Jury orders Microsoft to pay $388 million over anti-piracy patent

Jury orders Microsoft to pay $388 million over anti-piracy patent

Summary: A Rhode Island jury has ordered Microsoft to pay $388 million in damages for infringing on an anti-piracy patent owned by Uniloc, a company that makes software that ensures licensing rights and security.The jury decision almost ends a lawsuit that dates back to September 2003.

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A Rhode Island jury has ordered Microsoft to pay $388 million in damages for infringing on an anti-piracy patent owned by Uniloc, a company that makes software that ensures licensing rights and security.

The jury decision almost ends a lawsuit that dates back to September 2003. The case file is full of sealed documents, various requests and motions.  The jury basically ruled that Microsoft did infringe on Uniloc's patent, which was also deemed valid. Microsoft plans an appeal.

Here's a look at the jury decision (PDF) and the patent in question (summary):

Uniloc's patent covers:

A registration system allows digital data or software to run in a use mode on a platform if and only if an appropriate licensing procedure has been followed. Preferably, the system detects when part of the platform on which the digital data has been loaded has changed in part or in entirety, as compared with the platform parameters, when the software or digital data to be protected was last booted or run. The system relies on a portion of digital data or code which is integral to the digital data to be protected by the system. This integral portion is termed the code portion and may include an algorithm that generates a registration number unique to an intending licensee of the digital data based on information supplied by the licensee which characterizes the licensee. The algorithm in the code portion is duplicated at a remote location on a platform under the control of the licensor or its agents, and communication between the intending licensee and the licensor or its agent is required so that a matching registration number can be generated at the remote location for subsequent communication to the intending licensee as a permit to licensed operation of the digital data in a use mode. The code portion can be identical for all copies of the digital data. The algorithm provides a registration number which can be "unique" if the details provided by the intending licenses upon which the algorithm relies when executed upon the platform are themselves "unique".

Microsoft lost its argument that the patent was invalid for being obvious in view of already known technologies.

And the damages.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Data Centers, Legal, Microsoft, Piracy, Security

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123 comments
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  • .

    .
    n0neXn0ne
    • Microsoft is chasing after the Apple long time money fund.

      Maybe Microsoft should invest in ethical managers and corporate higher-ups (i.e. remove Balmer and his siblings/cohorts) and concentrate on what consumers WANT not what the company wants to PUSH to the consumer!
      No More Microsoft Software Ever!
  • How can this patent hold up?

    This patent describes 90% of all shareware registration
    schemes as well as every CD-Key system used by software
    since the 1980s, there's no way this is valid...
    ChiperSoft
    • That was my first reaction too

      But then I saw this case went all the way back to 2003. I figure somewhere it would have been tossed in the six years hence. A lot of docs were sealed in the case file history too.
      Larry Dignan
      • Same argument holds for an awful lot of software

        or business process patents. Some should not be patentable in the first place. Then there is the "non-obvious" criterion, along with tons of prior art for most of these things. Of course, most of these patents do nothing to "promote the progress", either.
        seanferd
        • What holds interesting here...

          is that this patent appears to patent a general idea, and not just one implementation of an idea.

          If this holds up, then someone could patent cooking, and therefor anyone that desires to eat cooked food will either have to see that one person, or be forced to pay them damages for it.

          I feel bad for the many small companies that have been crushed by MonoplySoft's strongarm tactics, but this is not the proper way of remedying their actions. This will only give them more ammo down the road when they decide to patent the idea that people need oxygen to live. I can see it now; "Windows 7, *oxygen license required."
          ShadowGIATL
    • Consider the location of the trial

      Here in Rhode Island we do things whack. If it doesn't make sense, count on it happening here. If it involves logic, well, that stuff is banned.
      MGP2
      • Don't forget

        your corrupted politicians, at least it was years ago when whats his face got arrested. Not sure if thats still the case now.
        Loverock Davidson
        • Poor Loverock

          His masters have lost. Let's all shed crocodile tears now....
          hasta la Vista, bah-bie
    • Just because it is ubiquitous ...

      doesn't mean it's a bad patent. And just because MS is the only company that was sued makes no difference as well. It reminds me of the FAT case against Tomtom.

      I think IT/IP patents need to go away.
      bjbrock
      • Particularly in light...

        ...of travesties like Microsoft patenting Page Up / Page Down keys [i]last year![/i]
        914four
        • Patent Trolls...

          Companies don't innovate anymore. They spend far more money patenting every pre-existing technology they can think of than they spend actually doing anything new. They employ more patent lawyers than engineers. The reason? There are basically no real penalties for patenting everything you can think of. You roll the dice a million times and you win more often than you fail. It kills innovation.

          What we NEED is a new set of patent laws which create severe criminal penalties for attempting to patent anything which already exists. That's the only way we will discourage patent trolls. I'm talking minimum 10 years in prison for [b]everyone[/b] involved, especially the patent lawyers, if you try to patent something stupid like the concept of computer software or the binary number system.

          Until there is real risk involved in patent trolling, everyone will continue to do it.
          BillDem
      • Microsoft would be the last to agree with you.

        What they'll do is take it on the chin, grin and go out and stomp on somebody else.
        softwareFlunky
      • A bad patent because

        it basically lays claim to all old and new forms of DRM so far back as the simple serial key required to install software.
        The problem with IT related lawsuits is that a jury of peers is unlikely to be knowledgable about the underlying technologies, and most judges aren't either; unfortunately I don't have any idea what a decent solution would be to such a problem...

        The good news, I can make some arbitrary patent and sue the hell out of some large company and get rich :) Maybe I'll submit a patent for any structure, or physical object designed to contain, store, or otherwise enclose any other physical object through means of physical boundaries... Take that ziploc
        edwards.wb
    • Not Patentable - how can this be?

      I concur that this type of system has been in use since at least the early 1980's on floppies for DOS and Apple Software, probably on other systems. The Patent should be invalidated on appeal, and should have been never granted, like hundreds of others that are not new but copied other work that came earlier and was not patented earlier because the legitimate patent clerks turned them down, rightfully so. Someone should look for corruption or incompetence in the system or the training of the clerks. Attorney General or an independent prosecutor or investigator?
      jackgzero
    • RE: Jury orders Microsoft to pay $388 million over anti-piracy patent

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  • RE: Jury orders Microsoft to pay $388 million over anti-piracy patent

    This company just wanted to cash in its clams, oops I mean quohogs ;) Rhode Islanda joke for you.
    Loverock Davidson
    • Aww..angry poor widdle Microsoft lost?

      Eat crow.
      itanalyst2
    • But now

      There will be caselaw so that it will be alot cheaper for them to go after all the other companies that use this method.
      rparker009
      • Just give them

        just give them some stuffed quohogs and they'll be happy. Maybe a trip to Rocky Point.
        Loverock Davidson