RealTime IT News

Microsoft's Patent Tab: $388M Ought to Do It

A jury in Rhode Island decided Wednesday that Microsoft infringed a smaller company's software activations patent and ordered the larger firm to pay $388 million in damages and lost revenue.

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft was not pleased.

"We are very disappointed in the jury verdict. We believe that we do not infringe, that the patent is invalid and that this award of damages is legally and factually unsupported. We will ask the court to overturn the verdict," David Bowermaster, a Microsoft spokesperson, told InternetNews.com in an e-mailed statement.

Uniloc USA, a small California company that's owned by an Australian firm, sued Microsoft in October 2003 in regard to 13 of its patented software activation technologies. It claimed that Microsoft had used Uniloc's technologies in four Microsoft products -- Office XP, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Digital Media Plus (discontinued). Later versions of those products were not at issue in the case – at least not so far.

Last year, the judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island case issued a summary judgment, tossing out the infringement allegations. However, a federal appeals court ruling reinstated one of the patent infringement claims, and the case went before the jury.

The jury found that Microsoft had indeed infringed the patent in question. While Microsoft has asked the judge to reverse the verdict, company spokespersons would not say whether it will appeal the loss.

Microsoft has had a spate of patent cases in the past year. Most recently, Microsoft settled a patent lawsuit with Norwegian GPS manufacturer TomTom. At nearly the same time, it was also sued by BackWeb over its alleged infringement of the Israeli firm's patents in Windows Update and Microsoft Update.

Meanwhile, last fall, Microsoft won, on appeal, a patent infringement case brought by Alcatel-Lucent regarding its use of MP3 technologies.

A call to Uniloc for comment was not returned by press time.

Update corrects location of Uniloc Corporation Pty Ltd., Uniloc USA's corporate parent.