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Court bars Microsoft from shipping networking feature

Company accuses Microsoft of patent infringement

A court is blocking Microsoft from using a networking feature planned for the future operating system code-named Longhorn and a service pack for Windows Server 2003 that had been scheduled to come out last year.

The US District Court for the Northern District of California has granted software company Alacritech's request for an injunction to keep Microsoft from using the TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) offload technology that Microsoft has code-named "Chimney".

The technology was to have been included in the Scalable Networking Pack for Windows Server 2003, set for release in the second half of 2004, according to information on Microsoft's website.

TCP is the key protocol used in most IP (Internet Protocol) data networks. TCP offload technology shifts the burden of handling TCP tasks away from the main processor of a server or workstation, leaving more capacity for application processing.

Alacritech claims it discussed its patented SLIC technology with Microsoft in 1998 and that Microsoft subsequently cut off communication with the company. In May 2003 Microsoft demonstrated a technology it called "Chimney" that Alacritech said was similar to its own intellectual property.

Alacritech offered Microsoft a license, but Microsoft rejected Alacritech's terms, and in August 2004, Alacritech filed suit claiming patent infringement. In November it filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to keep Microsoft from infringing the patent or inducing others to do so, according to Alacritech's statement.

A Microsoft spokesperson said that Chimney was independently developed by Microsoft engineers. The company has received the documents on the injunction and is reviewing its options, she said. Drake said the Scalable Networking Pack has not yet shipped, but did not know whether the lawsuit had stalled its release. She declined to comment on a possible licensing deal to resolve the dispute.


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