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August 7, 2007

Billion Dollar Plus Judgment Against Microsoft Overturned

Microsoft has a court victory as U.S. District Court Judge Rudi M. Brewster reversed a jury finding that the company violated patents held by Alcatel-Lucent.  The damages on the original verdict were a whopping $1.53 billion dollars (cue Danny Thomas-like spit-take here).  The basis of the suit is technology over compression and decompression of audio files in MP3s.  Microsoft had licensed the technology from the Fraunhofer Institute for $16 million.  The technology was co-developed with Bell Labs and other predecessors to Lucent.  The judge ruled that Microsoft had not infringed one patent and that the other was co-owned by Fraunhofer who did not sue. 

Alcatel-Lucent expressed shock and dismay at the ruling (another spit-take?).  That company said it would appeal.  Microsoft was thrilled at the result as it prefers not to pay about a month's worth of income in damages over an unprotected file format it licensed for its media player.  Alcatel-Lucent wanted a higher damages figure as the $1.53 billion only accounted for "infringing" copies of Windows through November, 2005.  Time has marched on since then, but to no avail with this latest decision.  Now its on to the Ninth Circuit, and who knows, in a few years, the Supreme Court.  Ah, the sweet smell of litigation fee dollars.  Win or lose, the lawyers get paid.

Stories are in the International Herald Tribune, the Seattle Times, and the Washington Post.

August 7, 2007 | Permalink


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