Microsoft's lawyers will be busy in the next few months

Microsoft's lawyers will be busy in the next few months

Summary: In the midst of all the Windows 7 hoopla last week, Microsoft released its first quarter fiscal 2010 10-Q. In that document was mention of a number of the pending lawsuits against the company that are due to see some action during Microsoft's fiscal 2010.

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In the midst of all the Windows 7 hoopla last week, Microsoft released its first quarter fiscal 2010 10-Q. In that document was mention of a number of the pending lawsuits against the company that are due to see some action during Microsoft's fiscal 2010.

(Microsoft's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.)

Some of these suits have been covered extensively by us bloggers and journalists, including the seemingly never-ending Opera antitrust case against Microsoft and the i4i suit over alleged patent infringement by Microsoft's Office suite.

But there's been relatively little coverage as of late about what's going on with the Novell antitrust suit filed in 2004 against Microsoft over WordPefect. In June 2005, the trial court granted Microsoft's motion to dismiss four of six claims of the complaint. Both parties appealed, and in October 2007, the court of appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court, and remanded the case to that court for further proceedings. Fact discovery has closed and summary judgment motions were filed in October 2009

The latest is that a hearing has been set for January 22, 2010, before Judge Motz in the Federal District Court in Baltimore, to present oral arguments on Microsoft’s motion for summary judgment, a Microsoft spokesperson told me late last week.

The 10-Q also mentions "over 50 other patent infringement cases pending against Microsoft, 10 of which are set for trial in fiscal year 2010," Among those on the list:

  • A lawsuit filed by JuxtaComm Technologies against Microsoft and other defendants -- including IBM, Oracle, Business Objects and others with ETL (extract, transform and load) tool vendors -- in U.S. District Court in Texas. JuxtaComm claims that technologies in several Microsoft products including SQL Server, Visual Studio, Visio, and .Net Framework infringe a JuxtaComm patent relating to data integration. Trial has been scheduled for November 2009.
  • A lawsuit by VirnetX in U.S. District Court in Texas in which VirnetX asserts that various Microsoft products including Windows client and server operating systems software and communications software infringe patents relating to certain secure Internet communications. Trial is scheduled for March 2010.

Microsoft's 10-Q notes that as of September 30, 2009, Microsoft had accrued aggregate liabilities of $700 million and $400 million in other long-term liabilities fo all of the contingent cases described above. The 10-Q also points out that:

"There exists the possibility of adverse outcomes that we estimate could be up to $1.9 billion in aggregate beyond recorded amounts. The foregoing amount does not include the January 15, 2009 European Commission statement of objections, the outcome and range of which is not reasonably estimable. Were unfavorable final outcomes to occur, there exists the possibility of a material adverse impact on our financial position, results of operations, and cash flows" once the effects start to hit.

Topics: Microsoft, Enterprise Software

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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20 comments
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  • Bleed 'em Dry.

    Got to love the blood sucking lawyers. I just hope MS's legal team bleeds them dry.
    itguy08
    • Very sound legal analysis of the merits of each case. (nt)

      nt
      Economister
    • I hope the opposite

      That they bleed M$ dry. That parasitic monopoly deserves it.
      Wintel BSOD
      • Have to agree with you there.

        Microsoft has for too long made money by injuring others.
        No More Microsoft Software Ever!
  • Just the cost of being in business.

    What a wonderful world...
    No_Ax_to_Grind
  • I know there are a few honest lawyers

    out there somewhere (anybody seen one lately?), but they are a rare breed indeed.

    Without lawyers, there would be no software patents. We could use more of less of both.
    Ole Man
  • RE: Microsoft's lawyers will be busy in the next few months

    I know everybody loves to praise Bill Gates, but the simple fact is that Microsoft generated very little themselves and stole virtually all of their technology and wouldn't even be in the position they are now had Bill Gates father not told Bill he was crazy to turn down IBM's first attempt to get Bill to supply an operating system for their PCs and got him to accept a second offer from IBM. Bill then went to another fellow who already had an operating system and bought that, modified it a bit and voila, DOS. Not only did MS steal from WP, they put code in Windows to cause WP to crash. Without that incentive, why would anyone entertain using the original dumb Word over WP? MS is the worst example of a big company, but everyone loves a billionaire. Just remember, his and MS's billions came right out of our pockets, for the most unreliable operating system ever made.
    mikellbne
    • Contradiction

      How does "bought that, modified it a bit and voila, DOS" equate to anything underhand or dubious. Sounds like very good business sense to me. As for "put code in Windows to cause WP to crash" I used WP for many years and it WAS a great application until THEY broke it. No evidence at all that MS had anything to do with that (I know that WP issued a patch that 'fixed' their first GUI attempt. Regardless; if there was code in Windows that broke WP then surely WP should have found it and fixed the problem before releasing to the public?

