Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The rest of the story on the Microsoft espionage lawsuit

We are frequently (almost always justifiably) outraged about IBM's antics in the patent procurement and/quality debate. While they don't make your rants nearly as often, I place Microsoft in almost the same company as IBM. An interesting case was reported last week based on a lawsuit filed by Microsoft against an ex-employee (who they fired) who had filed a patent infringement suit against a number of Microsoft customers, alleging he had violated his duty to Microsoft by downloading confidential Microsoft documents while a Microsoft employee that he then used in his lawsuits against their customers. Well, as Paul Harvey used to say, here's "the rest of the story". As is almost always the case, when IBM or Microsoft say anything about patents or patent-related litigation, one should receive it with a somewhat jaundiced eye. A useful note: a candidate to be the next PTO Director, Dave Kappos, is a head patent lawyer at IBM. From the Seattle PI, Feb.2, 2009 here is Miki Mullor's reply to the Microsoft lawsuit against him. His statement does not substantively address Microsoft's allegation that he stole Microsoft's confidential and proprietary information for use against the computer manufacturers:
I am the inventor of U.S. Patent No. 6,411,941 relating to software anti-piracy technology, and Ancora is my company. I applied for my patent in 1998. In 2002, the patent issued from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In 2003, I approached Microsoft and had several talks with a Microsoft lawyer and employees of Microsoft's AntiPiracy group about my invention and the benefits Microsoft could realize by using it. Microsoft declined and said they had no interest in my invention. We ceased business operations at Ancora in 2005, and Microsoft was the first company to extend me an employment offer. I accepted. When I joined Microsoft, I notified them in writing of Ancora and my patent in both my resume and in my employment agreement. In its complaint against me, Microsoft withheld the portions of these key documents that show this. At the same time I was employed at Microsoft, but unknown to me, Microsoft was developing what is now known as "OEM Activation." OEM Activation is installed on computers made by HP, Dell, Toshiba and others ... to prevent piracy of Microsoft's Windows Vista software installed on those computers. This work was being done in a different department at Microsoft. OEM Activation is a blatant copy of my invention. In June 2008, my company Ancora filed a patent infringement lawsuit against HP, Dell and Toshiba in the federal court in Los Angeles. Microsoft fired me for trying to protect my own invention --- an invention I told them about before they ever hired me. Recently, Microsoft filed a retaliation suit against me personally in Seattle. Microsoft accuses me of lying, deceit, fraud and misappropriation. These are shameful, dishonest attacks on my character by Microsoft - the company that stole my idea in the first place. Their attacks are untrue, and they hurt me and my family. Microsoft basically admits stealing my idea in the complaint they filed because they are asking for a license to my patent. Microsoft would only need a license to my patent if they were infringing it in the first place. My patent case in Los Angeles has been going on for several months now with substantial progress. Clearly, Microsoft and the PC OEMs realized that they have no defense on the merits of the patent case.

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