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$358 Million Patent Judgment Against Microsoft Overturned 76

eldavojohn writes "Last year, Microsoft was ordered to pay Alcatel-Lucent hundreds of millions of dollars for patent infringement. Well, that award has just been overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, saving Microsoft a considerable sum. But Microsoft isn't in the clear yet; the appellate court said that they did infringe on Alcatel-Lucent patents, but that those infringements did not warrant $358 million in damages. The case needs to be retried."
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$358 Million Patent Judgment Against Microsoft Overturned

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  • It wasn't 358M, rather it was 748M.
    Epic win for M$.

  • Cooperation. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Forty Two Tenfold ( 1134125 ) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @05:27AM (#29396771)

    The more stuff I read about patent litigation the less I understand why the corporations don't come to the conclusion that it doesn't do them any good. Patent law reformed reasonably, everyone would benefit (and, presumably, profit).

    • Re:Cooperation. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 12, 2009 @05:58AM (#29396845)

      I completely agree with you. However this will never happen (by way other than the people voting patents out) because all companies need to build the biggest patent porfolio they can just to intimidate other large companies into not suing them. Patents have become weapons of intellectual and economic destruction. IBM has over 50,000 patents, Microsoft has 30,000+ patents. These companies have contract saying they wont sue each other because they could get nothing done. However, they sue the little guys, and the little guys sue them. However the big companies with a load of patents remain in power forever, destroying legitimate competition in the market place. Patent are an invention of the state and are maintained by the state. Patents and copyrights are INEXISTENT in a true free market.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tinkerghost ( 944862 )

        Actually, the last report I heard was that patents - outside of the drug industry - are a multi-billion dollar net loss for everyone except lawyers. Yes, that is correct - several billion dollars a year more is paid in patent litigation than is earned through rewards, licensing, and settlements.

        Thus patent law will never be reformed properly because it would kill a multi-billion dollar industry populated entirely by lawyers.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Your point about the fact that they make agreements with each other not to sue should be a glaring example of why patent reform is needed. Corporations find them so bad they need to sign peace treaties with each other just to do business.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It profits the lawyers I think. Since there are a lot of lawyers around, we need a lot of insane laws to keep them fed.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The same statement could be applied to the US Congress. Bunch of fucking idiots can't even balance a budget. Imagine what would happen if you ran your household finances like the US Congress runs our nation's finances. It's a simple matter, really. If you can't afford something, you tell the people so. And if they bitch, you tell them you'll have to raise taxes to pay for it, which will mean slowed growth, fewer jobs, etc. When their house has just been foreclosed on, what idiot parent takes their kid

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Despite being posted by AC - that is the most insightful post that is likely to be made on the subject. Lawyers don't WANT the laws to make sense. Who makes laws? Many lawmakers are lawyers. Who tries law? Lawyers, obviously. Who judges law? Judges are generally lawyers. (I'm aware that in some places, judges are elected, and are not necessarily members of the bar.)

        Try reading the various legislations that come out of Congress. I struggled through the health care reform that was offered before Congr

    • Re:Cooperation. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by KibibyteBrain ( 1455987 ) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @06:09AM (#29396877)
      It's all a matter of fear. Companies know that the current system sucks, but they also know it works for them. There is fear that any change to the system might change competitive advantages or have unforeseen consequences. Its amazing that leading research firms are at their heart very conservative.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        It works for the large companies because it prevents small companies from becoming competitive. And, in technology especially, large companies are always disrupted by small companies. So, they have an expensive mechanism for preventing disruption (to a large extent) but it's cheaper to play the government-granted game than to risk being disrupted.

        It's only the economy and society that suffers - large corporations and the government make out well.

    • Most companies just sign a contract and pay because they know they have to. You never hear about that, only dubious patents and patent violations are reported. For many companies patent fees are a good source of income (also because they put real research in it). That doesn't mean the patent system works well now.
    • Are you actually trying to make sense ?
      Dang it dude .. you got to stop that shit , and i mean now :)

    • Re:Cooperation. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Saturday September 12, 2009 @07:54AM (#29397141)

      All these years, I wondered what the "???" in those lists was for. Now I know!

