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Microsoft The Almighty Buck Patents

$1.5B Fine Overturned For Microsoft 134

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the someone-is-getting-a-bonus dept.
ddrichardson writes "Following up on an earlier story, Microsoft's $1.5bn fine in the case with Alcatel-Lucent has been overturned. Microsoft are claiming a "victory for consumers". From the article: 'A US court has overturned a decision ordering Microsoft to pay phone firm Alcatel-Lucent $1.52bn (£777m) for infringing music patents. The federal judge in San Diego reversed a jury's decision which had ruled that Microsoft's Media Player software infringed on two Alcatel patents.'"
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$1.5B Fine Overturned For Microsoft

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @09:47AM (#20141183)
    While it may cause many of the MS-bashers here to grit their teeth, it's still good news that this ruling was reversed. This case had ramifications WAY beyond any hassle for MS. Such a sizeable and far-reaching ruling over a couple of obscure patents would have sent a shockwave through the software industry--scaring the hell out of developers and encouraging the patent trolls even more (as if they're not encouraged enough as it is).

    It wouldn't take many cases like this to start a financial recession in the entire software industry and send venture capitalists scurrying away from any software startup.

    • by pimpimpim (811140)
      Do you really believe that this scared MS? It just showed them that the one with the biggest amount of patent lawyers will win. Do you really think they will give up the stupid patents (wasn't there one on an 'isnot' patent?) in the MS patent-folder because they won a patent battle with another company? Nope.

      Still let me be an optimist and hope that in the long run at least, the amount of new useless patents will diminish with all the recent victories of common sense.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by br14n420 (1111329)

        Still let me be an optimist and hope that in the long run at least, the amount of new useless patents will diminish with all the recent victories of common sense.

        Why even say more than this? The previous paragraph just reads like nonsense. How many lawyers represented each side? How many interns did each have? Dollar for dollar, what did each company spend on the legalities? You don't really know any of this. The very weight of the evidence may be enough, sometimes. Geesh.

        Keep on hating M$, while blind to the fact that most of the AP /. articles that come down the pipe end up going to IIS hosted sites when anyone who actually gave a shit would have used an Apache p

    • by twitter (104583) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @10:31AM (#20141745) Homepage Journal

      This case had ramifications WAY beyond any hassle for MS. Such a sizeable and far-reaching ruling over a couple of obscure patents would have sent a shockwave through the software industry--scaring the hell out of developers and encouraging the patent trolls even more.

      This is really more of the same arbitrary justice that make software patents a bad idea in the first place. M$ can and does use the same threats anyway. Their prowess in court only strengthens their position as lord and master. Business method and software patents cover things that are not really inventions, so the results will always be arbitrary and manipulable. The court has decided to promote business rather than justice and such decisions have favored M$ more than once. On these grounds, M$ will violate the patents of other with impunity while threatening everyone else with ruinous legal costs.

      What you have to understand is that M$ itself is a patent troll. Almost all of their software has come from predatory acquisitions but the market has dried up because people are no longer willing to risk their money in the business where M$ can crush them. You must have noticed that all of the innovative companies, Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and others are all using gnu/linux and avoiding the desktop in order to make money. M$ has built themselves a patent warchest to assail those businesses, and has been instrumental in setting up business method and other stupid patents. Others have taken advantage of the situation, but that does not make M$ any less culpable.

      No additional certainty has been added to the market that can benefit anyone. The case is far from settled but it has already cost both companies boatloads of money. Only the largest companies could weather that kind of storm and this will keep investors and small companies out of the business.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Macthorpe (960048)
        No matter whether the system sucks or not, if this had stood, quite a few other companies would have been subject to the same kind of payout. I think someone below posted this link to a list: Click to read. [mp3licensing.com]

        On that list are IBM, Linspire and Sun. The original decision was bad for everyone, though it obviously didn't knock you off your pedestal.
        • On that list are IBM, Linspire and Sun. The original decision was bad for everyone, though it obviously didn't knock you off your pedestal.

          I fail to see how that makes software patents good for anyone or that there is any justice to their administration. It does make current advocates of software patents look foolish.

          • by Macthorpe (960048)
            Maybe you should read the part of my post where it said "Irrelevent of whether the system sucks or not".

            Under the current system, this decision is good for everyone. Is it really that hard to read what I wrote?
          • by Nazlfrag (1035012)
            Well, seeing as the judge knocked back the positive ruling on software patents, in other words rejected the software patent, you are arguing that the judge was entirely correct to reverse the damages against MS. Which seems odd, given your original post. Saying no to all software patents means that sometimes even your hated enemy 'M$' is on the receiving end and should be given a break.

