Computers Feedback: Legal actions stack up

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The Independent Online
LAWSUIT of the week was won by Stac Electronics against the giant Microsoft. Stac makes Stacker, the most successful of the many programs which appear to increase the size of a hard disk by compressing files invisibly and automatically as they are stored there and then expanding them again when they are needed.

In 1992 Microsoft investigated the possibility of licensing Stacker, but decided instead to incorporate a rival product, Doublespace, into the next version of its operating system, MS-Dos 6. A federal judge in Los Angeles last week found that the giant Microsoft had infringed two Stac patents. The decision has cost Microsoft dollars 120m and could lead to chaos. Doublespace has been removed from all copies of the latest version of MS-Dos 6 in the US, but in this country MS-Dos 6.2 is still being sold with disk compression.

To add to the confusion Microsoft was awarded damages of dollars 13m against Stac after Stac successfully 'reverse engineered' MS-Dos 6 to make Stacker work with it. That judgement has sent a rush of fear through all the manufacturers of add-on bits for Microsoft operating systems, since if they cannot legally discover how Microsoft products work, they cannot guarantee that their own will work with them.

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