      ChrisGrey
      • hoodwinked


        IIRC (from a book about Microsoft), Gates "hoodwinked" the rightful owner of Q-DOS by basically saying "What the heck, you're not really using or making anything off this product so let me take it off your hands." (for $75,000)

        All the while, he had the deal with IBM and knew perfectly well the value of a product he had sold to IBM without really having full legal rights to it's use.

        Typical of the ethically and morally challenged history of Gates and Microsoft.
        MacCanuck
        • Sounds like a barterer to me

          Let me guess you pay full retail on any car you buy? No haggling, no dickering to get a better price. Hell boy that is the American way. You failed on this one.
          CrashPad
        • wow ...

          Ethical is not a question in business - you take the rules of the day, you take the opportunities offered to you, and you make the best of them.

          This ethical garbage has no place in business - Government sets laws, and the markets decide, whether the product / service is fit for purpose and act accordingly. The business is supposed to do the most it can within those boundaries. If what it does is deemed inappropriate, then either Government will change those laws or the market won't consume.

          Microsoft is always a popular target due to it's success, and it did that (largely) according to the 'rules' of the day. If it didn't, a lot more people with a greater interest / right to be deterministic (ie, shareholders) would be outraged.

          Even Apple and google does questionable things - while the market will put up with it and specific laws remain unbroken, then they are free, and expected to do so.
          stewymelb
          • Wow! Yes, you see where that got us....

            Corporate Government bought and paid for by bribery (lobbying).

            Banks and auto manufacturers "too big to fail" so they have to be supported by taxpayers, while their "officials" award themselves millions in salary and billions in bonuses.

            Wall Street (a real life monopoly game played in real time by real people) ruled by greedy commodity traders (with the millions and billions they awarded themselves, remember?) and funded by millions of taxpayers who have lost their jobs (and consequentially their homes), and can't pay the kitty any longer.

            Who needs morality and ethics? We're doing Great without them!
            Ole Man
        • That's just business

          There are a lot of businessmen who make deals for products they don't actually own then go about procuring the rights to those products. I do it as a small business person when a person wants a product that I don't have in stock. Basically I'm making a deal with the customer to buy a product that I then get from my supplier. What the heck, the supplier isn't using the product.

          That isn't morally or ethically wrong. The owner of Q-DOS had every right to say I'm not going to sell and Gates would have had to find another variant of C/PM to fulfill his end of the deal.
          MythicalMe
          • That's just fraud

            disguised as business.

            It is not possible to legally sell or convey rights to anything the "seller" doesn't own. Or "fence" stolen property.

            Try telling your tale to the DOJ, or the Attorney General.
            Ole Man
  • RE: Microsoft's lawyers will be busy in the next few months

    "stole Virtually all of their Technology"?
    1. people like to sue massive companies
    2. They have been found Not guilty in a number of lawsuits
    3. They have a very large development team and can afford some of the most innovative people in the business to develop technology

    Goodyear invented the tire.
    man they should be suing Michelin by now!
    candar
    • RE: Microsoft's lawyers will be busy in the next few months

      "2. They have been found Not guilty in a number of lawsuits"

      Love that line...

      What is your point? They've also been found GUILTY in a number of lawsuits...Including the 'alleged' i4i patent case.

      (why do writers still use the word 'alleged' when they've already been found guilty?)
      jobranovich@...
  • RE: Microsoft's lawyers will be busy in the next few months

    [i]But there?s been relatively little coverage as of late about what?s going on with the Novell antitrust suit filed in 2004 against Microsoft over WordPefect.[/i]

    Well, I'd guess even in a down economy lawyers still have job security. Seems to me we could clear the court system pretty fast if we put a 1 year limit on any trial. Would it work, probably not... but hey the current system is screwed anyway.
    Badgered
  • What are patents for?

    Does anyone remember what patents are SUPPOSED to be for? Oh yeah, they're for allowing big companies to club little ones, and for letting small litigious moochers patent obvious things, right? It's all great because everyone wins. Assuming everyone is a lawyer of course.
    n8allan
  • RE: Microsoft's lawyers will be busy in the next few months

    Well you see if the US would wake up and stop trying to ram their system down
    everyone else's throat then their patent system might be more sensible. In most
    other countries you cannot patent software, or anything natural. Because in just
    about all software the algorithm has a basis in some mathematical formula and
    therefore is the same as patenting natural language. But in the crazy US system
    the Pharms tried to patent some folk medical remedies from India that had been
    in existence for thousands of years. Just put a new name to it, and wrap it in a
    different package, and patent it the US way.

    In the US instead of handing out Law degrees to about a twentieth of the
    population, they should make it mandatory for everyone to have degrees in
    common sense and logic.
    bigpicture
  • RE: Microsoft's lawyers will be busy in the next few months

    Thanks to the link to my JuxtaComm versus Microsoft blog post. Microsoft vacated this case last week and it looks like they settled for anything up to $1 billion to avoid going to trial - so it's one patent battle they did not win. See an update at http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/infosphere/ibm-settles-and-microsoft-bails-and-teilhard-now-owns-data-integration-35050
    vincent.mcburney@...