Microsoft has been awarded a patent for a feature in instant messaging IM) that alerts a user when the person they are communicating with is inputting a message. The feature is present in IM services from both Yahoo and America Online (AOL).
Patent number 6,631,412, awarded to Microsoft on Tuesday, could potentially give the company a leg up in the IM market if it is able to enforce the patent and edge out its competitors by exclusively offering the feature.
Both Yahoo and AOL in the U.K. have yet to comment on the news.
Besides its strong presence in the consumer IM market with its MSN Messenger service, Microsoft has also made moves to get into the corporate market with its new Office Live Communications Server 2003, which will allow companies to run their own enterprise IM network.
Office Live Communications Server 2003 is due to hit the market in coming weeks.
MSN Messenger claims more than 100 million active users.
According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, Microsoft filed for the IM patent in December of 2002 as a continuation of an application for a "System and Method for Activity Monitoring and Reporting in a Computer Network".