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by Franki

Microsoft has had a hard time of it in court lately. First there is the EU debacle, following much the same path as the US anti-competitive conviction did, only with much stiffer penalties. Then we have the long list of settlements made by Microsoft to many companies with whom they were litigating, the largest payoff approaching 2 billion dollars (to Sun Microsystems). Not too many people seem to feel sorry for the company that has of late been handing out money hand over fist to try and clear its litigation schedule a bit.

Now something new and probably unexpected has happened. A company by the name of Alacritech has gained a preliminary injunction [PDF] against Microsoft for alleged patent infringement of their networking technology. The story goes that Alacritech approached Microsoft and showed them what they had in 1998. Microsoft chose not to license with them and promptly developed similar technology themselves called TCP Chimney for inclusion in Longhorn and an add on pack for Windows 2003 server. The case could potentially delay Longhorns release if Microsoft doesn’t settle and the case drags on as similar cases have in the past. My prediction is for a Microsoft settlement in the future, they can’t afford to delay Longhorn any further as their many resellers would likely have hissy fits about lost profit opportunities, especially in light of the fact that Windows XP, Microsoft’s last major desktop release is nearly 5 years old now. All Alacritech really has to do, is drag the case out and maintain the Injunction until Microsoft capitulates and settles.

Do not get me wrong here, I am not in favor of litigation of this type, but Microsoft has been a strong proponent of software patents and has tried long and hard to establish them as law in the European Union, so I find it somewhat ironic that they didn’t realize that they are the biggest target with the deepest pockets and will forever be handing out money to anyone with a grievance. It’s worse for them when you consider that they are a twice convicted monopolist and have a long and questionable litigation history that makes it possible for people (and more importantly Juries) to at least consider the prospect that they are guilty as charged. Microsoft has 21 days to appeal the decision.

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