Microsoft settled an intellectual property lawsuit with startup BackWeb on June 3, with the latter company agreeing to license its patents to the software giant. BackWeb, which specializes in communications software technology, alleged in 2009 that Microsoft had infringed on four of its patents.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. BackWeb's original lawsuit claimed that Microsoft's BITS (Background Intelligent Transfer Service) application, which is baked into Windows Update and other services, violated its patents related to file-transfer technology.
"We are pleased to have the litigation resolved," BackWeb CEO Bill Heye wrote in a statement. "We now plan to analyze the company's future plans."
Microsoft's legal actions have dominated its news of late. On May 18, the company filed suit against Salesforce.com, alleging infringement on nine of its patents. While Microsoft has publicly cast that action as a standard-issue patent infringement case, many analysts suggested a larger strategy at work; particularly given the rise in cloud-based productivity applications, a vertical in which Salesforce.com specializes and which Microsoft, whose primacy continues to center on the desktop, seeks to gain mind- and market-share.
"Microsoft considers these to be core patents, ideas that differentiate Microsoft's offerings broadly," Rob Enderle, principal analyst of the Enderle Group, wrote in a May 23 e-mail to eWEEK. "They won't license these and approached Salesforce and Salesforce evidently [blew] them off, likely thinking that Microsoft wouldn't litigate because they rarely do."
The amount of damages in that particular lawsuit remains unspecified, but the cited patents cover very specific areas, including "Method and system for mapping between logical data and physical data," "Method and system for stacking tool bars in a computer display," and "System and method for providing and displaying a Web page having an embedded menu."
However, Microsoft also finds itself firmly in the patent-infringement crosshairs with regard to a number of other companies. On May 17, Microsoft announced it would pay $200 million to settle a patent-infringement lawsuit leveled against it by VirnetX, which builds communication and collaboration technologies. A Texas jury had previously found that Microsoft infringed on two of VirnetX's U.S. patents, and leveled damages of $105.7 million.
Microsoft also continues to be embroiled in a long-running intellectual property lawsuit against Canadian firm i4i, which is arguing that certain versions of Microsoft Word violate its custom XML-related patents. On May 11, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office confirmed the validity of i4i's patent, in what was considered a setback for Microsoft's case.