Six patents key to case against Apple and Microsoft

UK-based BTG is seeking unspecified damages against the two US giants for alleged patent infringement, based on half a dozen patents filed over the last 10 years

The British Technology Group International's (BTG) lawsuit against Microsoft and Apple for alleged infringement of its software technology, filed on Tuesday, hinges on six patents.

The first patent was filed in May 1994 and granted by the United States patent and trademark office in December 1997.

It was described as a "system for automatic unattended electronic information transport between a server and a client by a vendor provided transport software with a manifest list". The summary of the patent explained that it solved the problem of "enabling simple, economical and prompt mass distribution of electronic information products".

Five other patents followed. All were filed by inventor Richard Reisman, president and founder of Teleshuttle. He began his association with BTG in 1998.

ZDNet UK reported last month that BTG was pursuing several technology companies which it claimed had created software products that fell within the remit of its patents. At the time the company refused to name the companies it was talking to, but revealed that its claim extended to software and virus-protection updates.

The lawsuits against Apple and Microsoft were both filed in the US District Court in the Northern District of California on Tuesday.

One suit, which targets both companies, alleges they have infringed on Teleshuttle patents covering Web-enabled software update technologies. Automatic software update technology is part of Microsoft's Windows operating system and Apple's OS X.

A second, separate, suit alleges infringement of Teleshuttle Technologies' patents by Microsoft's active desktop and offline browsing technologies.

The lawsuits ask for unspecified damages for what BTG called 'past infringing activity' and an injunction against future use of the technology.

The lawsuits come after what BTG said were delays in entering into a licensing agreement with BTG on "commercially reasonable terms".

The United States patent and trademark office's Web site offers details of the six patents. Much of the explanatory information regarding the patents focused on electronic publishing and appeared to make little reference to security products or virus protection.

BTG had previously said, though, that this wouldn't detract from the strength of their claim in other areas, such as automatic software downloading.

The six patents in question are 5,694,546; 6,594,692; 6,125,388; 6,658,464; 6,611,862; and 6,557,054. They can be viewed at the US Patent and Trademark Office's Web site.

Reuters contributed to this report.