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8/18/2009
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Microsoft Hit With Two More Patent Suits

It's open season on Redmond in Eastern Texas jurisdiction as more actions emerge in wake of i4i victory.

A Texas judge's order that Microsoft pay more than $240 million in damages to an obscure Canadian firm and stop selling its popular Word program within 60 days appears to have triggered more patent suits against the software maker in the plaintiff-friendly Lone Star State, InformationWeek has learned.

Allvoice Developments US, a provider of speech recognition systems, and mobile software developer EMG Technology both filed suits against Microsoft in recent days in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Texas, where judge Leonard Davis a week ago ruled in favor of Toronto-based i4i in its action against Microsoft.

Allvoice claims that speech recognition support built into Windows XP and Windows Vista violates its patent on the technology. Allvoice also alleges that Microsoft discussed using its technology in Windows but later rejected it. Allvoice is seeking unspecified damages against Microsoft.

EMG, meanwhile, contends that Microsoft's Windows CE, PocketPC, and Windows Mobile products infringe its patent for viewing Web content on a mobile device. EMG also lists investment broker Scottrade and Southwest Airlines in its complaint.

EMG is seeking unspecified damages.

While the actions might ordinarily be dismissed as nuisance suits brought by patent trolls (EMG, which has a barely functioning Web site, previously filed a case against Apple), Judge Davis' stunning order last week in favor of i4i shows anything's possible in the Eastern Texas federal court jurisdiction.

A 2006 New York Times article labeled the Eastern District's Marshall, Texas base "the patent lawsuit capital of the nation, where plaintiffs are more likely to get a favorable judgment." Some of the Court's rulings have raised concerns about software patents and sparked calls for reform.

Davis last week took the unprecedented step of ordering Microsoft to stop selling Word 2003 and Word 2007 in the U.S. within 60 days. The decision shows just how far Eastern Texas jurists are willing to go—not only at the expense of corporations but also at that of consumers—to protect what they see as patent plaintiff's rights.

Microsoft said it plans to appeal Davis' ruling. On Friday, the company filed an emergency motion that would forestall its having to post a bond against the millions in dollars in damages Davis levied against it—including $40 million the judge imposed for what he said was Microsoft attorneys' trial misconduct.

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