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Microsoft takes mouse maker to court

The software maker files patent infringement actions after it says that Taiwan's Primax Electronics refused to license its technology.

Microsoft, which is no stranger to being on the receiving end of patent infringement claims, now finds itself on the other side of the legal docket.

Late Wednesday, the software maker filed legal actions against a Taiwanese company it says is violating the company's hardware patents related to computer mice.

Microsoft said it has filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission after failing to be able to negotiate a licensing deal with Primax Electronics. In the complaint, Microsoft is seeking an order barring Primax from importing infringing products into the United States.

In an interview, Microsoft Deputy General Counsel Horacio Gutierrez said the company made the moves only after "repeated attempts to engage in meaningful license terms over the past two years."

Gutierrez noted that Microsoft has had an open policy with regard to licensing its intellectual property for years and that more than 20 companies are part of its hardware technology licensing program, including companies such as Targus, Fellowes, and RadioShack.

Although other Taiwanese companies have taken a license to Microsoft technology, Gutierrez said that Primax showed no willingness to do so.

"We've actually approached them repeatedly," he said. "The conversations never got anywhere."

Microsoft is suing over seven patents related to two technologies used in computer mice. The first, known as U2, allows a mouse to connect to both USB and PS/2 ports, auto detecting which port is being used. The second, dubbed TiltWheel, has to do with adding additional cursor movement abilities to the mouse via tilting.

Although Microsoft rarely is the plaintiff in patent cases, it has gone to court over its mouse patents before, suing Compton, Calif.-based Belkin back in August 2006. The two sides settled just a few months later, Gutierrez said.