            Oh and for the record, I argue it is YOU who is the unwitting Microsoft shill. Your extremist arguments are easy to refute

        • by Endo13 (1000782)
          I myself have very little love for MS, but this is one time I'm glad they won. When it comes to patent trolls, the alternative is always better.

          Hopefully the same thing will happen in that stupid touchscreen keyboard troll case.

          Patent trolls can suck it.
      • Your churlish use of "M$" obviates any intelligent conversation we could be having about this.
        • by twitter (104583)

          Your churlish use of "M$" obviates any intelligent conversation we could be having about this.

          Ah, so like a M$ rep, using a hypocritical insult to promise what they can't deliver.

        • by Smauler (915644)
          Man, get over it. Microsoft is often abbreviated to M$ here, it's not necessarily a denigration, it's just habit, and as quick as MS. If Linux was abbreviated to L$, people wouldn't be complaining. Well, I guess the people who weren't getting the $ would be complaining.... but that's a different story.
      • This is really more of the same arbitrary justice that make software patents a bad idea in the first place

        How so? MS paid Fraunhoffer for the patents (as did the rest of the tech industry) which were co-developed by Fraunhoffer, Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T. If Fraunhoffer was not the right authority to license these patents, Alcatel should have sued them for falsely representing themselves as such. That makes sense, and that's the nutshell version of what the Judge ruled.

        Their prowess in court only strengthens their position as lord and master.

        Your hatred of MS is blinding your objectivity, and even your desire to seek the truth. MS adopted patents as a defensive strategy (see this

      • by Kalriath (849904)

        What you have to understand is that M$ itself is a patent troll. Almost all of their software has come from predatory acquisitions but the market has dried up because people are no longer willing to risk their money in the business where M$ can crush them. You must have noticed that all of the innovative companies, Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and others are all using gnu/linux and avoiding the desktop in order to make money. M$ has built themselves a patent warchest to assail those businesses, and has been instrumental in setting up business method and other stupid patents. Others have taken advantage of the situation, but that does not make M$ any less culpable.

        The rest of your post is mostly just noise (some truth, some not, but hard to tell the difference) but this is just incorrect.

        For a start, Microsoft has only ever used patents as a threat. Never have they actually sued anyone over one. That said, the OIN does the same thing - it's called Sabre-rattling. It frightens other companies (whether it's an ethically sound practice or not is entirely your perception. To me, it's not).

        It should be noted that Google itself is doing very similar things. It defini

    • by weicco (645927)

      Yes because if it wasn't overturned then one of these might be next when Alcatel runs out of money: http://mp3licensing.com/licensees/index.asp [mp3licensing.com]

    • by penix1 (722987) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @11:58AM (#20142857) Homepage

      Such a sizeable and far-reaching ruling over a couple of obscure patents would have sent a shockwave through the software industry--scaring the hell out of developers and encouraging the patent trolls even more (as if they're not encouraged enough as it is).


      Actually, that's exactly what needs to happen in order for the Powers That Be(TM) to realize that the patent system is way broken. A few big companies paying through the nose to patent trolls will be the wake-up call to Congress. Then maybe, just maybe, method patents can be abolished.
    • by da5idnetlimit.com (410908) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @12:11PM (#20143051) Journal
      "Hello, Judge Rudi Brewster ? Good Evening.

      This Bill G. calling, yes, that Bill G.

      I was browsing a bit into our files and reports and I happened upon a funny browser history forwarded to me by ehh... someone in my team.

      You know what ? When thinking about the term "Dwarf Tossing" i would think of dimly illuminated pubs with a midget in a footbal gear. I had to turn my monitor 90 to really understand what the pictures wer...

      Ah, yes, yes, I understand, it is late and you have a judgement to overturn early tomorrow, yes, better I let you work now, sorry for disturbing. Bye"
    • I own Avaya & Lucent stock. I bought it knowing that they acquired a ton of IP from their split. My purchase was prior to all of the splits occurring, but after many of them. So I have stock in many splits of these companies. This was IP that Bell had created. I purchased knowing that the plan for the company was to try and begin acquiring payment for the use of their IP, which Bell did not keep close watch on.

      The overturn is not good for those of us who own this stock.
      • by Kalriath (849904)
        Then you're an idiot. This overturn is necessary - as the judge said, you cannot start suing end users of a technology if they believed they were licensing from the proper authority. You should go after the one that claimed they were authorised to act as licensor. In this case, Fraunhofer Institute (I know, I know, I spelt it wrong).

