Top U.S. court intervenes in Microsoft patent dispute

The Supreme Court will intervene in a patent dispute between Microsoft Corp. and AT&T Corp. over Windows programs distributed overseas that contain AT&T "speech codecs". An appeals court had already ruled that Microsoft had infringed on an AT&T patent and Microsoft has already admitted liability for domestic sales of Windows.

The Supreme Court will hear whether or not Microsoft will be liable for international sales. A judgment in AT&T's favour could cost Microsoft up to $1 billion U.S. dollars.

The crux of the case comes down to whether or not the courts of the United States have the jurisdiction to extend U.S. patent protections to overseas transactions. Some worry that such a ruling could drive software development out of the country.

Needless to say, AT&T has another opinion: "Congress's congressional authority is to protect the rights of U.S. inventors, not U.S. infringers."

Chief Justice John Roberts took no part in the court's decision to hear the case. The court offered no explanation, but Roberts' most recent financial disclosure shows that he owns between $100,000 and $250,000 in Microsoft stock.

News source: The Toronto Star

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