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Microsoft Patent Claims Hint at Internal Issues

May 15, 2007

Stuart Meyer, a partner in Fenwick & West's intellectual property and litigation groups, was recently quoted in an IDG News story entitled, "Microsoft Patent Claims Hint at Internal Issues."

At issue is Microsoft's move to seek patent royalties from open-source distributors and users, which may be an attempt to use legal threats to deflect attention from company problems.

Meyer suggests that there is a link between the timing of Microsoft's claims against open source and the release of its Windows Vista product. Microsoft's unwillingness to specifically identify which patents are being violated also shows it is less than serious about initiating litigation, which may suggest the company knows it will be a tough battle to fight, he said. "If Microsoft wanted a lawsuit, they would have brought the lawsuit first," Meyer said.

Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft vice president of intellectual property and licensing, said that Microsoft's decision to seek royalties for patents is a business one and they want to strike deals with the companies to avoid court battles.

It remains to be seen whether Microsoft will be able to collect on its claims or if the open-source community will use them to strive for patent reform, currently a popular issue before the U.S. Congress.