Microsoft Corp. sued Alcatel-Lucent, claiming it is infringing patents on a system that integrates telephones with computers for calls, messages and video conferences.
Microsoft Corp., the world's biggest software maker, filed a complaint February 16 in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, and on the same day filed a trade complaint with the US International Trade Commission in Washington. Both accuse Alcatel-Lucent, the world's biggest maker of telecommunications equipment, of infringing four patents and seek a halt to sales. „We are seeking to stop the future importation of unlicensed Alcatel-Lucent products into the United States until Alcatel-Lucent has taken an appropriate license,” Guy Esnouf, a Microsoft spokesman, said in a statement.
The dispute is the latest in a four-year fight between the two companies. A federal jury in San Diego is considering whether Microsoft's Windows Media Player infringes Lucent patents related to the MP3 digital-audio standard. The Delaware lawsuit and trade commission complaint target Alcatel-Lucent's OmniTouch software and related computer servers that let users get voice mail, e-mail and faxes through one system. Microsoft claims Alcatel-Lucent is using Microsoft's patented technology to compete with products such as its Communicator software.
The University of Pittsburgh last year awarded Alcatel-Lucent a $300 million contract to upgrade its communications systems using the disputed technology, according to the ITC complaint. „We are currently reviewing the filings,” said Joan Campion, a spokeswoman for Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent. She declined to comment further.
The fight between the companies began in June 2002 when Lucent, then a standalone company, sued computer makers Dell Inc. and Gateway Inc. over inventions related to color memory, video-search functions and controlling a computer with a stylus. Microsoft entered the case because it supplied much of that technology to the computer makers.
Alcatel SA acquired Lucent last year. Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, asked the trade agency to ban Alcatel-Lucent's OmniPCX Communication Server family of computer servers and its OmniTouch Unified Communication software package from importation into the US.
The district court lawsuit is likely to be put on hold until the trade commission's investigation is completed. The agency in Washington often works more quickly than district courts, and its findings can signal the outcome of the federal court suit. Microsoft could be able to block imports of Lucent products from the trade commission case and could get cash compensation from the civil suit.
Microsoft shares rose 9 cents to close at $28.83 in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. Alcatel-Lucent American depositary receipts, each representing one share, rose 4 cents to $13.14 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Microsoft reported net income of $12.6 billion in the fiscal year through June, on sales of $44.3 billion. Alcatel-Lucent had a 2006 net loss of €176 million ($231 million) on sales of €12.3 billion. (Bloomberg)