    • The more stuff I read about patent litigation the less I understand why the corporations don't come to the conclusion that it doesn't do them any good.

      In a word: cross-licensing [moneyterms.co.uk]. Read the last paragraph of the page linked to.

    • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @10:07AM (#29397869)

      At least microsoft on the whole wouldn't...

      Take the recent MS Word injunction. Now, we can argue about the validity of the patent in question there, but regardless of that point, everyone *knew* that MS would not have to cease and desist distribution of Word, not because the patent was bs, but because MS is just too resourceful and end the end, perceived as 'too big to fail'.

      On the flipside, MS can crush a threatening smaller company even if the patent is flimsier. The smaller company will not have the benefit of as many legal resources to start with, and also would not have people thinking "I can't be the one to screw the largest software company in the US".

      As it stands in the software industry, a vast majority of the financial resources are controlled by companies that can abuse their disproportionate share to game the patent system enough to win more than lose and feel confident they will always win more than lose.

    • The more stuff I read about patent litigation the less I understand why the corporations don't come to the conclusion that it doesn't do them any good. Patent law reformed reasonably, everyone would benefit (and, presumably, profit).

      Because for all the damage it does them, the benefits of keeping the cost of entry high for any competition are much, much greater.

  • Every time the bastards get slapped with an as ginormous as ridiculous patent infringement judgement as this, I hope they see the light and start opposing software patents.
    Hey, a boy can dream.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by earlymon ( 1116185 )

      Every time the bastards get slapped with an as ginormous as ridiculous patent infringement judgement as this, I hope they see the light and start opposing software patents.
      Hey, a boy can dream.

      My dream is that the ginormous penalties might somehow result in their ethical behavior.

  • by RenHoek ( 101570 ) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @05:43AM (#29396825) Homepage

    It's 'funny' how a consumer can rack up a fine of a couple of million for sharing a few MP3's, to "send out a clear signal to copyright infringers". But for a repeat offender like Microsoft a fine of a few million (which is peanuts really) is somehow too high. It's great how the American justice system has its priorities straight like that. (Not only the American justice system btw, huzzah for lobbyists).

    • Funny , being the reminder that billo and stevio offer us peanuts instead of a straightforward product . Not that peanuts don't provide a high protein alternative to an honest business practice .

    • by Z_A_Commando ( 991404 ) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @11:07AM (#29398303)

      You're witnessing the difference between patent infringement and copyright infringement. Patents deal with a concept, idea, etc. Copyrights deal with actual products, be they physical (as in a car, processor, or pen) or intellectual (as in a movie, sound recording, etc). You would probably call the latter "imaginary", but regardless, at the current state of law, they are still considered copyrightable property.

      Patents don't automatically translate into profits through sale of goods or services. Patents make up products, but there are many patents that don't ever make it to market in a product. Copyrights, on the other hand, deal with an actual product. Copyrights have intrinsic value because the product in question is available for sale or will be available for sale. Copyrights provide an exclusive right to sell, distribute, and produce a product, not an idea. Therefore, infringement of a copyright is much more damaging to the copyright holder than infringement of a patent, at least in theory. Thus the "harsher" penalties.

      Keep patent reform separate from copyright reform because they are different things.

      • You sound like you believe that patents should really work like US patents work.

        See, I believe in real usable patents, based on physical inventions, such as Tesla's remote controlled boat patent [google.com]. In fact, as long as something's implemented in practice, is viable in the long term, does not appear to stifle further research in related areas, and isn't obvious and generic -- it's a valid patent to me.

