US software giant Microsoft has lost its legal battle with a South Korean firm over its flagship Office software, officials said yesterday.
The Supreme Court in a ruling last week rejected a request from Microsoft to nullify patents obtained by Hankuk Aviation University professor Lee Keung-hae in 1997.
The court ruled that the patents apply to technologies which automatically switch the input mode between Korean and English.
In 2000, Lee and the company acting as his agent -- P and IB -- filed a damages suit against Microsoft Korea for patent infringement but the case remained unsettled at an appeals court after the US company filed a separate lawsuit insisting the patents should be invalidated.
"The decision on Friday will strengthen our position in a fight to win the pending damages suit," P and IB head Kim Kil-hae said.
"Microsoft has used our technologies without paying software royalties to our side," he said.
"Microsoft should stop selling its Office suite incorporating the language-switch solution and accept our demand for compensation," Kim said, estimating that the amount due from Microsoft was 70 billion won (US$75 million).
Microsoft refused to accept the demand.
"We already filed another lawsuit last week with new evidence showing the related technologies are nothing new and contained in old papers," its Korean lawyer Chung Jae-hoon said.
Microsoft has been locked in a string of costly disputes with rivals in the US, South Korea and Europe.
In May, South Korea's anti-trust body ruled that Microsoft had breached antitrust laws by selling its Windows operating system bundled with its media player and instant messaging programs.
The European Commission ruled in March 2004 that Microsoft should sell its Windows system without the media player software to ensure fair competition with European rivals.
In October last year, Microsoft agreed to pay US$761 million to RealNetworks, a US firm marketing the "RealPlayer" audio-visual software.
A month later, Microsoft sealed a US$30 million deal with South Korea's top Internet portal Daum to end a legal battle over the bundling of Messenger with Windows.