Microsoft Loses Key DRM Battle

In a strangely unpublicized case, Microsoft yesterday found itself on the losing end of a ruling in a critical Digital Rights Management (DRM) battle with InterTrust, a DRM company that is suing the software giant for almost 150 counts of patent infringement. This week's ruling sets the stage for a trial where it will be determined whether Microsoft broke the law, though it's likely the two companies will pursue settlement talks. InterTrust says that Microsoft has violated its DRM patents in products such as Windows Media Player and the Xbox video game console.

This week's ruling establishes the legal scope and definitions that will be used in the eventual trial and the document is structured overwhelmingly in favor of InterTrust. That is, the judge interpreted the argument in terms that were favorable to InterTrust, and not Microsoft. Legal experts say such a ruling often results in a quick summary judgment.

InterTrust first filed its patent infringement case against Microsoft two years ago, and the company has been adding patent violation claims to the suit ever since; today, the company has 143 patent violation claims registered against the software giant. DRM technology is used to protect digitally delivered content such as eBooks, digital music, and digital movies, with most people associating the technology with downloadable music. Apple's successful iTunes Music Store uses DRM technology to protect songs its users download. Microsoft says it will continue to defend itself against InterTrust's "groundless and overly broad claims."

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