Judge Tosses Out Another Alcatel Patent Claim Against Microsoft

Speech coding technology used in several Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) applications does not infringe on an Alcatel-Lucent SA (ALU) patent, a federal judge decided Thursday.

The summary judgment from a U.S. District Court judge in San Diego dismissed Alcatel-Lucent's claim that Microsoft's Windows Media Player, NetMeeting and Messenger programs call on its patented speech pattern analysis technology. The case was set to be heard later this month.

"This ruling reaffirms our confidence that once there's judicial review of these complex patent cases, these Alcatel-Lucent claims ultimately won't stand up," said Tom Burt, a Microsoft deputy general counsel.

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Alcatel-Lucent said it plans to appeal the decision. "We are comfortable with our chances of success as this case makes its way through the legal system," said Mary Lou Ambrus, a spokeswoman for the French telecom equipment maker.

Judge Rudi M. Brewster's decision followed last week's jury ruling in the same court that Microsoft's music player software did infringe on two Alcatel-Lucent patents related to encoding and decoding audio into the digital MP3 format.

The jury ordered Microsoft to pay $1.5 billion in damages; the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker said it plans to appeal.

Four related patent suits are still pending in the court. All six stemmed from claims made in 2003 by Lucent Technologies against computer makers Gateway Inc. (GTW) and Dell Inc. (DELL) for technology developed by Bell Labs, its research arm.

In April 2003, Microsoft joined the list of defendants, saying the patents were closely linked to its Windows operating system. The PC makers are still defendants. France's Alcatel bought Lucent last year.

The remaining disputes include video coding in Microsoft's Xbox game console and its Windows user interface.