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December 6th, 2023
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News: U2’s tech firm takes Microsoft to court

Posted on Sunday, November 21 @ 11:44:46 CET by Macphisto

(timesonline.co.uk) -- A TINY technology firm set up by U2 is taking on Microsoft, the software giant, in an American court. Burst.com, which is partly owned by the band, alleges that Microsoft routinely destroys legally sensitive internal documents.

The company is suing Microsoft for theft of its patented technology and for anti-competitive practices. It alleges that Microsoft “as a matter of institutional policy has decided to destroy e-mails in anticipation of litigation”.

U2 invested $2m (€1.3m) in Burst.com more than a decade ago. The band used its data-streaming technology to broadcast its 1997 PopMart concert over the internet.

Court documents filed by Burst.com and released last week in California cite an internal e-mail from Jim Allchin, a Microsoft vice-president. Addressed to the company’s Windows division it states: “This is not something you get to decide. This is company policy. Do not archive your mail. Do not be foolish. 30 days.”

Burst.com claims Microsoft routinely destroyed internal e-mails, despite federal investigations and private suits it has fought in recent years, when it was often under court orders to preserve such communications.

The judge in the case has ordered Bill Gates and Allchin, Microsoft’s top Windows executive, to be questioned under oath. He has also ordered Microsoft to search its legal department computer, a server and backup tapes for the e-mail, as well as question Microsoft lawyers about it.

The case began in 2002 when Burst sued Microsoft for anti-competitive practice and for stealing Burst-patented technology for its Corona application in order to drive Burst out of business.

Richard Lang, the Burst.com chairman and chief executive, said at the time: “We’ve been working on this for 14 years, until finally people realised it was the right solution, and then Microsoft realised it was and claimed it as their own.”

Burst.com alleges that Microsoft changed its Windows media player to make it incompatible with the product, pushing the firm out of business. According to the case file, Microsoft managers debated whether to buy the company at a “fire-sale price . . . as an insurance policy” against a future patent suit, or “just let it die”.

Burst.com also claims that in 2000 Microsoft misled justice department lawyers during the world’s largest ever anti-trust case — between the US Department of Justice and Microsoft, claiming the company concealed the internal e-mail destruction practice and in several instances didn’t save e-mails from executives that were crucial to government inquiries and private suits.

Microsoft denies the allegations of e-mail destruction and says it has retained and produced millions of e-mails and documents in anti-trust cases in recent years. “The technology at issue is based on Microsoft’s own work and innovation. Burst is using the issue of e-mail to obscure the real points of this case,” it said.

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