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Patents Microsoft Software Windows IT Technology

Patent That Cost Microsoft Millions Gets Invalidated (arstechnica.com) 45

An anonymous reader links to a report on Ars Technica: One of the oldest and most profitable patent trolls, Uniloc, has been shot down. Its US Patent No. 5,490,216, which claims to own the concept of "product activation" in software, had all claims ruled invalid by the Patent Trademark and Appeals Board (PTAB). The process through which PTAB eliminated the patent is called an "inter partes review," or IPR. The IPR process, created by the America Invents Act, is an increasingly popular and effective way for defendants to challenge patents outside federal courts. It was Uniloc's lawsuit against Microsoft that provided the company with its original headlines. Uniloc said that Microsoft's system of checking software licenses -- in other words, type in a key number and have your software validated violated -- the patent. That case led to a $388 million jury verdict against Microsoft.
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Patent That Cost Microsoft Millions Gets Invalidated

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  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Saturday March 26, 2016 @10:06AM (#51781813) Homepage Journal

    type in a key number and have your software validated violated

    Don't like the sound of that.

    • It's the misplaced "-" that screwed up that sentence's grammar.
      • Wrong. It was an idiotic submitter and an incompetent editor that did it.

        • by alexhs ( 877055 ) on Saturday March 26, 2016 @10:53AM (#51781935) Homepage Journal

          It was an idiotic submitter

          Wrong. [slashdot.org]
          Remember: the original submission is always a click away, under the "You may like to read:" section.
          It's not rare that "editors" actually damage the original submission.

          • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Saturday March 26, 2016 @12:34PM (#51782307)

            It was an idiotic submitter

            Wrong. [slashdot.org] Remember: the original submission is always a click away, under the "You may like to read:" section. It's not rare that "editors" actually damage the original submission.

            Yup, the submitter had the hyphen in the right place. Maybe there needs to be an article with the title, "Why Learning To Edit Won't Save Your Job."

            • Yup, the submitter had the hyphen in the right place. Maybe there needs to be an article with the title, "Why Learning To Edit Won't Save Your Job."

              Being purely pedantic, the character in the original submission was not a hyphen but an em dash ("em" because in traditional typography it's a dash that is as wide as a capital M). Em dashes are typically used to separate a clause from the surrounding sentence—somewhat like a parenthetical clause. En dashes are shorter and are most typically used in number ranges like in the years 1981–2005. A hyphen is shorter yet and primarily used within hyphenated words, as in the archaic sentence "I sent an

              • Being purely pedantic, the character in the original submission was not a hyphen but an em dash ...

                Yup, I actually know that (wife was an English teacher) and almost remarked on it, but decided to let it slide.

                Remember Sue... [tumblr.com]

          • Go fuck yourself, timothy.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Shouldn't:

    One of the oldest and most profitable patent trolls, Uniloc...

    read:

    One of the oldest and most profitable patent trolls, Microsoft...

    Uniloc must look in envy at the revenues from Microsoft's Android patent shake down. It's clear from this case who has the better legal team, and we all know you need a good legal team if you want to use bullshit patents to extract billions from legitimate companies.

    Microsoft's patent trolling legal team probably walking out the court room saying, "Pfft, amateurs!"

  • I can't decide who to root for.

    Well, who to congratulate, now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For once, I'm on the side of the patent troll. Anything to kill software activation.

    • I suspect that it would be very interesting to see the actual settlement. Microsoft can afford to settle, and the presence of a patent troll in the ecosystem can make life difficult for Microsoft's competitors.

      It's quite possible that the settlement contains terms that both sides felt benefited them.

      • What settlement? The article is about a patent being invalidated; therefore no settlement, and a Microsoft jury ruling; also no settlement.

        That case led to a $388 million jury verdict against Microsoft.

        Microsoft could now appeal that ruling and get it overturned, no settlement was involved, so they have a pretty good case against the troll.

  • While normally such a case would have been expected to drag on for generations, this one was wrapped up surprisingly quickly. Uniloc filed suit in 2003, received the $388 million jury award by 2009. The judge overruled the award. However, in 2011, the Appeals Court reinstated but with the proviso that a new trial was needed because the basis under which damages were calculated were flawed. Thus far, all very normal. Then, in March 2012, Uniloc and Microsoft agreed a confidential settlement! Personally, I cannot imagine what the lawyers were thinking. The settlement cost them a fortune.

