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Microsoft patent dispute heats up

InterTrust Technologies files a second patent infringement lawsuit against the software giant, targeting technology that helps connect audio players and other peripherals to PCs.

InterTrust Technologies, a digital rights management company, said Thursday that it has filed a second patent infringement lawsuit against Microsoft, targeting technology that helps connect audio players and other peripherals to PCs.

InterTrust, which makes software that protects songs and videos from being illegally copied, alleges that Microsoft infringed on its patent for technology that certifies and authenticates drivers. Driver software allows computer peripherals--such as printers, game consoles, and audio and video players--to connect with computers. InterTrust's technology, which was awarded a patent in December 2000, ensures that the drivers are compatible with an operating system.

The lawsuit comes shortly after Microsoft told employees that security will become the company's top priority. The new initiative, dubbed "Trustworthy Computing," is a shift from the company's focus on software features.

InterTrust said its lawsuit aims at Microsoft's "Plug and Play" Driver Certification Program, which it cites as an important component of the software company's new security initiative. InterTrust said it believes the program is also central to Windows XP and other Microsoft operating system products.

"What this lawsuit demonstrates is the importance of trusted computing to the market in general and that InterTrust's core set of inventions starting in the early to mid-1990s anticipated what others, like Microsoft, now realize in 2002 is very important," said Ed Fish, executive vice president of InterTrust. "InterTrust is prepared and has the resources to see this all the way through."

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal disputes between the software giant from Redmond, Wash., and the smaller Santa Clara, Calif.-based company. Over the past year, the pair has been embroiled in a web of legal tangles over anti-piracy technology. In October, InterTrust expanded its initial patent infringement suit against Microsoft, targeting the Windows XP operating system and .Net initiative; that suit was originally filed in April.

Microsoft declined to comment on the latest patent suit, saying it has yet to review the filing. However, company spokesman Jim Desler said, "In general, this is yet another in a series of legal filings by InterTrust whose sole focus appears to be on litigation rather than innovation."

InterTrust said its latest lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, seeks unspecified damages and an injunction that would prohibit Microsoft's use of the technology.