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Court Takes on Software Patents

Microsoft Case May Have Global Reach

By Robert Barnes and Alan Sipress
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 22, 2007; D01


The name alone -- Microsoft v. AT&T-- conjures a galactic showdown. And the legal battle over a patent dispute that unfolded in the Supreme Court yesterday brought together elements of an epic.

Millions of dollars, at a minimum, ride on the outcome. The companies have hired two of Washington's most prominent Supreme Court gladiators, who together have argued nearly 100 cases before the high court, to present their cases. Some justices were on the edges of their seats as they absorbed a mind-bending blend of law and abstract thought, of computer-code poetry and patent-law banality.

The case even involves a "golden disk."

So what if that disk only contains Microsoft's Windows operating system?

"I hope we can continue calling it the golden disk," Justice Antonin Scalia said, when one justice blandly referred to it as the master disk. "It has a certain Scheherazade quality that really adds a lot of interest to this case."

At issue is whether Microsoft can be held liable for violating an AT&T patent on technology that condenses speech into computer code, similar to that found on Microsoft's Windows program.

Full story.

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