April 5, 2006 12:27 PM PDT

Lucent sues Microsoft over Xbox technology

Lucent Technologies has filed a patent infringement suit against Microsoft over the same MPEG-2 decoding technology at the center of a 2003 legal dispute.

According to the formal complaint, filed March 28 in U.S. District Court in San Diego, the telecommunications equipment maker is suing Microsoft for patent infringement against Patent No. 5,227,878, titled "Adaptive Coding and Decoding of Frames and Fields of Video," which was issued to Lucent in 1993.

The patent concerns MPEG-2 video encoding.

In 2003, Lucent filed infringement cases against Dell and Gateway over several patents, including No. 5,227,878. Because of its indemnity agreements with the companies Lucent was going after, Microsoft filed a countersuit against Lucent that same year.

Although Microsoft won several patent infringement claims on summary judgment, the claim concerning Patent No. 5,227,878 was dismissed without prejudice (meaning the lawsuit can be filed again if the problems are fixed) because of a typographical error in Lucent's patent.

"The judge dismissed the countersuit without prejudice, giving Lucent the opportunity to file for a patent correction, which we did," John Skalko, a spokesman for Lucent, told CNET News.com. "However, between the time of this original dismissal and our re-submission, there was another development. Microsoft issued the 360."

The typographical error in the patent concerned the phrase "compressed video bit stream," which has been corrected to read "compressed digital video bit stream and fields of compressed video bit stream."

The Certification of Correction to the patent that allowed the correct phrasing to be put back in was issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on October 2005. The certification gives Lucent "the same effect and operation in law on the trial of actions for causes thereafter arising as if the same had been originally issued in such corrected form."

According to the complaint filed by Lucent, the alleged infringement on this patent concerns the Xbox 360's "'out of the box' MPEG-2 decoding capability."

"The patent at issue is one that previously had been asserted by Lucent in connection with patent litigation between the parties since 2003. We're currently reviewing the complaint. Microsoft is an intellectual property company and we respect the intellectual property rights of others," Microsoft said in a statement.

Said Skalko, "We have a case. Otherwise it wouldn't be in court."

Lucent has requested a jury trial and is seeking an injunction against unauthorized use of the technology and unspecified damages.

See more CNET content tagged:
Lucent Technologies Inc., patent, patent infringement, MPEG-2, intellectual property

8 comments

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Lucents last breath
of air before dying a slow unbearable death.

Lucent who?

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.nyse.com/about/listed/lcddata.html?ticker=LU&#38;fq=D&#38;ezd=1Y&#38;index=5" target="_newWindow">http://www.nyse.com/about/listed/lcddata.html?ticker=LU&#38;fq=D&#38;ezd=1Y&#38;index=5</a>
Posted by SystemsJunky (409 comments )
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I'm confused
Does that mean that every DVD manufacturer has to pay Lucent a license fee for use of MPEG-2 decoders?

Because if so, that is outrageous. MPEG-2 was developed by a task force of engineers and meant to be in the public domain. It does not belong to any specific company.
Posted by thenet411 (415 comments )
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Well... not quite.
That was my reaction as well when I read the article. But of course cNet never gives you enough true facts in any of their articles to form any sort of informed opinion so I started parsing through the actual patent filing - all gazillion pages of it.

The patent appears to be on the ability to encode and transmit a stream of video using 'codec A' then switch to 'codec B' midstream. For example, if you were streaming a video of a person while there were sitting, you might broadcast it using Intel Indeo which is good for "talking heads" and very bandwidth conservative and clear. However if the person were to suddenly get up and start moving around, you might want to broadcast it using Cinepak, which is better for fast motion action shots, so you might 'change the codec' midstream.

It sounds like Lucent is claiming that they had this idea ever since 1991, then chose not to enforce it until 2006. Real, Quicktime, Windows Media, Macromedia, and a ton of other companies already implement this technology into their products.

The Xbox360 probably uses it for their upcoming videophone capability to optimize bandwidth usage. It's actually supposed to be quite rich and it'll be a pity of Lucent gets away with this because the cost will simply be rolled into the consumer purchase of the Xbo360 video camera in the same way that the XBox Original's DVD remote contained the cost of MPEG decoding; I don't really see how Lucent's VERY ALLEGED technology IP is actually ever used unless variable-codec video encoding is being transmitted and received.
Posted by bruinsensei (16 comments )
Link Flag
Lucent, Microsoft's NPR
It's not like Lucent owns all of the rights to MPEG-2. My company works with the technology as well. It sounds to me like Lucent has some obscure patent on a very specific technology. Microsoft should just take a page from RIM, the blackberry people and negotiate a low settlement early, before they push the number to astronomical levels.
Posted by russ1985 (158 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hmmm
Thus encouraging the "perpetual lawsuit" mindset...
Posted by yipcanjo (75 comments )
Link Flag
You Know...
...I dislike M$ as much as the next guy, but all these constant lawsuits against them are getting pretty pathetic. Everyone just wants so slice of the pie.

Yet the 435,346th reason the patent system needs MAJOR work.
Posted by BlinkMM182 (63 comments )
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law suites
Please excouse me. I was pointing my finger up and did not know some lawyer thought it was pantened. I will still give all the lawyerrs the bird!!!!!
Posted by sally3745 (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Time to Fix Patents
This Patent stuff is getting really stupid. It's time to get rid of software patents and lawyers. The economy would see a nice big improvement. Enough to offset the firing of all the useless societal leeches (lawyers).
Posted by ejryder3 (39 comments )
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