Microsoft Wants to Get Into Skin Business

Rhett Pardon
REDMOND, Wash. — Software giant Microsoft Corp. is trying to get into the skin networking business with U.S. Patent No. 6,754,472.

Microsoft last month was granted the patent to transmit power and data using the human body via electrodes.

According to the patent, the technology could bring in a new class of portable and wearable electronic devices that would not necessarily rule out sex toys.

“Power is distributed by coupling a power source to the human body via a first set of electrodes,” the patent reads. “A pulsed DC signal or AC signal may be used as the power source. By using multiple power supply signals of differing frequencies, different devices can be selectively powered.”

In its description, several devices could be powered from a single power source strapped to the skin.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company says that the natural salinity of the human body makes it an excellent conductor of electrical current.

In other patent news, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., said a lower court erred in invalidating two patents for ergonomic computer keyboards.

The Tuesday ruling dealt a blow to Microsoft, which fought to have them voided after being sued by the holder of those patents.

TypeRight Keyboard Corp. sued Microsoft in July 1998, claiming that its ergonomic keyboards, which split the keys into separate clusters for the left and right hands and have a large wrist-rest, violated its "'441" and "'484" patents.

In June 2000, after Microsoft presented a document from a German company, Marquardt GmbH, that it said proved the concept of such a keyboard predated TypeRight's patent applications, a federal court in southern California granted a Microsoft motion to invalidate the patents.

But the appellate court said there was a "genuine issue" with the credibility of Microsoft's witnesses and that the judge should not have invalidated the patents given those issues.

The court refused to consider whether the lower court improperly denied another Microsoft motion for a summary judgment that its keyboards did not infringe the TypeRight patents, saying it lacked jurisdiction.

The case is TypeRight Keyboard Corp. vs. Microsoft Corp., 03-1197, 03-1255.