While Microsoft has numerous patent cross-license agreements in place (including with dozens of smartphone, tablet and netbook manufacturers who pay Microsoft considerable amounts of royalties on devices powered by Google's Android and Chrome operating systems), it rarely goes to court--and far more often than Microsoft takes anyone to court, other patent holders sue it. Those plaintiffs are typically NPEs. Yesterday, however, Corel Software filed a patent infringement complaint against Microsoft in the District of Utah (this post continues below the document):
This is not the first time Corel enforces patents. In 2013, its Micrografx subsidiary sued Google and a couple of Android device makers.
Microsoft Office for Android is also mentioned specifically (though not exclusively) in Corel's complaint against Microsoft, which alleges that the LivePreview feature of key Microsoft Office apps--Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint--infringes patents on claimed inventions covering WordPerfect's RealTime preview feature (WordPerfect belongs to Corel):
U.S. Patent No. 6,731,309 on "Real time preview"
U.S. Patent No 7,827,483 on "Real time preview"
U.S. Patent No. 8,700,996 on "Real time preview"
Corel alleges that Microsoft's infringement is willful. Among other things, the complaint says that "[i]n or around 2011, representatives for Corel engaged in communications with Microsoft regarding the potential sale of certain Corel patents to Microsoft, including [two of the three patents-in-suit]." The theories behind Corel's willfulness allegations also include citations by Microsoft patent applications to some of those patents and the rejection of Microsoft patent applications by the United States Patent and Trademark Office because of certain Corel/WordPerfect patents.
Microsoft is known to try to win the race to the courthouse and file declaratory judgment complaints in its home district, the Western District of Washington, in anticipation of infringement actions brought elsewhere (especially if those could be filed in the Eastern District of Texas, which Corel opted not to do). I haven't been able to find a declaratory judgment filing in the Western District of Washington by Microsoft against Corel, however. It could be that Microsoft didn't necessarily expect Corel to bring an infringement case at this time.
It's strategically clear that what Corel really wants is (still) to sell those patents to Microsoft. WordPerfect is history, so there's no commercial reason for which Corel would need them.
I guess Corel has a good chance of getting Microsoft to buy these patents now--maybe not immediately, but before this case goes to trial. If Microsoft lost this case, damages could be substantial. And while I haven't analyzed this in detail, it's possible that Microsoft's best chance to defeat those patents would be to allege invalidity under § 101 in light of the Supreme Court's Alice ruling (abstract subject matter)--but such an interpretation of Alice would also affect countless Microsoft patents, including some rather important ones.
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