A tiny manufacturer and retailer of ergonomic computer hardware has accused Microsoft Corp of stealing its trade secrets, infringing its patents and committing fraud. Irvine, California- based Goldtouch Technologies Inc has filed suit with a Texas district court against the Redmond software giant. Goldtouch was founded by Australian citizen Mark Goldstein, Australia’s delegate to the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the project editor for ISO’s segmented keyboard project, and by his wife Elizabeth. In 1995, the couple used electromyography (EMG) technology to measure the extent of muscle contraction and exertion during mouse use. They based the development of the Goldtouch Mouse on their results. The Goldsteins claim that after they demonstrated the device to Microsoft executives in September 1997, the bigger company stole their invention for itself. They say that the executives went even further, deliberately giving the false impression that they would license the Goldstein’s intellectual property in order to elicit design information beyond what was in the then-pending patent application. As experienced industry hands, they knew that this information was extremely valuable, not just for Goldtouch’s current product line, but for the future innovation which Goldtouch relied on for its very existence, the company said in its complaint. Microsoft is alleged to have released a knock-off of the Goldtouch product as the IntelliMouse Pro, and to have used its market power to divert profits to which the Goldstein’s business was justly entitled. Consider the viewpoint of a prospective buyer of an ergonomic mouse, said attorney Brad Hanes, the shopper goes into the store and sees two mice nearly identical in design. One mouse carries the market-dominating Microsoft brand. The other is marketed by a small, little-known company called Goldtouch. Which one would you buy? Goldtouch seeks a permanent injunction against Microsoft, treble damages to compensate for loss of business thanks to Microsoft’s infringements of its patents and punitive damages of at least $1bn for what it says were Microsoft’s malicious and intentional acts.
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