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InterTrust to use patent against Microsoft

The company receives a new patent it says it will use against the software giant in an intellectual property dispute that could affect music and other content.

    InterTrust on Tuesday said it has received a new patent that it will use against Microsoft in a closely watched intellectual property dispute that could affect the way consumers access music and other digital content.

    InterTrust, which makes digital rights management software designed to help copyright owners control distribution of their material, was awarded a new patent on a method of transferring digital content between computing devices. The company said it plans to add the patent claim to a suit it filed against Microsoft in April.

    In that suit, InterTrust claims Microsoft violated its patents by including anti-copying technology similar to InterTrust's in its software for storing and playing music and video files on a personal computer.

    The original suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, addressed only one patent, which covers a technological method of securely downloading material. The second patent now included in the claim covers a technological mechanism that allows digital-rights-protected content to be transferred among authenticated devices. InterTrust applied for both patents in 1995.

    The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has about 80 other patent applications pending and may expand the suit if it receives other relevant patents. InterTrust is seeking unspecified damages and asking a judge to prevent Microsoft from shipping products that contain the disputed technology.

    Edmund Fish, president of the company's MetaTrust Utility Division, said InterTrust officials held "a long series of business and technical discussions over a period of years" with Microsoft. But the talks ended late last year without a partnership. Fish said details of Microsoft's DRM software appeared on the company site after that, so InterTrust decided to sue.

    "We believe that they willfully infringed this intellectual property," he said.

    InterTrust has partnerships with many software, hardware and content companies, including Adobe, Sony and Bertelsmann.

    Microsoft has been busy trying to lure big-name record companies with its multimedia plans, telling them its Windows Media Player contains strong anti-piracy features. However, the InterTrust suit could dampen those plans if a court rules against Microsoft and forces it to disable some parts of its digital rights technology.

    Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said the software giant had not seen the amended complaint and could not comment specifically, but he accused InterTrust of turning to the courts to solve its business problems instead of relying on the market. "This is an act of desperation, it appears," he said.