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Microsoft wins ruling on Alcatel-Lucent speech patent

Microsoft Corp., the world's biggest software company, didn't infringe an Alcatel-Lucent computer-speech patent, a federal judge ruled in a case that was scheduled for trial this month.

US District Judge Rudi M. Brewster in San Diego decided from the bench on Thursday in Microsoft Corp.'s favor, ruling that the company wasn't using the technology without permission. A trial in the dispute was to begin March 19, court papers show. The patent covers a way to code human speech for better quality in recognition or transmission programs. „We plan to appeal this decision and are comfortable with our chances of success as the case makes its way through the legal system,” Alcatel-Lucent spokeswoman Joan Campion said.

The win for Microsoft came a week after a San Diego jury decided that the company must pay $1.52 billion (€1.15 billion) for using Alcatel-Lucent's digital-music technology without permission, in the biggest patent ruling ever. Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, infringed two Alcatel-Lucent patents with its Windows Media Player, the jury said February 22. Microsoft said it will appeal the verdict. Thursday's ruling „reaffirms our confidence that once there's judicial review of these complex patent cases, these Alcatel-Lucent claims ultimately won't stand up,” Microsoft lawyer Tom Burt said in an e-mail.

The dispute between the companies, involving at least five patent suits, began in June 2002 when Lucent, then a standalone company, sued computer makers Dell Inc. and Gateway Inc. over a host of inventions including color memory, video-search functions and controlling a handheld computer with a stylus. Microsoft intervened in the cases because it may be obligated to reimburse Dell and Gateway for any damages they might have to pay. Most of the cases have been combined under Brewster's jurisdiction. He broke the cases into groups based on the type of technology at issue.

The case decided yesterday was the second of four trials scheduled back-to-back. On Friday, Brewster ruled that one of three patents at issue in the next scheduled trial wasn't infringed by certain Microsoft and Dell handheld devices. The patent related to use of a stylus to operate a handheld computer. That trial had been set to begin in May. Microsoft shares fell 33 cents to $27.76 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. Alcatel-Lucent American depositary receipts, each representing one ordinary share, fell 15 cents to $12.21 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. (Bloomberg)