Microsoft Patent Fights: One Down, One to Go

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Microsoft on Tuesday was able to upend a jury verdict that would have forced the software company to pay $388 million in damages. A Rhode Island federal judge overturned what would have

Illustration: Lou Beach
been one of the largest awards ever handed out in a U.S. civil patent case.

Uniloc, a security software company, sued Microsoft in 2003 alleging Redmond's anti-piracy software registration system infringed on a similar product patented by Uniloc in 1993. The system in question was Microsoft's method requiring a user to enter a unique product key to unlock and activate the Windows operating system. In the original civil suit, Uniloc alleged that Microsoft's system infringed on five claims within Uniloc's patent.

Tuesday's decision by Judge William Smith of the U.S. District Court in Rhode Island is the third ruling in the Uniloc-Microsoft patent dispute. In October 2007, a judge ruled in favor of Microsoft, but Uniloc appealed that decision which resulted in the $388 million award from a jury in April.

The Uniloc case is one of two major patent battles Microsoft is trying to shake off. Redmond is also appealing a decision that awarded $200 million to the Toronto-based company I4i. In that case, I4i alleged Microsoft's technology allowing users to create custom XML tagging in Word 2003 and Word 2007 infringes on I4i's 1998 patent. The ruling, handed down on August 11 by a U.S. District Court in Texas, also ordered Microsoft to stop selling copies of Microsoft Word that contain the alleged patent infringing technology by October of this year. Microsoft obtained a delay on that order pending appeal, after convincing the court that taking Word off store shelves would do "irreparable harm" to the company, its customers, and clients.

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