Skip to main content

Microsoft Sued Over Windows Update

Looks as though Microsoft is being smacked around left and right, as this time the company faces a patent infringement regarding the Windows Update process. Doh.

Windows Update has been a part of Microsoft's operating system since... well, at least since Windows 98. The system is part of the OS backbone, providing security fixes, feature improvements, and updated drivers imperative to the operating system's continued functionality. However, it seems that Microsoft has crossed the line somehow by providing this embedded technology, infringing on a 1999 patent filed by Israeli company Backweb Technologies (PDF). Now Microsoft faces a full-fledged lawsuit, filed in the San Francisco federal court this past Friday.

To be quick to the point, the actual filing reads as follows: "Method and apparatus for transmitting and displaying information between a remote network and a local computer." The lawsuit charges that Microsoft's Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), originally released in Windows XP back in 2001, actually infringes on four U.S. patents owned by Backweb. The company is seeking damages, an injunction, and a declaration by the Court that Microsoft's software update technologies infringe BackWeb's patents. Unfortunately for Microsoft, not only is the BITS product used regularly for Office, Internet Explorer, and Windows, but other companies developing Windows-based applications use BITS as well.

Although debuted back in 2001, the BITS technology is now an embedded service within Windows Vista, Server 2003, and Server 2008. BITS is actually a file transfer service, performing either in the foreground or background, and throttles the transfers to preserve the responsiveness of other network applications. The BITS service thus automatically resumes file transfers after machine reboots and network disconnects. Microsoft began to commercially distribute v3.0 back in 2007, granting the capability to transfer files in a peer-to-peer networking fashion.

"Microsoft manufactures, uses, and sells products that infringe the three Transparent Update Patents," reads the complaint. "With the introduction of BITS Ver. 3.0, Microsoft has also infringed BackWeb's '289 Patent.'"

Microsoft has been under fire for some time now, facing charges that the company allegedly knew about faulty Xbox 360 hardware issues before shipping the initial batch. Microsoft also recently settled another patent-infringement issue with PalTalk holdings in relation to the Xbox Live Service. The company has also faced recent problems overseas, accused of monopolizing the browser market by embedding Internet Explorer into the Windows operating system; the browser is now optional.

For the moment, Microsoft has not issued an official statement, only claiming that the company has yet to receive the complaint.