Update: As the Microsoft patent world turns

Summary:At the very end of last week, there were a couple of Microsoft-related IP news nuggets worth noting, including the finalization of the Nortel patent sale; a damages award in the Alcatel-Lucent vs. Microsoft IP case; and Google's purchase of 1,000 IBM patents.

Keeping up with all the patent licensing and litigation deals is a full-time occupation (just ask FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller). I occasionally post about intellectual property deals involving Microsoft whenever they seem significant.

At the very end of last week, there were a couple of Microsoft-related IP news nuggets worth noting:

The Nortel patent sell-off deal was finalized on July 29. Microsoft is part of a consortium that purchased for $4.5 billion about 6,000 patents from the bankrupt Nortel (which, at one time, was a Microsoft strategic partner). Comprised of Microsoft, Apple, Ericsson, EMC, Sony and RIM, the consortium beat out Google for the bundle of Nortel telecommunications-focused patents. Apple contributed the lion's share ($2.6 billion) to the consortium's patent pool. Microsoft originally signaled it wasn't going to bid on the Nortel patents, as it had a comprehensive patent cross-licensing deal in place which officials said covered the patents that were on the block. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that while the purchase is final, antitrust scrutiny of the deal is not yet done. There's concern that the consortium members may use the patents to hobble unfairly the Android operating system, according to the Journal.

Microsoft is going to have to pay Alcatel-Lucent $70 million for a patent infringement claim dating back to 2003. On July 29, a U.S. District Court jury in San Diego issued its final damages ruling on the matter. The patent in question was for touch-screen technology for entering forms information. Before last week's ruling, Microsoft was going to have to pay over $500 million to Alcatel-Lucent (counting interest and additional patent-infringement damages).

Does this mean Alcatel-Lucent vs. Microsoft is finally over? Maybe not. Microsoft issued a statement from David Howard, Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Litigation:

“This trial came about after the Federal Circuit ordered a new trial on damages, overturning an original judgment of over $500 million for the same patent. Today’s verdict reflects a positive trend in the law of patent damages stemming from the Federal Circuit’s earlier opinion in this and other cases. However, we continue to maintain that current law requires a genuine apportionment of damages when the infringement is directed to a small feature of a feature-rich product, and we are reviewing the verdict in that light and considering next steps.” Google has purchased a boatload of patents from IBM; to be more exact, Google was "assigned 1,030 granted patents from IBM in a variety of areas ranging from chips and object oriented programming to relational databases and business processes," as Mueller explained in a FOSS Patents blog post on July 29. Prior to this, Google had only an estimated 700 granted patents, Mueller noted. What does Google want with these kinds of patents? Its attempted purchase of Nortel's telco- and wireless-focused patents made more obvious sense, in terms of giving Google a leg to stand on in the various Android-related patent front, where its partners are coming under increasing attack.

Mueller has a few theories. He said Google might "pick some (of its newly acquired patent stash) that may read on important Oracle products and propose to Oracle a cross-license that would resolve the Android IP dispute on more favorable terms than Google could negotiate without such leverage." Or Google could sell some of those patents to Android device makers like HTC, Mueller says. "HTC could then, for example, use them in countersuits or counterclaims against Apple, possibly with an obligation to sell the patents back to Google after the dispute," he explains.

Topics: Legal, Google, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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