Microsoft faces trial over 'autoplay' feature

Microsoft faces a trial in a patent infringement suit over the "autoplay" feature in Windows that automatically starts an...

Microsoft faces a trial in a patent infringement suit over the "autoplay" feature in Windows that automatically starts an application after storage media is loaded into a PC.

Little-known TV Interactive Data (TVI) sued Microsoft in May 2002, seeking damages and an injunction barring Microsoft from further infringement. Microsoft flagged the case in its quarterly regulatory filing with the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) last week.

TVI has alleged that Microsoft infringes on four of its US patents, three entitled "host device equipped with means for starting a process in response to detecting insertion of a storage media" and one entitled "method for starting up a process automatically on insertion of a storage media into a host device".

Additionally, TVI charged that a Microsoft patent, entitled "method and system for automatically running a program" interferes with the TVI patents as it covers a TVI invention.

Microsoft denied infringement and claimed TVI's patents are invalid - a common response in patent infringement cases.

A meeting to try to settle the case without a trial has been set for 20 February. A trial had been set for July, but has been moved to September. .

Microsoft is the defendant in more than 30 patent cases, but only three were listed in last week's filing to the SEC. The others are the high-profile case brought by Eolas Technologies and the University of California over Internet Explorer and a case brought by InterTrust Technologies over Digital Rights Management and other technologies.

In the Eolas case, Microsoft has been ordered to pay damages of $520m. The InterTrust case involves a large number of Microsoft products and is scheduled to go to trial next year.

Microsoft warned a verdict for InterTrust could have an adverse effect on the distribution of Windows or Office.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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