Microsoft Loses Intellectual Property Battle in Chinese Court

 
 
By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2009-11-18 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Microsoft finds itself under fire from a Chinese court, which ruled that older versions of Windows violate an intellectual property agreement between Microsoft and Beijing-based software company Zhongyi Electronic. The property in question is two Chinese fonts used in Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Microsoft is also fighting a handful of stateside battles over patents and intellectual property.

A Chinese court ruled on Nov. 16 that Microsoft had violated the intellectual property rights of a Beijing-based software company, Zhongyi Electronic, in its use of two Chinese fonts.

The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court ruled that Microsoft's use of those fonts in Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 went beyond the original license agreement between the two companies. Microsoft has been ordered to stop selling those operating systems in China.

While the ruling does not affect sales of Windows 7, both licensed and pirated versions of XP remain popular in China.

What features are missing in Windows 7? Click here for our list.

"We believe our license agreements with Zhongyi cover in full our use of their technology," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail to eWEEK. "We plan to appeal the decision for the copyright case."

Microsoft's opposite number in the case seems equally prepared to continue the fight into the appeals process.

"The case dragged on for a long time and the scale and impact of the case was very large," a spokesperson for Zhongyi Electronic told AFP, suggesting that the company would ask the court for "large" damage compensation.

Microsoft is involved in other intellectual property battles as well. Earlier in 2009, Canadian company i4i sued Microsoft for allegedly incorporating its code into Microsoft Word. The court originally ruled in favor of i4i, and ordered Microsoft to pay nearly $300 million in accumulated fines and pull all copies of Word from store shelves by mid-October; however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit later ruled on appeal that Microsoft could keep selling its word processing platform during the remainder of the case.

A comparatively minor tempest erupted the week of Nov. 9, when Microsoft took responsibility for a third-party developer lifting code from a CodePlex-hosted open-source project to build its free Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool.

"While we had contracted with a third party to create the tool, we share responsibility as we did not catch it as part of our code review process," Peter Galli, open-source community manager for Microsoft's Platform Strategy group, wrote on Microsoft-affiliated Website Port25 on Nov. 13. "We had furthermore conducted a review of other code provided through the Microsoft Store and this was the only incident of this sort we could find."

Microsoft promised to make the source code and the binaries for the tool available under the terms of General Public License v2, which governs the ImageMaster project from which the code originated.

 
 
 
 
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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