        You're in the wrong place to be talking about how you bought stock in a company based on it's desire to litigate over software patents (a touchy subject as it is) they have n
    • by snares (1144901)
      This desiscion splits me. I agree Microsoft should not have to pay for the patenets. But..on the other hand it is about time that Microsoft paid-out cash instead of getting off with a slap on the wrist. Relistically $1.5B may be a lot of money but for a giant like Microsoft it is really nothing.

      Software should not have patents. Software is nothing but mathematics and since math is freely taught you can't patent it. If it could be patented then everyone would have to pay someone for the right to learn in sc
  • But go Microsoft! In other news, recently retired and newly-made Billionaire judge dies in auto wreck while trying to put ripped Van Halen CD in his Ferrari stereo!
  • Ho Hum (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TinBromide (921574) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @09:51AM (#20141241)
    I'd like to post something witty, funny, or something about how outraged i am about all these patent trolls. Possibly something saying its a shame that they aren't sticking it to microsoft. But when there's like 3-4 patent news items on the front page (possibly only 2 right now), and that's the case every day, i just wish that it would stop. Nothing funny, nothing insightful, just same news, different day.

    Any time that a patent troll, anywhere, is defeated, its a victory for all, not just consumers. More judges need to rule that software patents of the obvious are unconstitutional (i think it was covered by the suffrage amendment) so that slashdot can return to reporting on google and the iphone instead of these patent stories.
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      Nothing funny, nothing insightful, just same news, different day.

      Well, I hate to say, there was a time where Slashdot was really about "news for nerds, stuff that (doesn't) matter (all that much but we love it)". I guess the nerds have become working professionals, supporting families, concerned with their mortgages and 401Ks, because it's been literally years since Slashdot has stopped being funny, insightful or interesting. I mean sure, regularly there's the occasional good story, but it's nowhere near as
      • Re:Ho Hum (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @10:26AM (#20141701) Homepage
        As long as a distribution like Ubuntu feels a need to leave out the mp3 decoders, then any patent litigation stories are infact "News for Nerds, Stuff that Matters". The problem isn't that "we" changed but that the world has gotten more hostile to us.
        • last I checked the ugly set of gstreamer plugins which includedes a mp3 decoder was in the main section of both debian and ubuntu. IIRC it is redhat that is really paranoid about mp3 (I understand the patent claims against mp3 decoders are much weaker than those against encoders).
      • by plague3106 (71849)
        And yet you still come here and post.
    • so that slashdot can return to reporting on google and the iphone

      You must have missed the story about patent trolling against the iPhone.
    • Sure. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by twitter (104583)

      More judges need to rule that software patents of the obvious are unconstitutional (i think it was covered by the suffrage amendment) so that slashdot can return to reporting on google and the iphone instead of these patent stories.

      It would be a great thing to eliminate business method and software patents. Until that happens, the costs of them should be shouted from the rooftops. Cool gadgets are not hard to make, but the business is impossible because of crap like this. M$ is the bad guy because th

    • Who to cheer for? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phorm (591458)
      A lot of people always mention being "confused" about who to cheer for in these cases, but it's really not that hard. MS - in this case - really doesn't seem to be doing anything hard. They did in fact even license the Fraunhofer codecs for their mp3-related software in windows. Now it doesn't really mention exact what patents Alcatel-Lucent is pursuing (or suing per), but as they are mp3-related it seems that their behavior definitely seems like a cash-grab.

      It's not a case of "Microsoft VS Patent Troll,"
      • by narrowhouse (1949)
        While I agree with your assertion that there is no reason to paint Microsoft as the bad guy here I do think that we all need to realize that the bad guy is the current patent system.

        I'm not sure Alcatel-Lucent is what most people would call a patent troll. They tried to take advantage of a broken system to the tune of 1.5 billion dollars. If the money is on the table it is not easy to resist. This is the same behavior that you might see from any company that sees that amount of money is possible by spending
  • by CodeShark (17400) <ellsworthpc@yahoo . c om> on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @09:52AM (#20141257) Homepage
    In lieu of patent reform, in general I am for the defendant in any patent trolling case, which this appears to be. Even though my Linux loving heart hates to see M$ win anything. But given that Fraunhofer wasn't sued, this looks alot more like trying to shoot the biggest fish in the barrel with a pellet gun and expecting the fish and everyone involved to roll over and play dead, AKA pay up. So if M$ won this time, good for them.