    Anyway, the net result is that invalidation of the patent helps Microsoft not one bit. They already capitulated years ago.

  • Law changed (Score:4, Informative)

    by Etherwalk ( 681268 ) on Saturday March 26, 2016 @11:34AM (#51782107)

    This doesn't necessarily mean the original holding was wrong--remember that probably *most* software patents have become invalid in the last fifteen years. The Supreme Court has made software patents much harder to get, so old ones that issued are often shown invalid after review. That doesn't mean you can violate them without being subject to damages (because they are issued and therefore have a presumption of validity)--but it does mean that if you trigger a review or fight them, eventually many of them will be shown invalid.

    • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Saturday March 26, 2016 @12:26PM (#51782273) Journal

      You make a good point. However, the Supreme Court doesn't make the law. When SCOTUS makes a decision, not based on a new law passed by legislature, they are decreeing what the correct interpretation of the (old) law is. In other words, they ARE saying that any decisions to the contrary were wrong. There just wasn't a clear way to KNOW they were wrong until SCOTUS said so.

      • You make a good point. However, the Supreme Court doesn't make the law. When SCOTUS makes a decision, not based on a new law passed by legislature, they are decreeing what the correct interpretation of the (old) law is. In other words, they ARE saying that any decisions to the contrary were wrong. There just wasn't a clear way to KNOW they were wrong until SCOTUS said so.

        From a purely philosophical standpoint, you are absolutely correct... However, from a more pragmatic standpoint, if you read the Alice Corp Supreme Court decision, you'll see that Thomas was pulling this whole "I can't define an abstract idea, but I know it when I see it" theory out of his ass and it has no relationship to what the legislature passed (35 USC 101 includes no mentions of "abstract ideas", and Thomas' opinion was mostly based on novelty under 35 USC 102).

      • You make a good point. However, the Supreme Court doesn't make the law. When SCOTUS makes a decision, not based on a new law passed by legislature, they are decreeing what the correct interpretation of the (old) law is. In other words, they ARE saying that any decisions to the contrary were wrong. There just wasn't a clear way to KNOW they were wrong until SCOTUS said so.

        Actually, no--the Supreme Court does make law. It's called "case law." It interprets other laws to do that, and clarifies what those laws means--but the decisions of the court are still law.

    • This doesn't necessarily mean the original holding was wrong--remember that probably *most* software patents have become invalid in the last fifteen years.

      Most are never challenged, but you are right that those few which get challenged are frequently invalidated.

      I've learned from various discussions with my legal department friends there are many changes in patent agreements over the past few years.

      (Liberally using "we" and "you" to represent the sides:)

      * Indemnity rules are slightly changing. If we are licensing your patents, if someone else comes after us about your patent, companies are making it more likely you pay the costs.

      * Payment is more often gr

  • These guys should give it back, no?

    • by mauriceh ( 3721 )

      Ha! Ha! Ha!

      Err: no

      • Well, I certainly would sue for it.

        • How would you sue? Microsoft settled so they agreed the patent was valid at the time and entered into a transaction. It might be different if the court did a final judgment but the settlement was voluntary.

        • These guys should give it back, no?

          ...

          Well, I certainly would sue for it.

          People have tried in the past.

          There are no refunds.

          Here's what the courts wrote about the reasoning for the "no refunds" rule: The possibility of obtaining a refund of all royalties paid might induce a manufacturer to accept a license based on a patent of doubtful validity, derive the benefits of suppressed competition which the patent affords, and challenge the validity only after the patent's expiration. The licensee would have a chance to regain all the royalties paid while having enjoyed the fruits of

  • A century or more from now, people are going to look back at software patents the way we do at indulgences, serfdom and other medieval stupidity.

  • 2013: lost a case against Rackspace involving 28 separate claims
    2009: the $388m jury verdict against Microsoft is overturned, settled out of court in 2013

    If the Microsoft verdict had stood, then we'd have seen the end of subsidised OEM installations and computers would still cost three thousand Dollars.

  • 5,077,660
    5,199,066
    5,291,598
    5,509,070
    5,956,505

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