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ITC Tosses Out Barnes & Noble Antitrust Claim Against Microsoft

On the eve of what promises to be a sensational patent-infringement trial that will finally pit Microsoft against one of its Android-based enemies, an International Trade Commission (ITC) judge has tossed out a major claim against the software giant. That judge has ruled that an allegation made by Barnes & Noble—that Microsoft was acting in an anti-competitive fashion—was baseless.

After failing to negotiate a patent-licensing agreement from Barnes & Noble for technologies it claims are used illegally by the firm's Android-based devices, Microsoft sued Barnes & Noble for patent infringement in March 2011. Barnes & Noble counter-sued in November 2011, arguing that Microsoft's behavior was anti-competitive. That latter claim has been thrown out, leaving Barnes & Noble to answer Microsoft's claims in court.

"Today's action by the ITC makes clear that Barnes & Noble's patent-misuse defense was meritless," said Microsoft's deputy general counsel David Howard. "This case is only about one thing: patent infringement by Barnes & Noble's Android-based devices. We remain as open as ever to extending a license to Barnes & Noble and invite them to join the many other major device makers in paying for the Microsoft-developed intellectual property they use in their devices."

Barnes & Noble declined to comment on the ruling.

The actual ruling, which was uncovered by an intellectual-property analyst who was previously retained by Microsoft to conduct a study on patents, is still sealed by the ITC. But the title of the order, "Initial Determination Granting Microsoft's Motion for Summary Determination of Respondents' First Affirmative Defense of Patent Misuse," leaves little room for doubt as to its contents.

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