD (AMD) chip wars. As Mulloy recounts, Intel was defending a patent case brought against it by a company called TechSearch. In an interview with reporter Dean Takahashi of the Wall Street Journal, the normally affable Mulloy let his irritation show and he referred to TechSearch as a "patent extortionist."

TechSearch's lawyers quickly added a libel case to their suit. After a huddle with corporate attorneys, Mulloy retracted "patent extortionist," and substituted the milder "patent troll." "It's like the troll that lives under the bridge, but doesn't own it, and charges a toll on everyone who crosses," he said recently.

This story, "Tech's Top 5 Patent Battles — Before Apple vs. HTC" was originally published by CIO.

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