• United States

Microsoft may face trial over ‘autoplay’ feature

Feb 10, 20043 mins

Microsoft faces a trial in a patent infringement suit over the “autoplay” feature in Windows that automatically starts an application after storage media is loaded into a PC.

Little-known TV Interactive Data (TVI) of Los Gatos, Calif., sued Microsoft in May 2002, seeking damages and an injunction barring Microsoft from further infringement. Microsoft flagged the case in its quarterly regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday.

TVI charges Microsoft infringes on four of its U.S. patents, three entitled “host device equipped with means for starting a process in response to detecting insertion of a storage media” and one entitled “method for starting up a process automatically on insertion of a storage media into a host device.” The patent numbers are 5,597,307; 5,795,156; 6,249,863 and 6,418,532.

Additionally, TVI charges that Microsoft patent 6,366,966, entitled “method and system for automatically running a program” interferes with the TVI patents as it covers a TVI invention, according to case records filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Microsoft denies infringement and claims TVI’s patents are invalid, according to court records. This is a common response in patent infringement cases.

A meeting to try to settle the case without a trial has been set for Feb. 20, according to a court document dated Feb. 6. A trial was set for July 12 but has been moved to Sept. 27, according to an order dated Feb. 3, signed by U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White.

Microsoft is the defendant in more than 30 patent cases, but only three are listed in Friday’s filing. The others are the high-profile case brought by Eolas Technologies Inc. and the University of California over Internet Explorer and a case brought by InterTrust Technologies over Digital Rights Management and other technologies.

In the Eolas case, Microsoft has been ordered to pay damages of $520 million. The InterTrust case involves a large number of Microsoft products and is scheduled to go to trial in 2005. A verdict for InterTrust could adversely affect distribution of Windows or Office, Microsoft warns in the regulatory filing.

Microsoft in its filing also details earnings at each of its seven business segments for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2003. With earnings under pressure from equity compensation expenses, Microsoft reports that only the Client and Information Worker segments posted operating profits. The Client segment produces the Windows client operating systems and the Information Worker unit is responsible for Microsoft Office products.