09.26.08

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A Triumph for Common Sense in the Patent System

Posted in Courtroom, Dell, Intellectual Monopoly, Law, Microsoft, Patents, Windows at 11:25 pm by Shane Coyle

Those were the words of Microsoft counsel Tom Burt, regarding the upholding of a previous ruling overturning the $1.5B Alcatel-Lucent v. Microsoft patent infringement judgment.

Curiously, according to the Associated Press article, it appears that Microsoft willingly stepped in to this conflict as a defendant after Lucent Technologies filed suit against PC manufacturers Dell and Gateway.

In February 2007, a jury in U.S. District Court in San Diego determined Microsoft infringed on two patents that cover the encoding and decoding of audio into the digital MP3 format, a popular way to convert music from CDs into files on computers and vice versa.

Six months later, the judge who presided over the case, Rudi M. Brewster, vacated the ruling, saying Microsoft’s Windows Media Player software does not infringe on one of the two patents in question.

Brewster, siding with Microsoft, also said the second patent is jointly owned by both Alcatel-Lucent and Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, a German company that Microsoft paid $16 million in exchange for use of the technology. Since Fraunhofer did not sue Microsoft, the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker was in the clear.

The MP3 patent claims were just two of 15 made by Lucent Technologies Inc. in 2003 against PC makers Gateway Inc. and Dell Inc. for technology developed by Bell Labs, Lucent’s research arm.

Later that year, Microsoft added itself to the list of defendants, saying the patents were closely tied to its Windows operating system. France’s Alcatel bought Lucent in 2006.

So, Microsoft are the (sorta) good guys here? I’m at a loss for words, but good for them I guess.

I find it a bit funny that they didn’t try to argue that software is not a component, and that there needs to be a device for a patent, like they had previously.

Once upon a time, I somewhat jokingly had speculated about Microsoft trying to “pull a Goo-Tube” and step in with their deep pockets when they saw decent technologies were about to be assailed with spurious patent claims – maybe it was more true than I ever thought?

Probably not likely, but what do you think? Tellme.

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