Tech Industry

Microsoft wins Smart Tags case

A jury decides the Office technology doesn't impose on another software maker's patent.

A jury ruled in Microsoft's favor late on Wednesday, deciding that a feature in recent versions of Office doesn't infringe on a patent held by another software maker.

In 2002, small Norwegian company Arendi Holdings filed a lawsuit charging Microsoft with violating its patent for a "method, system and computer-readable medium for addressing handling from a computer program."

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

Arendi had alleged that 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.

The case went to trial earlier this month in the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island, and jurors heard nearly two weeks of increasingly technical testimony.

Jurors agreed with the first part of Microsoft's defense, which argued that the technology covered by the Arendi patent is fundamentally different from Smart Tags. The jury upheld the validity of the patent, however, rejecting Microsoft's argument that similar technology existed before the patent application was filed.

The case attracted significant interest within Microsoft, with Senior Vice President Steven Sinofsky, head of the company's Office division, attending most of the trial. On Thursday, Sinofsky applauded the ruling.

"We appreciate the jury's thoughtful consideration of this case and are pleased with their decision," he said in a statement. "The development of new technologies is critical to our success and the growth of our industry, and as we've stated from the beginning of this case, Microsoft's Smart Tags technology is the result of our own innovation and was developed by our own engineers using Microsoft technology."

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