        If a patent satisfies the aforementioned, doesn't it have an intrinsic value in itself? Doesn't it then descri

      • Sure they're different things but they bother suffer similar exploitation and both need to be similarly reformed. Similar as in both need to be completely revolutionized. No one deserves copyright on a sequence on radioactive waves and no one deserves a patent on a sequence of thoughts.
    • This is about patent infringement rather than copyright infringement. If Microsoft had copied something, then I agree it'd seem a little unfair for Microsoft to be relieved of a fine that isn't going to damage them.

      Patents don't require copying. They merely involve re-inventing the (patented) wheel that 99% of the time you didn't know had already been invented. That's why they suck.

  • by JohnHegarty ( 453016 ) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @06:32AM (#29396937) Homepage

    The case needs to be retried , so a great win for the lawyers on both sides.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, only the damages portion is to be retried, so it wasn't a COMPLETE win for the lawyers. The opinion itself can be found on the appeals court website here: http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/opinions/08-1485.pdf. (see conclusion on second-to-last page.)

    • Correction;
      Read the summary, Micro$oft is still guilty of infringment.

      Only the amount of the damages have been overturned. The appeal court sent the case back to the lower court to rethink the amount that M$ has to pay but still found that M$ was guilty of stealing from Alcatel-Lucent.
  • by Anne Honime ( 828246 ) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @06:33AM (#29396939)
    ... I've got karma to lose, but when the EU take a couple of months to review the buyout of Sun by Oracle to assess the impact on competition, it's evil protectionism, but when a US court of appeal overturn the damages awarded by a lower court to a rightful holder of a patent, it's just sheer justice done to a strategic company. It absolutely doesn't matter in the latter case that the victim is EU based and the offender is an already convicted US based monopolist with a track record of shoddy behaviours as long as the road 66.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Gerafix ( 1028986 )
      I know I'm going to get modded down for this but... Do you think Americans are interested in reason, logic, or evidence... at all? Take a look at the popularity of Fox News and Glen Beck and the rest of the looney tunes Republicans. The only thing America is interested in is profit and fear mongering.
      • The only thing America is interested in is profit and fear mongering.

        What more do you need?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by jamstar7 ( 694492 )

          The only thing America is interested in is profit and fear mongering.

          What more do you need?

          Hookers and blow, of course. And blackjack.

          On second thought, let's forget about the blackjack...

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      The fact is that the EC is a group whose philosophy is based on socialistic/fascist economic beliefs. The EC, with great podding by Opera, is attempting to force Microsoft to include it in its distribution. Maybe next they will require Mercedes Benz to include Chevrolet engines in their cars.

    • by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @08:13AM (#29397197) Homepage

      .. I've got karma to lose

      Wow, you go on Slashdot and make a post that's both anti-US and anti-Microsoft? You really are taking a huge risk with your slashdot karma there!

      • Wow, you go on Slashdot and make a post that's both anti-US and anti-Microsoft? You really are taking a huge risk with your slashdot karma there!

        Fuck FOSS, kittens, and beer! (not necessarily in that order)

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by svtdragon ( 917476 )
      There seems to be some Slashdot moderation rule whereby the phrase "I'm going to get modded down" or "I've got karma to lose" or the like invariably nets one "Interesting" or "Insightful". Really, is there just some automated slashscript function that could be employed without us having to waste our own mod points?

      Or maybe even +1, Should Be Modded Down.
    • Reducing the award in a case like this makes sense. Part of the problem with software patents (actually patents in general whenever you have complex devices) is that it's easy to step into the territory of several of them.

      The "free-market" answer to this case would be that Microsoft should have licensed the patent from Alcatel. Assuming that Microsoft could have even figured out its product would be found infringing (it is not necessarily obvious in patent cases), Outlook probably involves hundreds of poten

      • Just get rid of all immaterial patents altogether, stick back to copyright for software / business methods, and only use patents in the physical world. Patents were never conceived to reward mere ideas, but factual industrial process ; patents are extremely useful to keep track of some non-obvious industrial techniques that would otherwise remain trade secrets, and be forgotten after a while. Their aim is to accrue global human knowledge and benefit mankind. The balance side of the deal is a time-limited ex
      • Reducing the award in a case like this makes sense. Part of the problem with software patents (actually patents in general whenever you have complex devices) is that it's easy to step into the territory of several of them.

