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Supreme Court Rejects Microsoft Appeal in Alcatel-Lucent Case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected reviewing a ruling that found Microsoft had infringed a patent owned by Alcatel-Lucent.

The focus of the case is an Alcatel-Lucent patent, referred to as the "Day" patent, which includes a method of entering information into fields on a computer screen. Alcatel-Lucent claims that Microsoft's Outlook calendar and other programs illegally used this technology.

According to Alcatel-Lucent's complaint, Microsoft infringed on the patent with methods used in Money, Outlook and Windows Mobile. One feature called out in the complaint was the date picker used in Outlook's calendar. Microsoft argued (PDF) that the Day patent, filed by three computer engineers at AT&T in 1986, was invalid for being anticipated or obvious. Even if the patent were valid, sales of Microsoft products did not infringe the patent, according to Microsoft's defense.

Lucent originally initiated patent litigation in 2002 against Gateway, with Microsoft joining the case. However, the key action leading to Microsoft's appeal before the Supreme Court was a September 2009 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which upheld a lower court's patent infringement ruling.

At that same time, the Court of Appeals vacated and remanded the damages portion back to a lower court. The Court of Appeals found that the $358 million in damages the jury awarded to Alcatel-Lucent lacked sufficient evidentiary support.

The hearing concerning the damages portion of the trial is scheduled to begin on Dec. 3 in San Diego at the U.S. Federal District Court for the District of Southern California.

The Court of Appeals focused primarily on Outlook, rather than Money and Windows Mobile, which also were in question. The Court said that because infringement by Outlook was not supported by evidence and a new trial on damages was required, the lower court or a jury would have to assess infringement on the other software.

The Court of Appeals noted that infringement only occurred when the Outlook date picker was used to fill out a form. Moreover, the damages award ought to correlate with the degree to which the infringing method was utilized, the court said. Alcatel-Lucent had argued that it was owed damages representing eight percent of the revenue of Microsoft's sales.

The case is just one of a number of patent infringement cases the two companies have filed against each since 2002, including cases focusing on the MP3 format, communications technology and digital speech compression, CNET has noted.

In November 2008, Microsoft and Alcatel-Lucent settled most of their patent litigation, though financial terms were not disclosed.

In the Court of Appeals ruling, the Day patent is described as including a method of entering information into fields on a computer screen without using a keyboard. The system may display menus of information for filling in a particular field and also may be adapted to communicate with a host computer. Also, one of the displayed fields can be filled in by writing on the touch screen with a stylus.

About the Author

Natasha Watkins is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in technology and business topics.

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