    Prolly good for us as well.
    • In lieu of patent reform, in general I am for the defendant in any patent trolling case, which this appears to be. Even though my Linux loving heart hates to see M$ win anything.

      I'd say that when it comes to patents, M$ is pretty fair player (in M$ish sense of word "fair"): they did spread some FUD, but didn't sue anyone.

      • "I'd say that when it comes to patents, M$ is pretty fair player (in M$ish sense of word "fair"): they did spread some FUD, but didn't sue anyone."

        Sorry thats a myth.

        Microsoft hat threatend to sue several players for software patent infringments by sending their laywers after them.

        Since open source developers have no money to defend themselves with people like the creator of VirtualDub has been forced to remove support for Microsoft video formats from VirutalDub.
    • by Billosaur (927319) *

      While it was a legal "win" for Microsoft, it's hardly a win in normal terms. They spent a lot of money defending themselves against a frivolous patent lawsuit and while that is a drop in the bucket compared to what they make, it would only be a true win if Alcatel-Lucent were made to pay up for bringing it in the first place. As long as Alcatel-Lucent can keep doing this, and I'm not sure how deep their pockets are, this is not over by a long shot. Microsoft needs to push to try and recoup legal fees, thoug

  • hmm. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @09:53AM (#20141273)
    A "victory for the bigger legal team" I would expect.

    However, if this means I can still use my MP3 player then I guess its not all bad.
  • Fine? or Judgement? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @09:56AM (#20141301) Journal
    The BBC article calls the overturned award a fine, but this seems incorrect. A judge and/or a jury awards damages in a tort case, they don't fine anyone. I expect such ignorance on slashdot, but on the BBC? I guess journalism is deteriorating internationally, not just in the US.
    • by gordo3000 (785698)
      where did this huge bias come from? I've always thought american tv news was terrible, nad hoped during my 1 month in london(for work) I'd see some great journalism on the BBC.

      It's the EXACT same BS you get on CNN! It is just as ego centric, just as biased, and just as much false information as anything on US TV before Fox News(which of course, got the US back in the lead for biggest amount of BS on a news program).

      Worse yet, the interviews they had with world leaders were complete set ups to make one gro
  • by Nezer (92629)
    About three articles down from this story, on the main page, this story is mentioned with a bunch of other patent news for the day.

    At least this dupe is buried under the "read more" link and not as blatant as past dupes.
  • "...victory for the consumers."


    Since when has Microsoft been an advocate for consumer's rights?
    • You gotta admit, they've been at least trying to be more consumer friendly than they have been. I mean, Microsoft of old might have bought all the big game developers (Rockstar, Kojima Productions, Square/Enix, etc) outright so they could gain exclusive content. Today, they just toss money as an incentive and keep their fingers crossed.
    • by iainl (136759)
      When the patent troll's next victims would have been absolutely everyone else who made an mp3 encoder without paying for "their" patent along with the Fraunhofer one that everyone has always thought was sufficient. In addition, the patent looks vague enough to skewer aac and ogg, if I remember.
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @10:09AM (#20141473) Journal
    Microsoft is just a company with good and bad aspects. They are not evil incarnate. Stop apologising for being pleased with the news!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Liquidrage (640463)
      Yes, but you see a long time ago there was IBM and Apple. IBM shot itself in the foot by releasing a good OS in a poor state, and Apple in a desire to control every aspect of the computing experience priced itself out range of most people, as well as kept the needed 3rd parties away.

      So emerged MS. As much as by "right place right time" as anything else. And soon this MS had their software on basically every single user's PC out there.

      But alas, MS got caught with their pants down and did not have an OS
    • It is very successful in hiding the good aspects. Tell me one.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by 91degrees (207121)
        They produce software that generally does a competent job at a price that many people can afford.
  • Good decision (Score:5, Insightful)

    by I'm Don Giovanni (598558) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @10:23AM (#20141647)
    Microsoft made good faith effort to license the technology in question from Fraunhofer for $16 million. But Alcatel-Lucent claimed that Microsoft licensed it from the wrong party. Even if that were the case, then Microsoft should only have been ordered to pay ~$16 million to Alcatel-Lucent, not 1.5 billion. That's why I felt the jury decision was BS. Why apply punitive damages to Microsoft when they made good faith effort to comply with the patent?
    • Re:Good decision (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @10:30AM (#20141735) Homepage
      ...except it's the jury that gets to decide that: for better or worse.

      So it's not so cut and dried. There are plenty of things to be for or against in this case.

