A preliminary injunction in a patent infringement suit filed by Alacritech could keep Microsoft's Longhorn
from getting out of the gate.
Microsoft plans to ship its next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, in 2006. But Alacritech claims
Longhorn includes its intellectual property.
On Wednesday, a district court judge granted the networking and storage software vendor a preliminary
injunction that could prevent the world's largest software maker from making, using, offering for sale, selling,
importing or inducing others to use its "Chimney" TCP offload architecture.
TCP Chimney, which offloads the TCP protocol stack to a Network Interface Card for better network
performance, is slated for use in both Longhorn and in the Scalable Networking Pack for Windows Server
Alacritech sued Microsoft in Federal District Court on August 11, 2004, alleging that Microsoft's existing
and future operating systems containing the "Chimney" TCP offload architecture uses Alacritech's SLIC
The suit is based on two of Alacritech's fundamental patents relating to scalable networking: U.S. Patent
No. 6,427,171 and U.S. Patent No. 6,697,868, both entitled "Protocol Processing Stack for use with
Intelligent Network Interface Device."
Alacritech claims to be the sole provider of network acceleration products for Microsoft Windows-based
systems. It has been issued sixteen patents covering the fundamentals of network data placement,
protocol offload, protocol acceleration and file cache offload.
According to Alacritech, the company met with Microsoft and described its own Dynamic TCP Offload
architecture, known as SLIC Technology, under a non-disclosure agreement in September 1998. Then, in
April 1999, at Microsoft's request, it delivered a detailed document describing how SLIC could be integrated
with Windows. It then shipped its first product based on SLIC in April 2000.
Microsoft broke off communications with Alacritech in June 1999, according to Alacritech, then presented
Chimney in May 2003.
Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake told internetnews.com that Alacritech learned about Microsoft's
Chimney technology when it was announced at the Windows Hardware and Engineering Conference in
"As an intellectual property company, we invest heavily in research and development, and are committed to
respecting the intellectual property rights of others," she said.
Drake said Alacritech was one of a number of offload vendors that Microsoft worked with "to validate the
design, in its early state." She would not comment on whether licensing discussions between the two
companies ever took place.
"After Alacritech discovered that Microsoft Chimney is based on intellectual property that we developed,
patented and own, we offered Microsoft a license," Larry Boucher, president and CEO of Alacritech, said in
a statement. "Microsoft rejected licensing terms that would be acceptable to us. We were forced to sue
Microsoft to stop them from continuing to infringe, and inducing others to infringe, on our intellectual
property rights." The company refused further comment.
Alacritech's story is similar to that of Burst.com, which won a $60 million settlement and license
agreement from Microsoft in March. The provider of technology to accelerate the delivery of video and audio
over IP networks claimed that Microsoft stole technology and trade secrets acquired during two years of
negotiations, incorporating Burst.com intellectual property into Windows Media Player.