On October 27, the Supreme Court for the United States (SCotUS) agreed to review a patent infringement suit, filed by AT&T against Microsoft. The undisputed facts are illustrated in the picture above (respectfully copied from Patently-O.) Microsoft generated a software code in the US for its infamous Windows operating system, which included a code for synthetic speech technology patented by AT&T. Microsoft then produced software from that code in the US and abroad. That software produced and sold in the US, Microsoft has admitted, infringed AT&T's patent no. 32,580 (the '580 patent.) But that software produced and sold abroad presents the issue in this case, likely to be argued in February of '07 according to SCotUS Blog.
The questions presented in Microsoft's petition for cert. read:
In certain circumstances, Section 271(f) of the Patent Act prohibits the "suppl[y] . . . from the United States . . . [of] all or substantial portion of the components of a patented invention . . . in such manner as to actively induce the combination of such components outside of the United States," as well as the "suppl[y] . . . from the United States [of] any component of a patented invention that is especially made or especially adapted for use in the invention." 35 U.S.C. 271(f)(1) and (2). For purposes of that statute, the questions presented are:
- Whether software object code can be a component of a patented invention; and, if so,
- Whether copies of software object code are "supplie[d]" from the United States when those copies are created overseas by replicating a separate master version supplied from the United States.
In other words, does following the treasure map above lead one to infringement?