        IANAL, but that's why they call them 'punitive damages'. Punative as in punishing. Punishing as in 'Don't do that again, dummy!" They're designed to make the loser think about what they're doing and change their ways.

        • You're missing my point. If you have a complex product that might infringe on 100 patents, and you don't want to infringe and face these penalties, you're supposed to go to each patent holder and negotiate a license.

          Not only is that time-consuming and expensive to do; not only might you not be able to track down each patent holder; not only might you miss some patent you might potentially infringe upon; not only might 99 patent holders be willing to license and 1 patent holder be unwilling; but even if ever

        • Actually, they're meant to make OTHERS think what they're doing. Punishing as in 'Look, everyone, we punished them, but if you do that, we would punish you!'

          The same as with jail for murder. It helps noone but the society: 'Look, if you kill, you go to jail! Wanna risk? Think again!'

    • To be fair.. Lucent started as an ATT spinoff, which was later merged into Alcatel..

      this pisses me off moreso because despite how many fantastic things Lucent has come up with, they never quite seem to do well. strange that considering that it's apparently completely ok to steal their work.. I'm just hoping that since they're now a (mostly) french company that this can be rehashed in a non US court where it might be somewhat useful to do so.
    • but when a US court of appeal overturn the damages awarded by a lower court to a rightful holder of a patent, it's just sheer justice done to a strategic company.

      You must not hang out here very much. Pretty much the entire Slashdot crowd hates process patents. In the scheme of things--i.e., to the degree that we, the gallery, can have a scheme of things--the rationale behind the hatred of process patents is pretty good. I.e., those of us you are accusing of siding with the "convicted monopolist" in favor o

    • You remind me of Christians who think they're persecuted despite being a majority in this country. What exactly did you say that was a) even vaguely controversial to your average slashdweeb and b) even tangentially rational? What does a lawful appeal of a decision one way or the other by one court by a higher court have to do with an oversight-less bureaucratic nightmare pretending Oracle and Sun is even under their purview, much less vaguely related to any kind of reasonable antitrust or monopoly issue?
    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      > I've got karma to lose, but when the EU take a couple of months to review the buyout of Sun by Oracle to assess the impact on competition, it's evil protectionism

      Exactly how long did the EU take to review the acquisition of Business Objects by SAP two years ago? Of course there was no problem, after all SAP is a German company and Business Objects was French.

      As for the Sun/Oracle thing, if you want my opinion, it did not help that a German product, MySQL (which already suffered a tragic takeover by ev

  • What did ol' Billy Spend on legals? HE makes what $100/M each day I heard? So what is a lawsuit that is just 3 days at the office for this guy? I think he got a bit of testosterone after all. That must be the competitive nature of this guy. Who would have thunk? Well all of us! This guy is the definition of a shark. He has done it to everyone in his path.... What a capitalist. This is what happens to a boy who's mommy owns a bank.
  • and yet again, it appears the only group to benefit are the f!cking lawyers. How surprising...
  • If the court determined that the verdict was sound but the penalty was too high, why not simply set a "sentencing hearing" to
    determine a more suitable fine. Sending it back to trial means that it's back to square one.

  • This escaped my list somehow. I'll add it now.

    If anyone has others, it's a publicly editable wiki.

  • I saw that someone had a problem, with someone else being anti-american. I love anti americanism, because everything about this country is wrong. I am not trying to attract flames, but I stand proud in my beliefs that anyone who thinks this has turned out to be a great country is an idiot. Take it how you will. Any country that will grant big corporations awards as outrageous as the thomas-rasset and other such cases, yet not punish microsoft in the same outrageous way, has got it all wrong. When the decli

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