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Supreme Court won't review Microsoft patent case

Software maker had sought justices' ruling in case that could determine payment of browser-related royalties.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider an appeal by Microsoft in a case involving claims by a privately held California software firm and the University of California that Microsoft infringed their patents with its Internet Explorer browser.

Without comment, the high court rejected an appeal by Microsoft that it said involved more than 64 percent of the $521 million patent infringement ruling against the software giant.

Microsoft sought review of an appeals court ruling that allows the privately held firm Eolas Technologies and the University of California to seek royalties based on the foreign manufacture and sale of an infringing software-related product.

At issue is a ruling in March by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which reversed an earlier $521 million verdict against Microsoft. Even though Microsoft essentially won on appeal in reversing the verdict, the company still appealed to the Supreme Court on another aspect of the ruling that leaves it open to damages when the case goes back for further proceedings.

Microsoft said the appeals court ruled that all foreign-made and sold computers on which Windows software has been installed by foreign manufacturers can infringe a U.S. patent because the software was designed in the United States and because of the replication abroad of a single disk on which the software code had been recorded.

The original verdict, delivered in 2003 by an Illinois jury, concluded that parts of Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser had infringed on technology developed by Eolas and the University of California.

The case sparked concerns that Microsoft would have to alter its Internet browser, making it unable to run certain applets, or mini applications, that run on Web pages. Microsoft's browser is used by nine of every 10 Web surfers.

Internet standards groups, including the World Wide Web Consortium, had argued that pre-existing inventions may invalidate Eolas' patent claims.

By denying Microsoft's appeal, the Supreme Court cleared the way for the case to go back to federal court in Illinois for more proceedings.