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Microsoft’s Day in Court: Wins $1.5b Judicial Reprieve

Over the years, the courts haven’t always been kind to Microsoft.  Monday, the technology giant had their day in court, and this time the day was good: $1.5 billion good. 

msft vs alcatel

Back in February, a jury found Microsoft guilty of infringing on two patents held by French telecom giant Alcatel-Lucent relating to MP3 technology. The patents, which focus on MP3 Compression, date back to when Lucent was known as Bell Labs.   For the violation, the jury awarded Alcatel damages in the amount of $1.52billion.  It was the largest patent verdict in US history (and not a good day at Microsoft).

Microsoft, needless to say, appealed that verdict, especially the assessment and calculation of damages. Yesterday, in San Diego, U.S. District Court Judge Rudi Brewster, after spending about two weeks deliberating, gave the damage ruling a toss to the circular file. 

In a forty three page order, the judge determined the “jury’s verdict was against the clear weight of the evidence.”  He found, in disagreement with the jury, that one of the two patents in question was in fact properly licensed from a co-owner and not violated.  He also determined the basis for calculating damages on the remaining patent infringement was incorrect too.

Microsoft didn’t argue with the ruling.  In a bit of grandstanding, the company said in a statement that the Judge’s ruling was “a victory for consumers of digital music and a triumph for common sense in the patent system.”  Alcatel-Lucent, on the other hand, wasn’t pleased to see $1.52b disappear.

Microsoft won’t be able to bank the $1.52b just yet, however. The judge will likely order a new trial to determine damages for the remaining patent infringement claim.  An appeal of his current ruling is also possible.

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