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Avistar Winning Microsoft Patent Challenges

A couple of months ago, RCPU brought you the tale of Avistar, a maker of video-conferencing software that was facing potentially fatal challenges of 29 of its U.S. patents from none other than Redmond itself.

Back then, we held -- as we do now -- that Microsoft was just trying to put a struggling company out of business and snake its stuff in order to bolster Redmond's own growing unified communications capabilities. Of course, not everybody shared our take, but we've stuck with it.

So, it was with a bit of a non-objective sideways grin that we received word today (as did everybody else; it came out in a press release) that the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has rejected, thus far, 14 of the 29 challenges to Avistar's patents put forth by Microsoft. To this point, the press release said, the USPTO has agreed to reexamine nine of the patents, so Avistar is still in danger of losing a few battles.

While we don't know the details of all 29 patents and can't comment on which ones might or might not be legitimate (and while we'll allow that some are probably stronger than others), we were never comfortable with the fact that Microsoft threw all 29 -- pretty much Avistar's entire U.S. patent lot -- up for reexamination. So, yeah, we're kind of pleased by today's news, honestly. It sort of feels like justice, and there's not always a lot of that in today's tech industry, with its domination by a few giant vendors.

Again, we're not anti-Microsoft; we defend Redmond all the time here. We're just glad to see that a smaller competitor is fighting in the face of a wealthier (and ill-behaving, in this case, we believe) monster and is actually winning a battle or two. If nothing else, it makes for an interesting story to follow.

Have any more comments on Avistar or on how Microsoft sometimes does business? Shoot them to lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 06/03/2008 at 1:22 PM


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