Judge William Browning of the Senior US District Court in Tucson, Arizona, ruled yesterday that Microsoft encroached on patents owned by Research Corporation Technologies (RCT), a Tucson-based software company. "The judge has determined that Microsoft is guilty of patent infringement and that the technology is used in some of Microsoft's biggest products," said Brian Ferguson, an attorney representing RCT. RCT first filed suit against Microsoft in December 2001, alleging that the software giant used technology in Windows and Microsoft Office that's covered by RCT's patents for improving the quality of images displayed on both computer screens and printouts.
Judge Brown granted a motion for summary judgment against Microsoft, ruling that RCT proved its four patent-infringement claims. Microsoft must now defend itself in front of a jury in federal court. The jury will hear evidence from both sides, determine the extent of the patent infringement, and award damages to RCT. Ferguson says those damages could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Aiding the company's defense is the fact that RCT has already settled similar patent-infringement claims against Lexmark and HP, both of which make printers. These two companies and Seiko Epson now license the technology from RCT.
Although the court hasn't set a date for the trial, a Microsoft spokesperson reiterated his company's belief that it has done no wrong. "We believe that there was no infringement and the technology in question was developed by Microsoft," he said. "We also contend that the RCT patents are not valid and look forward to the opportunity to present evidence on this point."