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Microsoft, AT&T In Supreme Patent Spat

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AT&T has won a lower court decision against Microsoft and its use of AT&T patented technology in exported products, but Microsoft has a shot at getting that overturned with its appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Chief Justice John Roberts won’t be on hand for Microsoft v. AT&T when arguments open, but the other justices will try to decide just how far US patent protections go when it comes to technology and products sold outside the United States.

A Bloomberg report said AT&T already had a decision in hand against Microsoft and its use of speech technology for VoIP. That partial settlement came in 2004, and Microsoft has been seething ever since as they believe a lower-court ruling tripled their liability exposure.

The justices get to try and sort out whether or not Microsoft violated a 23-year-old law on patent protection:

Roberts won’t be participating when the Supreme Court hears arguments tomorrow because he owns Microsoft stock. The rest of the justices will scrutinize a 1984 law aimed at preventing companies from circumventing U.S. patent rights by shipping components overseas to be assembled into an infringing product. The export law says supplying those components constitutes patent infringement.

Microsoft says that provision doesn’t apply because the versions of Windows it sends to foreign computer makers –either on “golden master” disks or as encrypted digital files — don’t end up on computers.

The Cornell Law School said the Supremes have two questions before them in considering the case:

(1) Whether digital software code

Microsoft, AT&T In Supreme Patent Spat
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