National Roundup

Washington

Court says Microsoft must pay in patent case

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Microsoft Corp. must pay a $290 million judgment awarded to a small Toronto software company for infringing on one of its patents inside its popular Microsoft Word program.

The high court unanimously refused to throw out the judgment against the world's largest software maker.

Toronto-based i4i sued Microsoft in 2007, saying it owned the technology behind a tool used in Microsoft Word. The technology in question gave Word 2003 and Word 2007 users an improved way to edit XML, which is computer code that tells the program how to interpret and display a document's contents.

The lower courts say Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft willfully infringed on the patent, and ordered the world's largest software maker to pay i4i $290 million and stop selling versions of Word containing the infringing technology.

Microsoft wanted the multimillion dollar judgment against it erased because it claims a judge used the wrong standard in instructing the jury that came up with the award.

The software company said a jury should determine a patent's validity by a "preponderance" of the evidence instead of the more heightened "clear and convincing" evidence standard instructed by the judge.

The Supreme Court said the "clear and convincing" standard was the correct one.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote the court's opinion, said the courts have interpreted the law the same way for 30 years. During this period, Congress has often amended the patent law, she said.

"Not once, so far as we (and Microsoft) are aware, has it even considered a proposal to lower the standard of proof," Sotomayor said.

Microsoft now sells versions of Word that do not contain the technology in question.

Chief Justice John Roberts did not take part in the consideration or judgment in this case because he owns Microsoft Corp. stock.

The case is Microsoft Corp. v. i4i Limited Partnership, 10-290.

Mississippi

Payment by attorney general in MCI case at issue

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- A group of lawyers awarded $14 million for their work to collect more than $100 million for the state has told the Mississippi Supreme Court that no attorney would work for the state if they had to depend on the Legislature for compensation.

The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit that attacks a law that allows the attorney general to hire lawyers from outside his office to handle legal cases.

A Hinds County judge in 2010 upheld $14 million in fees paid to two attorneys for handling a state lawsuit against telecommunications giant MCI.

Fred Krutz of Jackson, who represents the group of attorneys, told the justices that the lawyers would have been entitled to $17 million and plans to pursue that amount if the court sides with the state auditor.

"Mississippi got a lot more (in the settlement) than any of the 17 other states," he said.

He compared the $14 million to an "attorney lien."

"The $14 million in attorney fees was never the property of the state," he said.

Ridgeland attorney Arthur Jernigan Jr., representing State Auditor Stacey Pickering, said the money the attorneys received for pursuing the MCI case on behalf of the state is public funds and only can be appropriated by the Legislature.

"The Legislature holds the purse strings," he said and should have a say in the size of the fees paid attorneys.

Krutz said, however, that the state "could get the benefit of the contract (with the private attorney) and then renege on paying all the fees."

The lawsuit over the legal fees was originally filed by Phil Bryant, a Republican now lieutenant governor and a candidate for governor. Pickering, also a Republican, picked up the fight after succeeding Bryant as state auditor in 2008.

Joey Langston and Timothy Balducci in 2005 negotiated the legal fees separate from a settlement with MCI in a lawsuit they filed on behalf of the state. They were later disbarred after pleading guilty in an unrelated judicial bribery investigation.

A Hinds County judge said state law allows the attorney general to hire outside lawyers. He said the lawyers received no funds from the state and the legal fees are "separate and apart" from what the state received in the MCI settlement.

California

Police: Computer tech installed peeping software

FULLERTON, Calif. (AP) -- A Southern California computer repairman suspected of installing spyware on laptops that enabled him to snap and download photographs of women showering and undressing in their homes was arrested Wednesday at his home, police said.

Police began investigating when a Fullerton resident complained about suspicious messages appearing on his daughter's computer last year. Trevor Harwell installed software that took control of computer webcams on his clients' Mac laptops, Fullerton police Sgt. Andrew Goodrich said. He was released later Wednesday after posting $50,000 bond, Goodrich said.

The software sent fake error messages telling users to "fix their internal sensor soon," and "try putting your laptop near hot steam for several minutes to clean the sensor," Goodrich said.

The error message prompted some victims to take their laptops into the bathroom with them when they showered, he said.

"Once he had access, he would take photographs of the users, usually women," Goodrich said. "Often, the female victims were undressed or changing clothes. Harwell then stored the photos on a remote server, and eventually downloaded them on his own computer."

Detectives seized hundreds of thousands of still images and videos from Harwell's computer and identified several victims, Goodrich said.

Investigators believe Harwell, a technician for Rezitech Inc., may have exploited computers connected to Biola University's internal network. Harwell, 20, is a former student at the La Mirada Christian college, where many of the victims attended.

Orange County Superior Court records show that Harwell faces 12 felony counts of computer access and fraud.

Rezitech spokesman Travis Austin said the company took immediate action to cut off Harwell's access to their systems and data, and is cooperating with investigators.

Harwell did not commit any of the alleged offenses while working for Rezitech, Austin said.

Published: Fri, Jun 10, 2011

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