Microsoft Wins Patent Lawsuit That Targeted Xbox Game Systems

Microsoft Wins Patent Lawsuit That Targeted Xbox Game System
Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., speaks during a meeting in Singapore. Photographer: Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg

Aug. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp., the world’s biggest software maker, won a court ruling that its Xbox video-game system doesn’t infringe a patent over multiplayer gaming, ending a six-year legal battle.

U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman in Detroit on July 20 dismissed the 2004 lawsuit against Microsoft brought by inventors Peter Hochstein and Jeffrey Tennenbaum along with Harold Milton Jr., who owns rights to the patent. The men had been demanding royalties on Xbox sales, plus an order barring further use of their invention.

The patent, issued in 1994, is for a device that lets two or more people play video games together without being in the same location, such as over a telephone line. The men claimed that could be construed to cover all systems that can have multiple players, like the Xbox.

Borman ruled that the patent only covered game systems that are electrically connected. Such a connection doesn’t include the type of link among players used by the Xbox, the judge said.

The Michigan men also sued Sony Corp., maker of the PlayStation video-game system. That case was settled. Lawyers for the men didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment. Kevin Kutz, a spokesman for Microsoft, said the Redmond, Washington-based company was pleased with the decision.

The case is Hochstein v. Microsoft, 04-73071, U.S. District Court for the District of Michigan (Detroit).

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net