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Microsoft patent case goes to trial

The software giant will defend itself against claims surrounding "Smart Tags" in its Office applications.

Microsoft is set to go to trial Tuesday in a patent case that challenges a key element of the software giant's Office software.

Arendi Holdings, a small Norwegian company, filed the lawsuit in 2002, charging Microsoft with violating its U.S. Patent 6,323,853 for a "method, system and computer readable medium for addressing handling from a computer program." The case is scheduled to begin a jury trial Tuesday in U.S. District Court for Rhode Island, with a decision expected in about two weeks.

The complaint revolves around "Smart Tags," technology Microsoft introduced with Office XP for linking words in a document to other actions or information. Using Smart Tags, for example, an Office user can automatically add a contact to his address book by clicking on a name in a document.

Arendi alleges the technology infringes on its patent, which covers a method for automatically executing a search for information related to a name or address typed into a document. Arendi sells OneButton, a Microsoft Word add-on for managing a Windows address book.

Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake said the company would challenge both the validity of Arendi's patent and the infringement claim. "Smart Tags is technology we invented and is based on engineering work that predates Arendi's invention," she said.

The lawyer representing Arendi did not respond to requests for comment.

Microsoft beat a previous challenge to Smart Tags last year when a federal judge in Wisconsin dismissed a patent claim by Hyperphase Technologies.