      Making a habit of ignoring juries has far wider implications than just patent trolls.
      • by jez9999 (618189)
        Making a habit of ignoring juries has far wider implications than just patent trolls.

        How about just ignoring juries' damages awards? Really, I don't know why the US uses this system. It's one thing for a jury to look at a serious criminal case with a good amount of evidence and decide Guilty or Not Guilty (actually that should be Not Proven, but that's another matter), but for them to decide on damages seems ridiculous. They invariably seem to pick ridiculously high figures. Why not leave that to a judg
    • Microsoft made a good-faith effort to comply? Wow, that IS news! Oops, my cynicism was showing ;-)
    • Microsoft made good faith effort to license the technology in question from Fraunhofer for $16 million. But Alcatel-Lucent claimed that Microsoft licensed it from the wrong party. Even if that were the case, then Microsoft should only have been ordered to pay ~$16 million to Alcatel-Lucent, not 1.5 billion.

      So if A rents out B's house without permission for 1 dollar per month to C, then C should be able to pay B 1 dollar per month for the place, after the mistake (that it is B's house, not A's) is discover

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cooldev (204270)

        So if A rents out B's house without permission for 1 dollar per month to C, then C should be able to pay B 1 dollar per month for the place, after the mistake (that it is B's house, not A's) is discovered?

        It's more like: 'A' rents out a large community of apartments to 200 customers(http://www.mp3licensing.com/licensees/in dex.asp) for a decade or so for $750/month. Everybody in the world has long acknowledged that 'A' had the rights to rent out that property. Then, out of nowhere, 'B' steps in and claim

        • I see your point, and I mostly agree with you actually. But there are 2 separate issues: (1) Do Alcatel-Lucent own MP3 patents, and (2) How much MP3 patents should cost to license.

          If Alcatel-Lucent do own MP3 patents, then they can start to assert them whenever they want, and at whatever price they want... that is the (stupid) system.

          Do they actually own the patents? I don't know. Certainly it does seem like they might not. But if they do, the price they charge for them is up to them.
          • by cooldev (204270)

            If Alcatel-Lucent do own MP3 patents, then they can start to assert them whenever they want, and at whatever price they want... that is the (stupid) system.

            Yeah, part of my response was venting against submarine patents. It's almost as if we need a form of adverse possession for patents, where if a company doesn't assert its patent rights after a reasonable period of time they lose the rights to offensively use that patent.

            Submarine patents just remove too much choice on the part of the person or compa

  • It's a victory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hxnwix (652290) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @10:26AM (#20141703) Journal
    Because they would have passed the cost on to consumers. To quote a Microserf friend, "we charge mondo for our dog food in Europe so that the EC wont forget that we are the big dog."

    Not that we should expect MS to do otherwise. We fine them? They fine us.
    • > Because they would have passed the cost on to consumers.

      No, they wouldn't. Business aim to charge the most money that the customers are prepared to pay. If Microsoft are able to raise the price of their product and still sell it they would have done it already and made more money.

      The extra cost from the fines would have cut into their profits and so it is the shareholders that would be harmed, not the end users.
      • by hxnwix (652290)
        You do realize that the EC is hassling MS for abusing their alleged monopoly position, right?

        If you must purchase a certain company's product in order for your business to survive, you wont pay a fair market price. Market distortion can prevent you from voting with your wallet if it forces you to pay whatever is demanded, lest your business perish. That, my friend, is called monopoly rent.

        Now, if you worked from the unquestioned assumption that Microsoft is not a monopoly, what you said could have been re
  • by Linux_ho (205887) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @01:41PM (#20144351) Homepage
    Because Microsoft would certainly charge the consumer less if only their per-unit costs weren't so high.
  • As a developer and upcoming business entrepreneur, patents are an area I'm forced to consider and become familiar with. I realize I'm not saying anything new, but, I like to think out loud and hear what others have to say when I'm learning a new area. :)

    1. Patents seem to have turned from being a reward, incentive or recognition for inventors and innovation to being a bludgeoning weapon for business. In many ways, the patent system seems to be used as a legalized method to facilitate anti-competitive pra
    • I don't have a problem with patents, even for software.
      But I believe that in order for a patent to be enforceable, the patent holder must:
      A. Make a good faith effort to market a product using the technology in question.
      AND/OR
      B. License the patent at reasonable prices in a timely manner. (That is, no waiting for years for someone else's product that might infringe on your patent to become popular, then popping-up out of nowhere demanding billions.)

      C. If a patent holder discovers at a late date that some pop

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