Patent Claims Are a Red Herring, Microsoft Says

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Legal organizations scrutinizing the legitimacy of Microsoft Corp.'s patent on automatic IP address generation have an "anti-patent" agenda, according to Microsoft.

"This isn't the first time we've seen these groups [the Public Patent Foundation and the Software Freedom Law Center] make accusations about Microsoft patents," said David Kaefer, Microsoft's director of intellectual property licensing, in an interview with eWEEK.com.

"It's been the case before that people have offered misleading claims, primarily because those people oppose software patents but use issues like this one to sow uncertainty about the patent process itself."

The brouhaha broke Tuesday, after a lawyer for Kenyon & Kenyon brought to eWEEK.com's attention patent USP 6,101,499, filed in 1998 and issued to Microsoft in 2000.

The patent covers technology that bears "more than a passing similarity" to IPv6, one of the backbones of the Internet, according to the lawyer, Frank Bernstein.

Bernstein represents a company-whose name he declined to disclose-that offers open-source products, he said. Bernstein said he also brought the patent to the attention of legal organizations before contacting eWEEK.com.

At the crux of the matter are allegations that Microsoft failed to disclose prior work done by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) on the technology in question when it applied for the patent in April 1998.

PubPat's investigations have uncovered several references to the technology that count as prior art to the patent, Ravicher said, including several RFCs (requests for consensus) from the IETF's IPv6 working group.

Several Microsoft engineers who were involved in the IETF working group also show up as inventors listed on the patent, Ravicher said-a circumstance that may rule out the possibility that Microsoft's left hand didn't know what its right hand was doing.

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