Microsoft Trains Legal Guns on Lucent

Apr 11, 2003

Thor Olavsrud

Microsoft is turning its legal guns on telecom gear maker Lucent Technologies in an attempt to puncture lawsuits that Lucent recently aimed at two of Microsoft's largest customers.

The Redmond-based software titan filed suit in a federal court in San Diego Tuesday in an attempt to invalidate 13 patents developed by Lucent's Bell Laboratories -- patents which Lucent has accused Dell Computer and Gateway of violating.

Lucent spokesman Bill Price told that the patents cover technologies for audio and video coding, video displays and touch-screen capabilities.

Microsoft's suit is the latest in an escalating series of patent skirmishes with Lucent. ThinkFire, an intellectual property firm which helps Lucent look for licensing opportunities, lobbed the first volley in January when it sent Microsoft a letter requesting that it license 16 patents which it said belonged to Lucent, according to The Wall Street Journal.

ThinkFire claimed the patents are key to a broad swathe of Microsoft's products and impact about $9 billion of current Microsoft sales.

While Microsoft met with ThinkFire, the company concluded that it didn't need to license the patents, the Journal said.

Not content to sit on its laurels, Lucent fired back with the suits against Gateway and Dell in February. The firms, believing that the suits were sparked by technologies it licenses from Microsoft, asked the Redmond-based software titan to indemnify them.

"Since the beginning, we've always taken efforts to maximize the value of our intellectual property," Price told "We've done this with licensing agreements with many, many companies over the life of Lucent and Bell Labs."

He added, "We're simply asking for a fair and reasonable compensation for the use of our IP. Each year we invest billions of dollars in R&D, and we seek a fair return on that investment. We hope to reach a fair resolution in this matter."

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Microsoft could not immediately be reached for comment.


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