updated 7/6/2004 9:10:34 PM ET 2004-07-07T01:10:34

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a jury should decide whether Microsoft Corp. violated patents held by a small California company when it made v-shaped ergonomic computer keyboards.

TypeRight Keyboard Corp. of Carlsbad, Calif., sued Microsoft in 1998, claiming that Microsoft’s keyboard, which splits the layout of keys into two sections and includes a large wrist rest, violated two of its own patents. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

A federal court in San Diego granted Microsoft’s motion for summary judgment in 2000, siding with Microsoft’s contention that drawings from a German company that show the basic v-shaped keyboard design predated TypeRight’s patents by several years.

Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., said that questions about the credibility of several witnesses who testified that they saw copies of the German documents as early as 1986 should be decided by a jury.

The case was remanded to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California for a trial. No date has been set.

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