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Spokane software maker suing Microsoft

A small Spokane software company is suing software giant Microsoft Corp. for allegedly infringing its copyright.

Maplewood Software Inc. claims Microsoft violated its copyright on a computer database Maplewood built for the Redmond-based corporation by duplicating it, according to the suit filed last week in U.S. District Court. The company also alleges breach of contract, unjust enrichment and “conversion” of its property.

Maplewood asks for unspecified monetary damages, attorney’s fees and a court order preventing Microsoft from copying or using multiple copies of the database software.

“As I’m sure you can imagine, one doesn’t take on this kind of thing lightly,” said John Janzen, Maplewood’s co-owner and president.

Janzen declined further comment.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company had not received notice it had been served with the suit and it “would be premature to comment.”

Incorporated in 1996, Maplewood’s chief product is Web-based staff scheduling software, primarily for health care clients.

Microsoft employs more than 78,000 worldwide and had revenues of $51.12 billion last fiscal year. It recently launched a high-profile bid to buy Yahoo.

According to the suit, Maplewood accepted an order from Microsoft to develop “a SQL database for Microsoft’s NetDocs group that came to be called the TUPLE database,” delivering it in 2001. The company claims it holds a registered copyright for TUPLE, and Microsoft bought only the rights to run one unit of it.

The suit alleges the database is part of a process that controls execution of “large complex jobs on a network of computers” and is used for building and testing software.

The company claims it learned in February 2006 that many teams at Microsoft use the process through an “internal support alias,” including the Windows development team. It cites a 2006 book by former Microsoft employee that “reports that Microsoft has been using (the process) for years, and plans to ship a tool that is a variation of this tool.”